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Executive Board column: Which parts of online learning do we want to keep?

Luckily we’ve been able to meet up on campus again for a few months now after two years of mainly online teaching. Alongside the inconvenience, enforced digitalisation has brought us valuable innovations and smart tools. The question is: what’s going well and what could we do differently? I’d love to hear your answers at the Education Festival on 7 June.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What gets them enthusiastic? What challenges do they face? Building on a healthy, engaged and learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it’s the turn of Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl.

What appeals to me, for example, is that figuratively speaking the lecture hall has become so much bigger: lecturers can now easily dial in guest speakers and students from all around the world in in-person lectures too. It’s no longer a problem that that one interesting curator or lawyer is in the US or anywhere else for that matter. And lecturers are incorporating more digital tools in their face-to-face lectures and using knowledge clips, quizzes and videos, for instance. 

I’ve noticed how different students’ opinions are about digital and in-person teaching. Some are so used to following classes at home that it’s no longer second nature to come to the campus. I see the same with my son, who is also a student. But once he’s there, as he himself admits, he realises how important and stimulating it is to regularly meet the lecturers and other students. He learns more intensively. And I hear the same from many other students and lecturers.

That’s why we’ll be looking together at the ideal mix of in-person and online and a mixture of the two: blended. Blended learning gives you the opportunity to do more outside lectures and to intensify the teaching during contact hours. We’ll be working towards a ‘blended university’ in the coming years. This hybrid form also gives students with disabilities more opportunities to study in a way that suits them.

‘I hear from many students that they don’t dare raise their hands in a physical lecture hall but that they do dare to type their questions in the chat.’ 

So let’s share the good and less successful examples with one another. Because there are obviously some drawbacks. Developing partly digital lessons takes more time, especially at the beginning. I saw this myself as a lecturer years ago when I wanted to supplement my lecture with a fantastic interactive tool but struggled with unreliable technology. 

Fortunately, each faculty now has a Teaching Support Desk so that lecturers don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. It’s difficult for lecturers to moderate online questions during a lecture, for example. The Centre for Innovation therefore set up a pool of moderators last year who can help.

As far as I’m concerned, asking questions via the chat is a great example of a successful interactive tool. I hear from many students that they don’t dare raise their hands in a physical lecture hall but that they do dare to type their questions in the chat. What do you think about this as a lecturer or teaching director? I’d love to hear it at the Education Festival. There are in-person and online workshops, so you can also ask your questions via the chat. See you there!

Does this strike a chord or would you like to share any insights or experiences relating to this column? If so, send us an email at nieuws@leidenuniv.nl

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