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“Online education is exhausting; sometimes I need a nap”

“Online education is exhausting; sometimes I need a nap”

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Archive Anja Dekanski

Anja Dekanski works as a tutor at University College Maastricht. This block, she’s teaching a first-year course called Research Methods 2, as well as a course called Strategy & Negotiation for second- and third-year students. “Within a week of the university closing, the block coordinators and us tutors prepared everything to go online. We tried out different programmes. Despite the potential privacy issues, we ultimately went with Zoom.”

“I was very nervous before my first online teaching session”, says Dekanski. “It felt like starting a new job. I decided to enforce strict rules, kind of like a secondary school teacher: I read out a learning objective and students raise their hands in Zoom to get a turn to speak. Face-to-face tutorial sessions involve a more open discussion, with students speaking up if they want to add something. Now, I have to ask whether anyone has anything to add and give them a turn to speak. It’s less spontaneous.”

Dekanski misses having face-to-face contact with her students – joking around, or answering questions in the break or after class. Apart from that, the online tutorials are going surprisingly well, she says. “Even in Strategy & Negotiation, where students have to do in-class activities in groups.” Zoom has a feature for this, too. For example, students are divided into groups of three and are each given a role to play: an employee asking for a raise, their manager, and someone observing and taking notes. “The only difference is that I usually walk through the classroom and listen in on their discussions. Now, I have to select the group I want to listen in on.”

One of the things she has noticed is that students still show up to class like they used to. “Officially, the compulsory attendance requirement was waived when the university closed. UCM students usually have to attend at least 85% of their classes. I was a bit afraid that they wouldn’t show up, but so far there have been only about one or two absences per class.”

The tutors are committed to their students, says Dekanski. “We all want to continue to provide high-quality teaching and Problem-Based Learning.” Online teaching is quite demanding, though. “I get tired more easily. Sometimes I need to take a nap.” But it’s not a big deal. “It’s going well. I’m in good health, I can do my job online and I have enough space at home to do yoga or Pilates. I didn’t consider going back to my family in Serbia. I’m doing well here.”

What are these corona-days like for students? How does it affect their studies and other parts of their life? Observant speaks to one of them every day to give an idea about the virus' impact.

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