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Online teaching presupposes a bond

Date:03 June 2020
Author:Jouke de Vries
Jouke de Vries
Jouke de Vries

As the Board of the University (CvB), we are currently holding administrative meetings with the faculties. These are held via Google Hangouts. We are asking the faculty boards about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their faculties. In our meeting with the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Vice Dean Klaas van Veen shared an interesting observation with us, which has occupied my mind since.

‘If online teaching is to be successful, there has to be a pre-existing bond with the students. Lecturers and students have to be familiar with each other already for the online course unit to be effective. If there is no bond between the lecturer and the students, online teaching does not work.’

In short, that is Klaas van Veen’s position on the matter. This assertion — that a social bond between lecturer and student is a necessary precondition for successful online teaching — could be important for the implementation of ‘hybrid’ teaching at the University of Groningen. On the one hand, we support the digital revolution, and a lot is possible in terms of technology. One the other hand, some social disadvantages of the new developments are also gradually becoming visible.

Many of our lecturers are missing their students — including the researchers who predominantly focus on research. We are also hearing that many students are missing their lecturers, even though they can ‘see’ them on a screen. This should be taken as a compliment for our hard-working lecturers.

The problems that we are experiencing due to social distancing (the one-and-a-halve-metre society) are diametrically opposed to the fact that, as humans, we are social beings. We prefer studying and socializing in the UB to being lonely at a distance in our own rooms.

Klaas van Veen’s assertion strengthens the CvB’s policy in this coronavirus pandemic. We have chosen to proceed with a combination of online and in-person academic teaching: the hybrid model. This means that we should pay much attention to our students, especially first-year students.  They have not yet formed a bond with the University, their fellow students and their lecturers, which means that online teaching cannot be effective. We should prevent this with all means.

Jouke de Vries

President of the University
3 June 2020

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