You wrote in your opinion piece that there is hardly any room for in-depth discussions and personal guidance by the lecturer in lectures presented to large groups of students. But isn’t that what seminars (rather than lectures) are for?
“Certainly, and there is room for that in seminars, but there’s not enough of it yet. At the same time there’s a trend for lectures to be taught to larger and larger groups. I’m arguing in favour of more room in higher education for interactions in smaller groups.”
How many students are actually attending seminars on campus now that the coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed?
“We hear that seminars, too, are drawing fewer students. There may be more students in attendance than at lectures, but fewer than before the pandemic. Universities and universities of applied sciences are trying to halt that trend by imposing mandatory attendance requirements. I think we should actually be asking ourselves why students are not attending these classes.”
Doesn’t it mean that students aren’t very interested in seminars either, despite being given the opportunity for interactions and discussion there?
“I do think they need them, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, some students don’t really understand what they’re missing out on when they don’t attend any in-person classes. They have got used to focusing only on those things they need to pass their exams. They can generally get all the information they need from books. And there are many seminars that are basically a rehash of the subject matter, while ignoring the interesting ethical debates that should be had.”
Is knowledge on the subject that is being discussed during the seminars no longer interesting to students, then? I mean, they did pick their own degree programmes, didn’t they?
“Students do sometimes pick a degree programme because it will get them a good job, and not necessarily because they’re interested in the subject. But that knowledge is definitely important for students, because they need it in order to get their degree. I just think classes are more motivating when they are about more than just that knowledge transfer. It would be good if they were tied in more with personal growth and if they paid more attention to students’ mental wellbeing.”
Lecturers are busy people. Don’t you think that such attention [to subjects other than the subject matter] would be detrimental to students’ understanding of the subject matter?
“Much personal growth can be achieved by relating the subject matter to your own life, your own personality and the world in which you live. I think those things go hand in hand. If we incorporate more personal growth and opportunities for interaction into our classes, they will be more fun and more interesting. As it is, students no longer feel close to their university or university of applied sciences, and that’s why so few of them are coming to campus.”
Isn’t it a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation? In other words, don’t students feel closer to each other and to their lecturers when they actually show up for seminars?
“Of course, students have some responsibility of their own in this matter. But I do think they will be more interested in in-person classes if the classes are taught differently. I’d advise students to be critical of their seminars and indicate what they want. It’s good to engender a debate about that.”