News - May 21, 2015

Extending lecture hours. A good idea?

The Executive Board wants to make better use of the lecture theatres in order to accommodate the growing number of students. One idea is to extend teaching hours since it would be relatively inexpensive to start using lecture theatres a little earlier in the morning and close them a little later in the evening. What do Wageningen students and lecturers think of this plan?

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Melissa de Raaij
Student BSc International Land and Water Management
You have morning and evening people. Personally, I couldn’t manage it if I had evening lectures. But if lectures began at 8 a.m. instead of 8.30 a.m. that wouldn’t be a problem for me. For some others 8 a.m. is really early. Even now people sometimes don’t turn up for a lesson at 8.30 a.m., so in that respect maybe that half hour makes little difference. Another solution might be to make greater use of online teaching. The WUR is already experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Then you do some of the work at home and the rest during lectures, just like working people these days work more hours at home and have flexihours.

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Jelmer Zandbergen
Student MSc Organic Agriculture
A clear separation is needed between time spent at the university and what you do outside those hours. I don’t think it is good if these two things start to become intertwined. Students in Wageningen do a lot outside of their programme and I’m not just talking about drinking beer, but about extra-curricular activities, such as committees and governance. If lectures are planned for evenings there won’t be any time left for these things. But apparently something has to change. And if with, say, an extra hour in the evening, 80% of the problem is solved, I think that’s a reasonable trade-off.

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Tinka Murk
Professor of Ecotoxicology
I have the feeling that half the time lecture theatres are standing empty before and after my lectures. With more intensive use of the rooms it may be that a large part of the problem can be solved. Ideally, as a lecturer you should be able to make or cancel a room booking in the established planning via a easy-to-use digital system. If a space then opens up, lecturers can then book the room themselves. A combination of increasing remote education, better distribution of room use over a teaching period and attaching a financial (or otherwise) consequence to failing to cancel a room booking will ensure that open spaces in the schedule are better filled. This has less of an impact on the social lives of students and the family lives of lecturers. Moreover, it is cheaper than extending teaching hours, renovating building or even building new ones.

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Job de Pater
Student MSc Plant Sciences

I think the way lecture hours are now organized is pretty much like school. You have a block of lessons in the morning and afternoon. If in the daytime there’s a gap in the timetable now and then and there are sometimes evening lectures as well, students will learn how to plan better. I think that would be a change for the better. It wouldn’t be a problem for me if lectures were to start a half hour earlier in the morning. If you plan for it, the difference between 8.30 a.m. and 8.00 a.m. isn’t that great.


Angelica Ruark
Student MSc Sensory Science

A big difference with my university in the US is that there courses are offered several times a day. So students have a lot of freedom to create their own schedule. Here your schedule is made for you. The classes here are small. Sometimes you’re sitting in a classroom that can accommodate 40 people. But on other occasions a classroom is too small for the number of people, for example on a presentation day at which everyone is present. I think it’s a good idea to stagger the lunch break. At a stroke that would also solve the long queues in the canteen and the shortage of seats at lunchtime.

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Sander Kersten
Professor of Nutrition, Metabolism and Genomics
When I was a student in Wageningen I had evening practicals as well as daytime courses. I have fond memories of them. The atmosphere was different, more relaxed. As a lecturer, the challenge is to make evening lectures appealing. You have to draw on your creativity. I wouldn’t mind at all having to teach evenings. An evening lecture isn’t extra work time, just a shift in your working hours. It means you can take the dog for a walk in the afternoon. Owing to the large numbers of students and the diminishing budget, the education we deliver has to change. ‘Emergency knows no law.’ And there aren’t a lot of alternatives. You could also plan morning lectures, but I don’t think that will go down well with students. The weekend is possible too, the campus is deserted then. But I think that is even less open to discussion.

Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek