Rector: ‘Combination of face-to-face and online teaching will continue in second semester’

16 Sep 2020

Where possible, the Executive Board wants to see face-to-face teaching continue on campus in the second semester. Despite rising coronavirus numbers, face-to-face classes on campus are not under threat for the time being. ‘We’re closely following the government’s advice’, says Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken.

The new academic year has been underway for two weeks. The University is aiming to have all students physically present for classes at least one day a week, which means some life has returned to campus.

Carers

Although coronavirus numbers are rising in Nijmegen and the surrounding area, Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken does not anticipate that this will change the combination of face-to-face and online teaching. ‘Most lecturers and students we talk to are very happy that they can come to campus,’ he said. ‘At the same time, everyone understands that we can’t offer more face-to-face teaching.’

Since orientation, coronavirus rates in Nijmegen have risen again sharply, especially among students. How sustainable is it to continue having classes on campus or in De Vereeniging?

Han van Krieken: ‘Because we’re concerned about the rise in coronavirus cases among students, we had consultations last week with the safety region. We learned that, so far, infections haven’t happened on campus but in cafés and in student accommodation, where it’s harder to keep to social distancing. The Mayor, Hubert Bruls, who has to be quite stringent, said that we are working well and safely on campus.’

‘So far, infections haven’t happened on campus’

‘A small proportion of lecturers prefer not to have close contact with students at present. They are often carers or belong to the group of people who are vulnerable. Naturally, I understand their wish to be cautious. But I don’t get the feeling that the number of concerned lecturers is growing.’

In Nijmegen, three student cafés where many infections occurred during orientation have since closed. Do you blame students for this?

‘No, but I do hope that students want to take responsibility. That’s why I sent out a video message last week (on Instagram, ed.) telling them that they need to be vigilant off campus. I do understand that it’s hard to minimise your social contacts and keep your distance, especially if you’ve just arrived in a new city and are trying to build up a network. But everyone has to stick to the rules – including students.’

Geert ten Dam, president of the University of Amsterdam, called on the government to allow more face-to-face teaching. Do you support her call?

‘Yes, but for us public transport isn’t the limiting factor that it is in Amsterdam. We’re already at our maximum capacity for face-to-face teaching. Unfortunately, we can’t fit any more students in our teaching spaces than we’re doing now.’

Is there any chance that all teaching at Radboud University will have to go fully online again soon?

‘We’re following the government’s advice. If they decide on another lockdown, we’ll have no choice, but I think those chances are slim. Both the regional and national authorities and the safety region are trying to avoid another lockdown as much as possible.’

Many students can’t come to campus because they have a cold or are in quarantine. In practice, this means that lecturers are having to put their efforts into ‘hybrid’ teaching anyway.

‘We realize it’s tough. On top of the coronavirus, the workload of the lecturers and support staff is currently the Executive Board’s chief concern. Lecturers can therefore get extra support from student assistants, but they have to get them up to speed first. That’s tricky because it usually takes more time before it starts to save time.’

‘Our biggest concern? The workload of lecturers and support staff’

‘In the meantime, we know that we want to continue to combine face-to-face teaching with online teaching in the second semester. This gives lecturers a little more time to train student assistants.’

Is the Executive Board taking other steps to reduce lecturer workload?

‘We’re trying to reduce the administrative burden and provide additional support wherever we can. We’ve also asked faculties whether there’s anything we can help them with.’

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