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This week, Wytze Schaap gave his first lecture on campus to a small group of first-year law students. It required some adjustment, for both Schaap and his students. He does his best to break the ice and put them at ease, he says. “I try to be as spontaneous and open as possible. I want them to think: right, I can contribute too.” How does Schaap do that? “I ask the students about their guilty pleasures, for example, or about funny things they’ve experienced.”

Despite the adjustment, the in-person class was a relief after four months of working online. “Now I don’t need to turn on the audio to talk to students. People can answer without any audio lag, which makes communication and discussion much easier,” says Schaap.

Wytze Schaap
Wytze Schaap

Florian Madertoner, lecturer at Rotterdam School of Management, is also very enthusiastic about the reopening. “I give the Corporate Finance lecture to large groups of second-year students, sometimes to more than a thousand at the same time. For that reason, my lectures can also be followed online.” But even Madertoner realised how nice it is to see the students again. “I was recently on campus and I got talking to several students. It really felt emotional being able to look them in the eyes again. We had a beer together.”

Concerns about the reopening

There are also some concerns relating to the reopening of campus, however. “It is a risk, but we all really need this,” says Schaap. “If everyone complies with the measures, it should be fine.”

Madertoner agrees that reopening is a risk. Whether everyone can and will comply with the measures is still an issue. Problems may arise with bottlenecks, at the entrance to toilets or the lift, for example. “You are asking people to take responsibility,” says Madertoner. “So I do wonder whether it can be done safely enough.” He is not worried about his own safety, though. “I keep enough distance during lectures, and otherwise I make sure that contact is outdoors.”

Benefit of the doubt

Florian Madertoner streams online lecture
Florian Madertoner streams online lecture

But reopening is worth it, Madertoner feels. “I give it the benefit of the doubt.” Because meeting each other in person means much more to students than some people might initially think. “The university offers so much more than an education. It’s a meeting place for students. I met many of my best friends when I was a student. I think that the meeting aspect of the university should be highlighted more. For me too, giving a lecture to a physical audience is much more exciting. It can sometimes make me feel a bit like a rock star!”

Not completely back to live

According to Madertoner and Schaap, returning completely to in-person lectures won’t happen, not even after the pandemic. “I feel that a hybrid form works well for lectures where there is a large audience,” says Schaap. Madertoner agrees. “We also need to consider our international students. And don’t forget: it takes some courage to ask a question in a packed lecture hall! Asking a question online is much easier. Last year we realised that the advantages of online lectures sometimes outweigh the negatives.”