The 75 second-year IBEB students attending the morning lecture look pretty lively and awake, considering it’s the end of the week. After a year and a half of suffering through online lectures, they had their first on-campus lecture last week. Despite the fact that they were able to attend this lecture online – the lecture room is equipped with next gen technology for hybrid teaching – they are elated to be able to attend this Applied Microeconomics lecture on campus.
It is only the second time associate professor Josse Delfgaauw uses the new technology, but he is quickly getting the hang of it. Delfgaauw explains one more time to the remote students how everything works. “If you turn on your camera, no-one can see you except me. If you turn on your microphone, everyone can hear you. Yesterday the Zoom-room didn’t work for my colleague, but today everything is working just fine.” While he gets started on his lecture on demand, supply and government interventions, most students diligently take notes, while a couple of students slyly check their Instagram for new DMs. The ninety students who are attending the lecture remotely do not turn on their cameras, but do type the odd reaction in the group chat.
Just like old times
Strangely enough, it feels almost as if there has never been a pandemic, and the lecture, attended by students who are not wearing face masks and are not asked to keep their physical distance from each other, feels just like old times. Delfgaauw explains a few theories and asks a question, which is answered by several students. Apart from a small technical glitch – the students who are attending the lecture remotely are unable to see the calculations projected onto a screen – everything goes well. In fact, it almost seems as if the students who are attending the lecture on campus are paying more attention to the lecturer than they used to in the old days, before the pandemic.
During the break, one student says he is better able to focus on the subject matter at hand now that he is able to attend lectures on campus again. “Being here in the lecture theatre forces me to pay attention, because the lecturer is right in front of me. At home I probably would have been staring at the screen of my phone.” His fellow student Ryan adds with a grin: “I had a bit of a hard time getting up early again. But hey, I’ll get used to that again.”
The second-year students have hardly had the opportunity to attend lectures on campus since they embarked on their degree programmes, so to them, this is a huge difference. They also had to miss out on the social aspects of being a student. “Last year we struck up online friendships with people we only knew from a small screen,” says third-year student Hidde. “The fact that we now finally get to meet those people face to face made the decision as to whether to come here fairly easy.”
Delfgaauw, too, is very happy with the opportunities presented by hybrid teaching using the new equipment, he says after the lecture. There were ways to teach hybrid lectures last year, but at the time the online contact with remote students involved a separate group chat which usually lagged two minutes behind. “So I’d ask a question, and then I’d either have to wait and wait or I wouldn’t get any reactions at all until we’d well and truly moved on to the next subject. So it’s great for the remote students that we now have a real-time connection. They just told me in our chat they really like it.”
He thinks it makes perfect sense that the new technology takes some time to get used to. “It would be great if one of the tech guys would be on hand during your first lecture, but, as you could see for yourself, the IT service people show up within a few minutes if anything goes wrong,” says Delfgaauw. He tells his colleagues that if you take some more time than usual for the start of the lecture and allow some extra time at the end, nothing much can go wrong. He closes off by saying: “I really hope that the virus-related situation develops in such a way that more people will be able to come to campus. Because even though this works very well, I think it will be better for just about anyone to be able to come here.”