The news delivered during the corona press conference of November 12 that higher education would have to go back to the situation of a maximum group size of 75 people was unexpected by many. But despite that, all was relatively quiet in the mailbox of Brightspace support helpdesk of teaching and learning services (Education and Student Affairs) in the subsequent weekend, while it was being watched more closely after the news broke. That gave its manager, Franca Jonquière, the impression that the lecturers were panicking less than in March 2020, when the first lockdown dropped on them like a bombshell, she replied in response to a question. “For many lecturers there was undoubtedly a lot more work, but it helped that there is now a structure in place to make the switch to online education. There are hybrid lecture halls, the education was still partly online, and people are used to that.”
‘In the weekend we increased our efforts’
That opinion was echoed by Annelies de Quant, manager Education Logistics at TU Delft. She and her colleagues stopped a minute to look when Minister Hugo de Jonge started on higher education. “In the weekend we increased our efforts to schedule lectures with more than 75 people online or as hybrid, so the students would get the right information in My Timetable (where students can review their timetables, ed.). Due to the quick efforts of the schedulers and faculty employees, there was no panic or an enormous workload. For the coming three weeks, everything is in order.”
This is due to the fact that many faculties had already approved online lessons for large lectures. Where this had not yet happened, it will be relatively quick to arrange, hoped Jonquière and De Quant. For lecturers with questions about how they could best arrange this switch, there is help provided on the Brightspace support page and, if necessary, individual assistance from the support desk..
Jonquière sees many lecturers temporarily switching to entirely online lectures, which could be a logical choice, she thinks. “We note that for hybrid education (partially taking place on campus with a large proportion of the students sitting at home behind their laptop, ed.), ideally a technical assistant is needed, to keep an eye on the chat, for instance, and answer any questions. Such a person is maybe not found within a weekend. In those cases, full online teaching can be a temporary solution.”
That the necessary organisation was indeed needed was apparent last weekend from the Corona Alert issued by the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering on November 16. It stated that lecturers and staff from e.g. ESA and building management were working in the weekend on modifying the lecture halls. Seats were taped again, and two additional lecture halls – there were four already – have been fitted with equipment for hybrid education.