‘Hybrid’ education raises concerns

| Michaela Nesvarova

The Executive Board has established guidelines for education in the 1.5 meter university with effect from 1 September. During a meeting today, the University Council (UC) has raised several concerns related to this policy.


In response to the document ‘Shaping Hybrid Education in the 1.5 m University’, Dick Meijer mentioned added workload as a first concern. ‘The policy fails to mention how we will ensure that the workload doesn’t become even higher than it is. We should consider an analysis of how this will effect the wellbeing of people at the UT and what additional personnel or facilities are needed.’

‘Such an analysis is indeed not included in this document,’ responded rector Thom Palstra. ‘I find the effects on workload difficult to predict at this point. The policy is only meant as guidelines for establishing education. This is not necessarily the final document. Changes can be made after wise consideration.’

in a nutshell 

The document, which was made publicly available on Monday, was prepared by a special working group appointed by the Executive Board. It provides a framework for setting up study programmes for the academic year 2020-2021. In essence, it formulates principles for providing hybrid online and offline education and stresses the importance of social meetings on campus, especially for first year students. Its main points are:

  • The UT will provide blended online and offline education. The campus will be used as much as possible for community building, especially for first year students.
  • Exams, thesis projects, practicals and tutorials should take place on campus. Large-scale lectures will be done online.
  • All measures must be aimed at ensuring that the number of students/teachers/others present in rooms at the same time complies with the 1.5-meter rule.
  • Tailor-made solutions will be offered to students who cannot come to the UT in September.
  • Testing on campus in evenings and during weekends is possible.  

The full document can be found here.

Testing on weekends

Another ‘major concern’ expressed by the UC was the possibility of offering education and tests outside of ‘regular working hours’, therefore in the evenings and on weekends. ‘Based on this document, I get the feeling that testing in evenings and weekends seems like a viable option, even though earlier we discussed this as only the last resort,’ stated Hamza Riaz (UReka). ‘I know that students are very concerned about this. I understand we need to take measures but I would like to see this only as the last resort.’ Riaz’s opinion was shared by a number of other UC members.

In his reply, Thom Palstra stressed the importance of keeping all options open. ‘We are responsible for proper education. To achieve that, students need sufficient time to socialize and have time on campus. We are dealing with very restricted possibilities for that experience. Last resort depends on what your priorities are. Our priority is introducing students to the real university experience. We cherish student activism, but to achieve that we need to do that differently than in previous years. We need the possibility of uncommon measures.’

Reinventing the university

President of the Executive Board Victor van der Chijs added: ‘I truly appreciate all the remarks, but we need to realize that what we are developing is not going to be perfect. We are literally reinventing the university in a couple of weeks, which is complicated enough and the framework within which we can operate is constantly changing. All is under pressure. Offering education is our priority and everything is focused on that. But fair warning: it will not be perfect, but it will be up to standards of the UT. We are pioneering and we count on your understanding.’

Advice next week

No final decisions regarding the new policy were made. The University Council will present their official advice on the ‘Shaping Hybrid Education in the 1.5 m University’ next week. 

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