Education at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences (BSS) will go back to being online for a month this winter. This is to prevent having to respond ad hoc to a potential resurgence of the coronavirus.
The online education will take place from December 12 until January 13, which covers two weeks before the Christmas holidays and one after. University buildings will remain accessible during the online month.
Klaas van Veen, BSS vice dean, wrote the plan together with his colleagues. ‘Last year, we were overwhelmed by Covid for the second time in a row. That really surprised me. Virologists predicted it would be a hard winter and we just sat there, nodding our heads. Then we suddenly had to arrange all these things that we could’ve thought of long before.’
For the past few months, he’s been working on a plan for pandemic-proof education. One important point in his plan is the buddy network for first-year students. Together with the study associations at BSS, the faculty is organising activities during the introduction week that will involve first-year students being set up with each other.
‘It will be good for first-years to get to know each other before education moves back online. That way, they’ll already have a network and won’t feel as isolated.’ Van Veen noticed that first-year students didn’t perform as well over the past few years because they were socially isolated.
The faculty will also work with so-called embedded experts. They’ll be advising lecturers on how to teach responsibly and present their students with a challenge. The plan already outlines actual tips for this.
Student assistants will be helping to prepare classes, creating assignments, and grading specific tasks, among other things.
Peace of mind
Not every lecturer is a fan of the plan, Van Veen admits, but he does think this is the ‘least terrible option’. ‘The ad hoc switch to online education was such a blow these past two years. I’m trying to prevent that from happening. Knowing what they’re up against beforehand gives people peace of mind’, he says.
Van Veen obviously hopes there won’t actually be a new Covid wave. ‘But we still need to be prepared for one.’