Her arrival is somewhat tardy. Rector Rianne Letschert had been sent the wrong link. But she is now attending the psychology tutorial group led by tutor Max Colombi. For the duration of a few weeks, she will ‘break in’ on tutorials, to speak to students about certain themes. Today, the theme is involvement. How involved do students feel with the university, their study programme, lecturers and fellow students now that everything is at a distance?
The students feel that this is a good group. Everyone participates and we talk about other things, not just the subject matter. “That is not the case everywhere,” says student Jelle van Malsen. “In some groups, people say what they have to say and then everyone logs out again. I then feel a lot less motivated.” It is a conscious choice made by tutor Colombi. “I don’t want to teach in a formal way, I have abandoned that. This isn’t a normal situation; we don’t need to pretend it is. So, make a joke, ask questions not related to the course. I want students to feel free to open up.”
Student Sophie Breiling misses that feeling of community that she gets from a full lecture hall. “You can look at people and chat to them during the break.” When you are in a space with other people, there is a different atmosphere, fellow student Pauline Witzenhausen agrees. “It takes less energy than online meetings and it gives me more motivation.” It is the spontaneous meetings that I miss. “Even for coffee with a friend you have to make an appointment,” says Van Malsen. The same applies to the interaction with lecturers, Lorraine Denis adds. “Sometimes I have a question with which I would normally just pop into the lecturer’s office. Now I have to send an e-mail. I know that the lecturers are inundated with e-mails, so I often just let it pass.”
It would be good if we could just go to the library again, several students have said. Witzenhausen: “Getting up, getting dressed and going to the University library, it is so very simple, but now that it is not possible, I miss it.” Letschert nods, she has heard that before from students. “Your generation studies in the library much more often than I did,” she laughs. “We hope to be able to make more study spaces available soon.”
What do the students do to relax, Letschert wants to know. “Do you get around to it?” Some are better at it than others. “My outlet has always been the gym,” says Sebastian Marten. “When that closed, the lockdown really started to get difficult for me.” Marianna Galica is mainly bothered by the curfew. “I do deliveries for Thuisbezorgd. When I am finished, it is after 21:00 hrs, so I can’t take a walk around the block.”
The students also had tips for the rector. Maybe this isn’t the time to start introducing educational innovations, Julia Pushinzki remarks. “In our second block, we had to create a portfolio instead of doing an exam. That was stressful for many students. It also coincided with a block that had a lot of practicals, so it was a really busy period. It would be good if the block co-ordinators discussed this.”
Also, the experiment with tutorless tutorials did not go down well. Galica: “The tutor has become more important than ever. When you have a discussion via Zoom, someone has to be in charge.” A tutor is also someone you can talk to, Mona Wenk adds. About your study, but also other things that might be troubling you. “We do have a mentor as well, but you often only see that person once. They don’t know you like your tutor does.”