Regular classes when possible
Online education to continue after the summer
Last week, the University of Leiden suggested it might be providing online education next year, as well. Education in general would become a kind of hybrid. Is that something that’s being discussed with the VSNU, and how does the UG feel about this?
Jouke de Vries: ‘It’s definitely something that’s been discussed within the VSNU, and they’ll be starting a new campaign on Wednesday: On campus when we can, online because we can. Even when the worst of this crisis is over, Dutch universities will continue to provide education online. The UG will, too. Some of the educational activities will take place on campus, and some of it will be online.
We’re looking for the best possible combination, but we have to make sure the in-person education is done correctly. We have to take social distancing into account. That makes it difficult to organise large lectures in person. But I’m sure we can figure out something for the smaller faculties and classes once in-person education is allowed again.’
What about practical classes involving lab work or people working together in close quarters?
Jouke de Vries: ‘We have to really look at the options for practical classes. Right now, we can’t really say what they’ll look like. We also have to wait and see what the corona measures will look like after May 20. As long as the government hasn’t made any new decisions, we can’t make any predictions. The only thing we can tell you right now is that the UG will provide in-person university education where and whenever possible.’
In our first interview, we briefly talked about how the corona measures affected people doing research that has a set end date. Should PhD candidates and scholarship PhD count on an extension of their contracts?
Cisca Wijmenga: ‘The thing is, some PhD candidates have been negatively affected by the lockdown, but there are also those who haven’t. I’ve heard that PhD candidates who used to do a lot of lab work have been using this time to write. That means that not everyone is suffering delays. We first have to have an overview of how big the issue is and if we even need a solution. I can’t really speak to that right now.’
Hans Biemans: ‘It’s a situational issue. Even before the corona crisis, some PhD candidates would get an extension if they weren’t able to finish on time while others wouldn’t. It’s not just to do with the corona measures, but with other things as well.’
Last week, we surveyed students to ask them about online testing. Generally speaking, the students were happy with the actions that have been taken, but they did have one point of criticism: the tests often take too long and are harder to finish online. Could you respond to this?
Jouke de Vries: ‘We understand how this might happen; it’s a new way of testing and we’re still working everything out. If the tests are taking too long, I’m going to assume that will come up in the evaluations we’ll be receiving. If it does, we can do something about it.’
One thing that keeps coming up is students suggesting alternative assignments, like essays or presentations instead of online exams. Why aren’t we doing that?
Cisca Wijmenga: ‘First, that’s not up to us, but rather to the faculties and departments themselves. We offer a great variety of testing methods. Departments and lecturers are exchanging ideas and learning from each other. But it’s never really been the same across the entire university. And students actually like the different methods of testing.’
We’ve also heard students say they don’t think it’s fair that different testing methods are being used, like when the law faculty says it won’t be using proctoring software while the arts faculty is experimenting with that very same software.
Cisca Wijmenga: ‘In the end, these decisions aren’t up to the board. The responsibility lies with the faculties and exam committees. It’s always been their responsibility, so I don’t understand why this is suddenly a problem. The faculties have always differed in their testing methods.’
The use of proctoring software is more than just ‘differing’. The university might decide to take a stand on that.
Hans Biemans: ‘If we ever were to use proctoring software, it would have to comply with our rules. We have rules concerning privacy and how we handle data. All of that is in place, which means any software we implement would comply with our rules. I don’t really understand why students have a problem with this.’