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Auditorium 747


Sitting shoulder to shoulder in an airplane has got the thumbs up, but giving and listening to lectures, the old-school approach to learning, is still out of the question. It's high time that innovative methods of delivering education really took off: suppose we started lecturing in a plane?

When the first online lectures started in April, it was soon clear that we would have to fight to get back to 'face-to-face education'. As things now stand, students are restricted to using public transport between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the Ministry of Education is providing 1.4 million euros for ‘innovative online education’ and the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) is speculating through its President Mariëtte Hamer about there being more online lectures. This last point has been motivated in part by the notion that “recorded lectures can be viewed before an exam”, something that has been available for years, of course, to complement 'offline education'.

So the university has the green light to continue innovating to earn its bread. Whereas if you're KLM, and you've spent decades doing as little as you like to benefit sustainability and social innovation, you find the government falling over itself to help you. And now, what's more, the aviation sector has all the luck of a wasp at a picnic: according to RIVM there's no problem with getting on a plane shoulder to shoulder with 200+ people. Because these planes have good HEPA air filters. If you say so.

Come on, TU/e, we can do this too! Let's build a new, corona-proof lecture theater: Auditorium 747. On the other side of Eindhoven, just past the Meerhoven neighborhood, that new-brick wasteland, plenty of aircraft are gathering dust. Let's taxi one over to the campus (not via the John F. Kennedylaan, there's always a tailback), and park it smack in front of the Auditorium. Besides, we've already got a fully fledged runway aka de Groene Loper.

We must be sure not to borrow one of those clapped-out Ryanair planes. After all, we'll need in-flight entertainment to really get that blended learning off the ground. Every student can easily watch the PowerPoint presentation on the seatback in front of them (or play Trackmania) while the lecturer teaches to the whole class. It's going to be perfectly apt to say that innovative ways of delivering education are really taking flight.

Of course, the engine must be idling while the aircraft is stationary to run the high-quality air filtration system. No problem, let's go right ahead and make the whole thing circular! Professor Bert Blocken can put the wind from the jet engines to good use in his tunnel, investigating just how sick you can get from kerosene aerosols. Or how Tom Dumoulin's hair style can be made even more aerodynamic.

All joking aside, I would personally go and collect that plane if it were my only hope of ever teaching face to face again. That idea of recording and later watching lectures is pretty useful - but no more than that. I derive virtually no satisfaction from online teaching; it feels like a 17-year-old version of Alain is sitting in front of his webcam talking bull to his entire list of MSN contacts, and not even getting a response. I think a lot of lecturers, whether introvert or extravert, feel that their contact with students is one of the most useful aspects of their work, and one of the best.

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