The Faculty of Science and Engineering is trying to fill its empty classrooms with free coffee and a smart registration system.
During the first block, lecturers at the biology department noticed that barely a third of students actually showed up to class. There were up to seventy-five students allowed in class, but only twenty to thirty actually came, even though the department divided them up into three groups to make sure that every student had the opportunity to attend a ‘live’ class. The classes had also been moved to the Antonius Deusinglaan, where lecturers had access to recording equipment for those students who genuinely couldn’t attend.
Biology isn’t the only department suffering from empty classrooms. ‘It appears that students are being very cautious’, vice-dean Bert Poolman said during a faculty council meeting last week. ‘We’ll have to work hard to get them back to campus.’
To that end, the faculty has come up with an experiment to fill up its classrooms. The experiment started this week for various courses. The first part of the experiment consists of a smart registration system. ‘Students are automatically registered for a class, but if someone doesn’t feel good, is quarantining, or has another reason to stay home, they can remove their name from the list’, FSE student assessor Didi Ubels explains. ‘Someone else can then take their spot.’
Lecturers can decide for themselves whether to participate in the experiment, says Ubels. However, she promises it won’t add to their workload. ‘A student assistant will take care of everything’, she says.
Coffee and a snack
On top of that, students will also receive ‘coffee and a snack’ during their classes’ break, as a form of ‘external motivation’, says Ubels. ‘We hope that once they’re here, they realise how nice it is to see their fellow students, or how much better they are at paying attention when they’re in the actual classroom.’
She thinks students have several reasons not to come to class. Some of them are worried they’ll get infected. ‘We did ask ourselves if we should be motivating them to show up in person. But we figured it was time to prioritise the effect this whole situation is having on people’s mental well-being.’
Other students simply enjoy watching a class on their own time, for instance because the live version takes place at nine in the morning. They also enjoy being able to pause the video and take notes. ‘However, we hope this shows students that taking classes in person is simply the best way.’