MAASTRICHT. As of Monday 16 March 2020, UM has shifted completely to online teaching. How exactly are faculties going about this? Have they come up with alternatives for large-scale exams that needed to be cancelled? Will exams be postponed to the summer, potentially ruining both lecturers and students’ holiday plans?
All large-scale multiple-choice exams that were supposed to take place at the end of March (period 4)have been postponed. Resits from previous blocks have been postponed too. It’s not allowed to have students take exams in person, let alone to have thousands of students flock to the MECC, says Mark Vluggen, director of the bachelor programmes at the School of Business and Economics.
The above information applies to the majority of first- and second-year courses. The faculty board would prefer to postpone these exams to June or July. This would help prevent students from falling behind in their studies. No decisions have been made yet about the exams of period 5 and 6.
Lecturers teaching smaller courses can replace exams with oral assessments through Skype. Vluggen: “At least two assessors have to be on the call and the student must be able to identify themselves.”
The other alternative is to have students take an open-book exam or hand in an essay. “This is possible for courses in which the students’ ability to understand or apply knowledge is tested.”
All teaching will now, including period 5 and 6, take place online. Some lecturers will stick to posting homework assignments in the next two weeks, but as of April all teaching will take place through online tutorials. Programmes like Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate or Microsoft Teams will probably be used to accommodate this. “We’ll have to wait and see, though”, says Vluggen. “Zoom and Teams went offline yesterday when people from American universities all logged on at the same time. And not every student has a reliable Internet connection or a webcam. We are currently gathering experiences to start the next block period well prepared.” (MT)
The Faculty of Law has resumed teaching online. Lecturers have been given certain requirements to meet, says programme director Sjoerd Claessens. They have to record their lectures or reupload web lectures from previous years. Anyone who wants to do more, has access to more advanced software and knows how to use it is free to do so, says an update from Dean Jan Smits to all employees. Meanwhile, the faculty is looking for the best way for its people to share experiences so everyone can learn from each other. This will prove particularly useful if online teaching will have to continue in period 5 or even 6.
Students who are currently working on their thesis and have meetings planned with their supervisors will have to meet with them through Skype or FaceTime or by telephone instead.
“Exams for block period 4 [late March, early April] have not been postponed, but will be replaced by papers or take-home exams”, says Claessens. The same applies to resits from period 2 and period 3. In exceptional cases, students can take their exams in a different way. This is only allowed with permission from the programme director and the chair of the examination board, says the dean’s announcement. (WD)
Psychology and Neuroscience
The Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN) has already taught its first few online tutorials. “They went well”, says Rob Ruiter, vice-dean of education. “We’ve been working continuously since Friday, with a short break over the weekend, to get everything going.”
Lectures are currently being recorded for master’s students. Meanwhile, bachelor’s students can make use of lectures that were recorded last year. “And some lectures will be cancelled”, says Ruiter.
Period 4 exams for bachelor’s students will be postponed to June. “We might provide additional teaching so students go into their exams well prepared.” Research master’s students and students in the master’s programme Forensic Psychology will sit an alternative, online exam. “Those groups are small enough.” Students enrolled in the one-year master’s programme all do internships during this period, which means they have no exams. We do not yet know if and how their internships will be affected.
The faculty is assuming that all teaching in period 5 will take place online and is preparing accordingly. “Maybe teaching in period 6 will have to take place online, too. The difficult thing about this situation is that it’s unclear when it will end”, says Ruiter. But he thinks there are positives, too. “This is an opportunity for us to experience the possibilities of online teaching and to see what works for us.” (CF)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The master’s programmes began online teaching on Monday, but the bachelor’s programmes will not begin until tomorrow, on Thursday 18 March. Jessica Mesman, associate dean of education: “We wanted to give ourselves and our staff members in the bachelor’s programmes a few days to prepare everything properly. It’s all going smoothly now. I’m impressed with our staff members’ energy and creativity. Everyone is helping each other.”
All period 4 exams that were supposed to be taken in the MECC will be replaced by digital tests, such as a paper (papers are already one of the most common forms of assessment at FASoS), a take-home exam or a test with essay questions that have to be answered within a certain period of time.
All period 5 teaching will take place online as well. FASoS doesn’t teach any tutorials in period 6. “Most of our students – we have about 1,600 students – have gone home. Our student population is very international, as is our staff. We’re similar to the University College in that respect. Parents have come to pick up their children and I even heard about some students who were flown home on a military plane. A few Italian nationals are still here; they can’t get into their country. I think only about 10 per cent of our students are still here in Maastricht.” The faculty now wants to create a digital platform so that students who are still here, exchange students in particular, can stay in touch with each other “and don’t feel lost”.
All individual appointments with students (mentor meetings, thesis supervision) will take place online. Mesman stresses that the faculty is doing everything they can to make sure students don’t fall behind in their studies. At the same time, the faculty board is trying “to prevent our staff from having to work through 31 August and then begin the new semester on 1 September. Teaching is very important, but we also have to take care of our people – staff members and students alike.” (RJ)
Information about other faculties will follow.