Looking back, the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences (BSS) didn’t actually need to switch to online education for the next month. But faculty staff and students are happy that they know where they stand.
The decision to go online from December 12 to January 13 to prevent a potential Covid flare up was made last academic year. ‘Fortunately, the virus is laying low’, says vice dean Hilda Amsing. ‘It was a fifty-fifty chance. I’m glad it turned out okay, but that’s easy to say in hindsight.’
Education at the faculty will be online for the two weeks heading up to the Christmas break, and one week after it. University buildings will remain accessible during the online period.
Undoing the decision wasn’t an option for Amsing. ‘We wanted to create peace of mind. Changing it back at the last minute would’ve only led to chaos, not peace.’ By picking the online period far in advance, lecturers were able to adjust their curriculum.
Associate professor Jana Knot-Dickscheit did exactly that. She moved courses that included seminars forward so she’d be able to teach them at the faculty. Lectures requiring less interaction were moved to the online weeks.
She would have preferred to teach all classes in person, but she understands why the decision can’t be reversed. ‘You can’t ask that of the staff. It would drive them crazy. Especially schedulers and educational support staff worked really hard on this.’
According to Amsing, it’s also important for students that the decision stands. ‘Many international students took it into account when planning to go back to their home countries. We can’t suddenly tell them classes are on campus again.’
Psychology student Anna Waldeck (21) and her family are grateful for the online period. Normally, Anna goes to South Africa just before Christmas, returning in early January. But now, she’ll be flying out on December 14, coming back January 13. ‘I’m really happy for this extended visit, since I only see them twice a year.’
She can’t imagine what she’d do if the decision had been reversed, apart from the obvious disappointment of her family. ‘Changing my flight would have been very expensive, especially in December.’
Lars van der Lee, chair of the faculty council’s student section, is also happy with how the BSS board handled the situation. ‘It’s nice that we’ve been prevented from panicking if Covid had suddenly returned. The students are also more at peace because the board very quickly announced what they were going to do.’
The situation would have been much more dire if Covid had returned and the faculty hadn’t planned for it, he says. ‘I think the last two-and-a-half years have made that clear. Obviously, we’d prefer to have everything on campus, but this is such a big decision that there really was no way to undo it.’