Has online education during the Coronavirus pandemic, at the University of Groningen, provided the high-quality education the university is known for? The Northern Times finds out
By Adriana Dancu
This is the first 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. Firstly, we talked to ‘Robin,’ who shared her experience with online education so far.
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 student and teachers to adapt to this new situation, while at the same time 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). ‘Robin,’ a student at the University of Groningen, shared her experience with online education, and the struggles she has faced so far.
“Teachers views on the best approach does not always correspond with ours, as students”
‘Robin’ says that teachers at the University of Groningen remained approachable in terms of listening to students, and helping them with classes. However, they failed when it comes to adapting to the online learning environment, and making it easier for students to stay focused.
“I will say that teachers seem very prepared for their lectures and I know they feel the pressure of online education, too,” states ‘Robin.’ However, she has “noticed a trend in which students try to propose things that might help them, and teachers refusing to be flexible” thus, creating an even more frustrating environment. “I think it would be beneficial if teachers created more opportunities for students’ feedback,” argues ‘Robin.’
In another instance, where students proposed a way to make it easier for themselves to actually learn something, not study to only pass a course, teachers refused to consider it. ‘Robin’ recalls how she and her classmates wanted to record the lectures, and watch them later. Of course, this was supported by the argument that being at home, you cannot always focus on classes. Because of different valid reasons, recording lectures would have made it easier for students to keep up with studies. Nevertheless, the teacher’s response was that they do not want to do it, because lectures were not recorded before the Coronavirus either. “This has been a baffling argument to me, and a striking example of lack of understanding on the teachers’ part. Obviously, we are not ‘before corona’ anymore, so why are we adhering to the rules we wrote then? Following that rhetoric, I might as well not come to online classes at all, because: classes did not use to be online either,” says ‘Robin.’
Support on the part of teachers is very important for students in these unprecedented times. Everybody has been affected by the pandemic, but seeing that support is lacking where it really counts, is very frustrating. ‘Robin’s experience with online education and how teachers handled it can be summed up to “no, not every teacher has been understanding.”
There is a clear disunity in the University’s handling of online education
When asked if there is a discrepancy between the high-quality education the RuG promises, and the one provided through online classes, ‘Robin’ says that “there is a big discrepancy, but I doubt that this discrepancy is anyone’s fault.”
Granted, ‘Robin’ argues that this discrepancy cannot be solved only by teachers, and to ensure that online education meets the expectations students have, and the promises the RuG makes: “the university should put more effort into this endeavor as a whole. The teachers I have had, have approached online teaching in varying ways, which tells me that the university did not come up with some form of a unified approach. It seems to me there is more the university could do to streamline the teachers’ work.”
Lastly, according to ‘Robin,’ “the biggest problem with this discrepancy between the quality education lies in the fact we are still expected to put down over 2000 euros for this. This is simply ridiculous to me.” For many students, having to pay the same amount of money for education, when the situation is clearly totally different, is not fair. “I am not using the school’s accommodations. I am not walking the hallways, using the universities’ chairs, sitting in their classrooms, using their canteens, parking my bike and whatnot,” says ‘Robin,’ who does not consider it fair to not have any discount for the school fee.
It is true that switching to online education, and struggling to make it as effective as possible, is neither easy, nor pleasant. However, students deserve the education they came to the Netherlands for, and could clearly use university’s understanding both in terms of feedback and financials.
‘Robin’ is a pseudonym as the original interviewee’s name has been changed at her request