“I started out as a music teacher in secondary school, and I’ve always enjoyed teaching. In addition to holding an endowed chair at EUR, I am a professor at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen – where I focus solely on research. So when I started working at EUR five years ago, I looked forward to combining education and research activities. I teach the subject Ethnographic Research into Culture Participation within the Arts, Culture and Society master programme. In short, this means trying to understand how your research subjects deal with culture from their specific perspective. The students are also performing a small-scale study of their own, with participating observation and an unstructured interview.”
“My lectures were scheduled from November to the end of January. In the months leading up to the series, I kept worrying how I should go about this. I felt a lot of inner resistance against online teaching. I was in no mood for it whatsoever. Holding a lecture in a room with twenty or thirty students is very enjoyable: you get to discuss certain points in depth afterwards and so on. I wasn’t looking forward to missing that – and indeed, I did miss it. But the alternative was scrapping lectures altogether, and I didn’t want that either.
“I discussed beforehand how best to handle my interactive lecture with a staff member from the faculty; that helped a lot. My lectures usually last around three hours and alternate between theory, discussion and exercises. But three hours of continuously staring at a screen is far too long for people. And a group like that is too big for effective interaction.”
“I reorganised my lectures to keep this interactive quality. I divided them into two separate hours in which I interacted with groups of ten students, followed by a third hour that offered room to go into students’ individual questions. In advance, I asked my students to watch two 10-minute videos that I had recorded, which dealt with theory. A PowerPoint presentation with a talking head – very traditional. I’m sure that could be done better if you’ve been teaching online for years. Oh well…
“My first lecture went a lot better than I had expected. Still, it became clear after a few lectures that there was still too much one-way traffic. Students sent me questions in advance. But as a result, I was the one talking most of the time during the online sessions – to answer those questions. After four lectures I decided to rethink my approach. I provided written answers to the students’ questions, meaning we could talk a lot more about the assigned texts in the final hour of the lecture. That gave a fresh boost to the whole thing. We had very interesting conversations.”
“I don’t feel that I have had to make any compromises in terms of in-depth discussion. And while the closure of museums and theatres made it hard for students to perform their own research, I was nevertheless satisfied with the quality of their papers.
“I was very happy with the students’ positive reactions during the evaluation. However, I still feel I could have done more for them. I didn’t feel like arranging an online version of the hands-on section of the lectures – in which they use role-play to learn how to conduct interviews. So I scrapped that from the programme. I regret this now. I’ve done what I could, but it was sub-optimal.”