Back on the campus
I was a student when I first came to the TU/e campus. That was twenty-two years ago, in 1998. These past few months have been the longest period since then that I have not visited the campus daily. And I have to say, I didn't like it at all. But happily the campus reopened again last week.
Cautiously we are being allowed back into MetaForum and so last week I had my first physical meeting with a doctoral candidate in months. With a real whiteboard instead of the virtual alternative - although we did each have our own marker pens.
For teaching, it is still too early to start interacting in person, so that is still happening online. I teach a first-year master's course to some three hundred students. A lecture theater would be my preferred venue, but that has now been replaced with MS Teams and I have to say, it works! Even with nearly three hundred students in a meeting, Teams doesn't falter.
While it is difficult to be seated and talk to a camera instead of standing before a lecture theater, it's not all bad. In particular, the opportunities for interaction offered by the chat are a pleasant surprise. Students are following the rules very well, in both how they ask questions over the chat, and how they answer each other's questions. The latter is particularly nice to see because it doesn't happen in a lecture theater.The latter is particularly nice to see because it doesn't happen in a lecture theater. What's more, you have a log of the questions and you can summarize them on Canvas after the lecture.
As well as MS Teams, we are using all kinds of other online systems to support students as they study. This takes a little getting used to, both for us and for the students but here, too, everything seems to be going pretty well. Students are helping each other (and thus us) to deal with this situation successfully.
Naturally, this means the big challenge for next year is how can we retain the positive elements while getting back to standing before that lecture theater, a piece of chalk in hand instead of a digital chalk on a digital chalkboard. Because whichever way I look at it, I do miss that lecture theater.