I can picture them sitting there during a class, just as though I could see into their houses through little digital windows. Some still in their student rooms with an empty wine bottle and dirty clothes in the background, but most of them at their parental homes in a room with furniture and a bed that look more suitable for a teenager than an adult student.
I try to make the classes as interactive as I can, and to provide opportunities for group work and discussion, but I am quite sure I’m competing with a second screen or an offscreen mobile phone full of Insta pics and TikToks.
There is a reason why we lure students to a campus: it physically removes them from normal life so that they fully open up to new academic insights. Instead, the online classes and assignments are a minor interruption to a life that mainly takes place elsewhere. We try to reach them through a small screen, but we are literally only a screen-sized part of their life instead of a complete context for it.
Our rector reported with satisfaction that the questionnaires about online learning show that ‘the educational quality was as good as in previous years’, and that ‘students were equally involved in learning processes’. I’m pleased to hear that of course, but I’m afraid that what our students are missing out on now is hard to capture in a questionnaire.
Guido Camps (36) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.