The SAO consists of students from various programs at TU/e. There is one student representative per program - usually the education officer of the study association - plus a representative of international student association Cosmos and someone representing the FSE, the umbrella organization of all student associations at TU/e. TU/e’s policy makers are keen to know what students think about the issues discussed within the SAO, such as the optimization of course evaluations or the implementation of challenge-based learning. The student advisory board regularly meets with ESA director Patrick Groothuis and rector Frank Baaijens.
Standard meetings were cancelled in the spring of 2020, since the university was faced with the corona pandemic. The SAO was consulted about making education available online. Britt van de Laar, then education officer at CHEOPS, felt heard at the time. “Our feedback was appreciated and really put to use. One of the things brought to the fore was the way in which exams were administered.”
Who is the best?
One of the SAO’s usual tasks is to organize an award for the best teacher of the Bachelor’s and Master’s phase. In 2019, the award went to Johanna Höffken (departments of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences and Industrial Design) and Bert Koopmans (Applied Physics). They received 10.000 euros each, to be spent on educational innovation.
“It feels a bit strange awarding the prize to one teacher this year when everyone worked really hard to make the best of it during last academic year,” Van de Laar says. “Everyone worked so hard during Q3 to suddenly get education online. We really respect that. We will spend the 20.000 euros on something all teachers will benefit from. What we have in mind will remain a secret for the time being. That will only make the surprise even bigger.” The message itself - in the form of a video - has already been shown during the livestream of MomenTUm.
Many students nationwide currently complain about the quality of education in times of corona. Some of them want to have their tuition fees partially reimbursed, and student union LSvB organized a protest last week. Van de Laar understands the criticism but wishes to separate it from the prize, which is awarded to all teachers. “Education is just different now because of corona. But our award is about making the switch during the corona outbreak, last academic year. No one saw it coming. And teachers suddenly had to make sure that students still achieved their learning objectives. Most teachers were successful, and we think they deserve the award for that.”