What struggles have teachers encountered when preparing for online education, and how did they overcome them? The Northern Times finds out
This is the last part in a series about the impact online education has had so far on students, and how it has (not) affected the quality of education at the University of Groningen. This time, we talked to Kathi, who shared their experience with online education as a student assistant.
By Adriana Dancu
Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many schools and universities both in the Netherlands and around the world were forced to switch from in-person education, to online-education. Of course, this change has forced both students and teachers to adapt to this new situation, while at the same time they had to deal with the pressure to perform at least as well as they did before the pandemic.
Needless to say, this change has affected everybody, has created even more distractions for students, and has generated criticism regarding the high-quality education that universities promise (and sometimes charge tens of thousands of euros a year for). Kathi, a student at the University of Groningen, shared her experience with online education, and how teachers (in her programme) prepared for it.
In the previous interviews, The Northern Times talked to two students at the University of Groningen, who shared their experience with online education. While one of the students focused on the quality of online education in contrast to what the university promises, and the other one focused more on how online education affects students emotionally, now we discussed with a student who took part in creating an online education environment.
“I imagined myself standing in front of a class in September”
Kathi recalls that when she applied for the student assistant position at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, she imagined that everything would go back to normal when the academic year begun. However, she says that it became clear that the University will have to switch to online education.
“I was a bit nervous because I heard how students complained in general about online classes being boring, and maybe also lower in quality, and suddenly it was my responsibility to tackle those complaints,” says Kathi. Being a student assistant at the Faculty of Economics and Business, she says that it was clear that there will be some difficulties in moving everything online: “the course I taught was heavy in calculations and especially for calculations I always needed physical material like a paper or a blackboard to explain things (pointing at things, drawing arrows, writing formulas etc.), but both are not really available when teaching online.”
Nevertheless, Kathi says that what she appreciated the most “was that [her] professor asked for a lot of feedback from us and our experience with online education.” She argues that because of this, the student assistants could design the best lectures and seminars they could, and provide students with enough information in an entertaining way. Moreover, Kathi says that the exam format was designed in such a way “that the students feel as little stress as possible while also ensuring the quality of the exam.” She again argues that this was possible because her teacher asked for feedback: “in the preparation part he [the teacher] grasped all the experience and feedback around him to make a valuable course for the students.”
Make the most of it
Besides the fact that her teacher asked for feedback, which helped creating a better online education environment, Kathi says that her teacher encouraged his students to use their computers for more than to just watch lectures. Students were encouraged to use programs, such as Excel, which made classes easier for them, rather than using plain paper like they used to. “I think that adaptation also made the online education effective for the students.” says Kathi.
Kathi says that the only struggle that she faced during online teaching was that her teacher “sometimes also did not know how something or other works in the online environment and sometimes we just had to wait and see and stay flexible.” However, she argues that this did not influence the quality education of the course.
While online education is experienced differently by students and teachers, the most important factor in making it work is asking for students’ feedback and implementing it. Now more than ever, teachers should take into consideration what students think about online classes, in order to make online education effective. In Kathi’s case, we have seen that feedback is always important.
Kathi is an International Business student, from Austria, at the University of Groningen.