Lecturers prepared to teach online in just a few hours

Docenten krijgen online college

In only three days, Education Director in the Department of Information and Computing Sciences Jeroen Fokker created an online lecture on how to give an online lecture. Few people at the university had any experience in the topic, himself included. But just three weeks later, the lecturers for blocks 3 and 4 had all been prepared to teach lectures online.

“When it became clear on that memorable Friday the 13th that we wouldn’t be seeing the inside of a lecture hall for the foreseeable future, I realised that we would have to quickly switch to teaching online. And the lecturers for block 3 would have to start the very next week. Together with Lennart Herlaar, Programme Director for the Bachelor’s in Computing Science, I learned how Teams works. It’s not very difficult, and the web is full of instructional videos. So many, in fact, that I thought it would be a good idea to add another one explaining what you need to teach a lecture right away”, Jeroen explains.

Preference for a live lecture

At 13:15 on Monday, 16 March, a group of around 60-70 lecturers were online and ready to attend the lecture. “It was tense for a moment, because we weren’t entirely sure if the servers could handle the nation-wide run on online tools. But it all worked out fine. I also recorded it of course; it’s a cinch in Teams, but I still think it’s better to watch a webinar like that live, because a recorded lecture can be a bit tedious. A knowledge clip is a completely different genre: you can record perfect audio and then edit it all together. But that’s a lot of work, and we don’t have time for that right now.”

Unoriginal, but effective

“I thought that the title ‘Teaching in Times of Corona’ would sound original, but over the course of the week I counted dozens of other references to the book that nobody’s read.” Now we’re three weeks on, and the quick action by the Education Director has already proven its worth. In the online Computing Science teaching community, lecturers help each other on a daily basis. Jeroen is enthusiastic about the result. “That’s exactly the interaction you aim to achieve in your teaching! The lecturers for block 4, the second ‘corona block’ will benefit from it. But I’ll still give the lecture again, enriched with the experiences gained over the past few weeks, and with some attention on testing. That’s a big advantage of live lectures: you can constantly update them.”

“Keep it simple”

Jeroen does have some words of caution, despite his enthusiasm: “It’s well known that new converts make the most fanatical missionaries, and it’s tempting to go crazy with all of the new possibilities that you suddenly discover in online education. But don’t do it! You probably have other things on your mind at the moment, and your students do too. Keep it simple, don’t make yourself too dependent on technology, and don’t buy into the ‘free for a limited time’ offers from commercial software providers.”

Tip: also see the information of Utrecht University about Remote teaching.