Coronavirus pushes lecturers to innovate
That physical classes are not taking place anymore calls on the creativity and flexibility of lecturers and students. Thanks to digital classroom environments like Brightspace, lecturers can find online alternatives. The recently opened Teaching and Learning Centre functions as an epicentre for assistance in doing so.
’I’m going to give a workgroup in a few, a quarter past twelve (this Monday midday, red.). Online, via the virtual classroom on Brightspace. I never saw this possibility before!’ Psychology lecturer Marijtje Jongsma is surprised how fast she got used to the new distant learning situation.
’I had a privy ’free day’ feeling when I got home at the end of last week. The pressure was gone.’ But that quickly changed into the realisation that, as a lecturer, she had a job to do, she says on the phone. The recognition that education is one of the vital vocational fields (as declared by cabinet yesterday) is good. But it also needs to be implemented.
The current motto: to make a virtue out of a necessity. She knows from experience that time for educational work is always lacking. Because of that, there is little room for the development of new ways of teaching. ’Now, I took the first hurdle within 24 hours. One has to get innovative, because of the limitations. I’m now giving lectures via Brightspace – last week, I filmed a test run with a colleague. I just quickly ran to the MediaMarkt to buy a Gaming-headset.’
The anticipated shutdown of regular lectures asks for flexibility from students as well. Jongsma: ’Bachelor-students were supposed to give a poster presentation tomorrow. I now asked them to make a PowerPoint-presentation out of it and present it online.’ According to Jongsma, students are adapting well to this.
’There is no pressure that everything has to work immediately.’
The support of students’ research has to adapt as well. Experiments in a lab with research subjects can’t take place at the moment. Because of that, apprentices can’t take EEG-measurements. As an alternative, Jongsma lets them analyse data which she collected earlier. ’They are very understanding, that way everything can continue adequately.’
The support of the students could have a positive long-term effect, expects Jongsma. ’I think there is room to try online learning environments. There is no pressure that everything has to work immediately. That way, I learned that one can open one’s lectures to students outside of Radboud University — which is very beneficial for my foreign colleagues. This entire situation can give impulses for future educational innovations at university.’
The Radboud Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) has been remodeled into a lively help desk. Eight employees are constantly answering lecturers’ questions about education from afar. ’We get ten to fifteen phone calls per hour and next to that, we are helping people via email and chats’, says TLC’s Chamin Panapala. ’Most of the questions are about distant learning and then mainly about Kultura Capture and the Virtual Classroom, two Brightspace tools.’
Panapala: ’Our most important advise for lecturers: don’t think of an ICT-solution in this situation. But help your students find their way through the new learning environment. We’re calling that supported self-study. Students are very capable in implementing new information and the teacher’s role is more to support the learning process.
’For example, by providing a video clip for difficult concepts or tests and quizzes for the students on Brightspace.’
Additionally, it’s important that teachers are contacting their students, says Panapala. ’Some students haven’t received any message from their teacher. They are left alone with a lot of questions. Give a straight-forward answer to the way you want to work with them.’
For now, the employees of the Teaching and Learning Centre are still on campus, later, they are going to help people from home.