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What many students and lecturers want is a return to some in-person lectures on campus – the more, the better. “We will disseminate our key message to all our students, be they Dutch or international: come to Rotterdam!”, says Meijdam. “We’re pushing that idea quite forcefully.”

Meijdam has some ideas about what in-person teaching in the Bachelor’s degree programmes will be like. “Our aim is to be able to teach at least two subjects per week on campus. That’s about half the subjects our students take. We’re particularly keen to get the tutorials back on campus. This is handy from a practical point of view. They are relatively small groups – by our standards – of about twenty students each. We can organise that.” However, the tutorials are important from an academic point of view, as well. “They help first-year students find their way. They learn from more advanced students what it’s like to be in Rotterdam. That’s not something you can learn online.”

Plan A or Plan B?

Adri Meijdam
Adri Meijdam Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Meijdam is not such an optimist that he assumes they will be able to teach all their classes on campus. “I’d be quite happy with a mix of online and in-person classes. Actually, I’d be elated with that.” EUR is currently drawing up plans using Plan A: “We’re scheduling in-person classes as if no social distancing rules will be in force. If that is the case, we will be able to fit 24 students into small classrooms.” If social distancing rules are still in place by that time, they will revert to Plan B. “In that case, we will only be able to fit six students into the various classrooms, meaning students will have to take turns.”

As far as Meijdam is concerned, the press conference given by the Prime Minister last Tuesday contained good news: universities are not to rush their students back to campus this spring. “This would have cost us the study spots we’ve just created, and which many students need very badly right now. No one knows what will happen this autumn, but our policy is to provide our students with information well in advance, be completely transparent and not change any policies after the fact, which is all the more important since RSM attracts a lot of international students.”

Veel minder massale hoorcolleges

Last year the department learned many useful lessons. As a result, quite a few things will change next year. For instance, Meijdam and his colleagues are looking into alternatives to mass lectures. “We’ve always taught lectures to large groups of students. We knew even before the pandemic that this is often ineffective. For instance, there is hardly any interaction between students, and some lectures are only attended by 20 per cent of the students for whom they are intended.”

The alternative: “Well-dosed units, about twenty minutes long, presenting the key message, and opportunities for interaction at other times.” However, he does feel that exceptions should be able to be made. “Some lecturers are excellent at teaching lectures, and their on-campus lectures attract a lot of students. An exception should be made for them.”

No more online exams

And what else would they like to get rid of next year? “We’re all very keen to get rid of online exams. They are a lot of work, susceptible to cheating and possibly not always valid. Many of us have replaced our closed-book tests and multiple-choice exams with exams with open-ended questions and assignments, but this required a lot of work on our part and cost an absolute fortune.”

Meijdam believes that the faculty will have to strike a new balance in the new academic year. “From now on we will have to choose when to opt for efficient methods (such as multiple-choice exams – ed.) and when to opt for open-ended questions and major assignments.”

‘The campus plays a significant part in our students’ lives’

Whether the plans for in-person lectures will be able to be realised is anyone’s guess. After all, it is hard to predict what the pandemic will do. “We may still have an awful lot of online classes.” However, even in that case, students will still be called upon to come to Rotterdam.. “It definitely has an added value. Right now, our students can’t meet in person. Our revamped campus plays a much more significant part in our students’ lives than most people realise. Even when no classes are held there, it’s the place where students want to be.”

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