The student perspective on online education

| Rense Kuipers

About seventy students from the Honours programme shared their views on distance education during and after the corona crisis, in an online plenary session yesterday evening. According to Theresa Höfker, chairwoman of the organizing committee, Honours students are eager to get back to physical education, but open book exams could be a potential gamechanger.

How are Honours students dealing with online education?

‘We had a lot of nice discussions about that yesterday. Since everyone has to deal with this situation, everyone was quite enthusiastic to share their experiences. In general, it’s going fine. Students see some advantages in remote education, but most of them wat go to back to normal as soon as possible. Online education isn’t a substitute, but it can be a good addition to regular education. It does have its positive sides; people are a bit more flexible. Since most lectures are being recorded, you can watch or rewatch them anytime. The recorded lectures can even be used next year.’

Are there any issues students experience?

‘There are some overall issues with online education. Mostly technical, like problems with audio, which can be very frustrating for students. And in a lot of our studies, we work in group projects. When meeting physically, group work can be challenging, but working from a distance can be even harder. Especially communication can suffer from that.

There are also more study-specific issues. Some students mentioned that their studies didn’t have enough teaching assistants to help out, whereas others had enough. So we also think that information between studies can be exchanged more.’

There was also a guest lecture?

‘Yes, by Eduardo Hermsen from the Technology Enhanced Learning & Teaching department. He talked about what happened a few months ago when all education went online and how they had to teach the teachers. It was very interesting for us to get a behind the scenes glimpse, because now we know it wasn’t easy. He also talked about learning objectives, activities and the environment and what role the teachers play. They’re not only there to present content as coherently as possible, but they are also there as a guide for students. It’s important to acknowledge that.’

What stood out for you during yesterday’s session?

‘Since a lot of students have open book exams to prevent fraud, a lot of them feel that these kinds of exams much better represent the reality of a real working environment. Compared to other exams, these open book exams don’t require you to rely on your memory, but they force you to use what you learned. Most of us had the feeling that an open book exam offers more value in a way.’

What will happen with the outcomes of the session?

‘Besides the lecture and the discussions, we also had students filling out a survey. The outcomes will be presented to the teachers of the Honours tracks. And Eduardo was also very interested in the results. We hope teachers can apply the findings of students, so they can further improve education.’