University Council member Bram Heesen.

Similar to the rest of society, Covid-19 forced universities to adapt and find alternatives to continue their affairs online. Although limitations exist to this new way of living, it turns out that the comfort of online education can actually be quite advantageous. Therefore, certain elements of our current education should remain present in EUR’s post-Covid education.

Prior to the Covid era, the university let technical and privacy issues outweigh the potential benefits of certain innovations. For instance, lecture rooms were insufficiently equipped to broadcast online lectures. Additionally, there were fears that video material would diffuse to third parties. Covid forced a swift introduction of these innovations and it turned out that these technicalities were actually relatively easy to deal with in an adequate manner.

It is important to note that our university sometimes weighs these pros and cons still incorrectly. The university can also go too far in innovating as we see in the proctoring predicament. However, in other cases, issues were easily resolved: all of a sudden, there were enough rooms available suitable for online lectures. Also, for most tutorials, a clear code of conduct was established stating recordings can only be used by enrolled students.

Beneficial to all

More importantly, some of these innovations proved to be beneficial for both staff and students. For example, contrasting previous times, every lecture given at EUR is currently recorded.

First of all, this provides unprecedented flexibility to students. They can attend a lecture when it suits them best. As a consequence, one does not have to miss a sports training or an important meeting to attend lectures.

Secondly, recorded lectures allow students to study at their own pace. When a student does not understand something instantly, this student does not have to feel burdened to ask again what was actually meant by the lecturer’s statement. One can simply rewind the video ten seconds.

Thirdly, once a lecture has been recorded, it can be reused for the following years. Questions which might arise during the lecture can be posed at different pre-determined moments. The time saved by this innovative way of lecturing can be used to lower work pressure or dedicate more personal time to students.

Another example of a Covid-forced innovation that is proving useful is the introduction of online workgroups. Student and teaching staff can join these workgroups from all geographical locations around the globe. Instead of being bound to the (beautiful) city of Rotterdam, one can dial in from a house on the beach in South Africa. The fact that workgroups are online could revolutionise the way we perceive our study location. The only requirement to be fulfilled: a stable internet connection.

Save on travel expenses

Next to that, due to Covid, the university has discovered the existence of video calling. Nowadays all communication takes place through online channels. Since humans are social beings, this seems to be an unsustainable way of running an organisation in the long run. Consequently, the preferred method for internal communication should be in person.

However, communication with people on a relatively far distance should remain to happen online. Apart from the time that is saved on transportation, this should prove quite beneficial to reducing travel expenses. This money should be allocated to more relevant expenditures with regard to our education. Given that our three-headed Executive Board spent over 100k euros on travel expenses in 2019, this does not seem to be an irrelevant sum. In 2020, the Rotterdam School of Management alone saved 1.4 million euros on travel expenses. Also, not to forget, not travelling reduces the carbon footprint of our university!

Apart from the innovations within already existing structures from the university, Covid also provides new insights into relatively unexplored areas. If anything, this era has shown that we are able to move our studying online. What would stop EUR as university to provide fully online studying programmes next to the already existing offline programmes?

For instance, EUR should look into providing a high-quality e-master which can be followed from all over the world. This would make a degree from EUR reachable to a large pool of students that currently cannot afford to study in Rotterdam. On top of that, providing fully online programmes could be a chance to establish EUR as world-class university. In some rankings, we are already relatively well positioned. However, being a frontrunner in e-programmes could only improve our position.

Let’s not forget the good things

In conclusion, our society currently finds itself in what could possibly be the hardest time of our lives. Hopefully, we can quickly leave this period behind us and continue our normal way of living.

However, when doing so, we should not forget to also embrace the benefits of the innovations introduced on a larger scale in this period. Although most certainly not all, certain elements from the Covid era should remain present in the way we teach and learn. A blended form of teaching will only improve the quality of education for us as Erasmian Community. Some good things have found root in this terrible Covid year, let’s make sure we continue to enjoy them when the virus has finally left this world!

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