Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden students relatively positive about online teaching

The students at Leiden University are satisfied with the online teaching that they received in the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year. They were more satisfied with the teaching that imparted knowledge than with the teaching that focused on applying knowledge. These are the results of a comprehensive evaluation.

How have students found the online teaching that was thrust upon them at the start of the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year? This was the topic of a comprehensive evaluation carried out by ICLON at the request of the Executive Board. The results have already been used to improve the technical support for students. Other improvements are underway.

Struggle with motivation at home

Although the switch from in-person to online teaching was made in mere weeks, the students were generally relatively positive about the teaching and assessment. Most did not have a problem with studying at home, but they did struggle to stay motivated. It is worth noting that the survey focused on the teaching itself rather than on student wellbeing. However, with little opportunity at present for face-to-face meetings with other students and lecturers, student wellbeing is the focus of a separate study, within the framework of Caring Universities. Further information will follow upon its completion.

Aris Politopoulas (photo), Arianna Pranger and Nuno Atalaia were nominated for the 2020 Remote Teaching Prize.
Aris Politopoulas (photo), Arianna Pranger and Nuno Atalaia were nominated for the 2020 Remote Teaching Prize.

Criticism of technical support

The technical support was a key point of criticism for many students. They were not always able get the help they needed and felt that the help they did receive could have been better. Changes have since been made to the student helpdesk: the information on the website has been improved and answers to the frequently asked questions posted. A systematic evaluation will be carried out over the coming months as to whether this is enough.

Imparting versus applying knowledge

A number of important insights emerged from the evaluation. Methods that focus on imparting knowledge, such as video lectures, video clips and online study material, were rated higher than methods that focus on applying knowledge, such as online discussions, online group work and online practicals. Students evidently miss the dynamic of face-to-face interaction within an academic community. Yet another challenge for lecturers – although how to make up for this online is anyone’s guess.

Thumbs down to group products and online proctoring

When asked about online exams, the students were generally positive about take-home exams, written products such as papers, open-book exams and multiple-choice exams. They were less satisfied with online exams in the form of group products or online exams with certain restrictions.

Online teaching at a faculty.
Online teaching at a faculty.

These restrictions can mean using online proctoring or not allowing students to go back through their answers. The advice to lecturers is to place the emphasis on individual work and if they are going to apply restrictions to online exams to practise them first with the students.

Satisfaction with individual supervision

The students were particularly satisfied with the individual supervision that they received online, but less so with the online group supervision; they have a clear need for personal attention and support. This is valuable information for the tutor groups which, alongside group supervision, can also provide individual supervision.

Differences between grouops?

In the evaluation ICLON also looked at whether different groups of students felt differently about the online teaching. In general, master’s students were somewhat more positive than bachelor’s students, and women somewhat more positive than men. International students were somewhat less positive than Dutch students about a number of technical aspects of online study and study at home. The biggest differences were between students with and students without a disability: students with a disability were less satisfied with the teaching and support. ICLON is now trying to pinpoint where these differences lie and how they can be resolved.

Arianne Pranger won the Remote Teaching Prize this year.
Arianne Pranger won the Remote Teaching Prize this year.

Moderate response

The evaluation was sent to all enrolled students, 2,337 of whom completed it (a response of 7.5%). The results were sent to all the degree programmes as soon as possible to give them the opportunity to make any adjustments to their teaching in the new academic year. The many responses from students to the open questions are a valuable source of information for the degree programmes.

Analysis of credits earned

A separate analysis was conducted of the credits earned per student cohort. It shows that the different cohorts experienced little or no delay. Although at the beginning of the semester (blocks 3, 7 and 11) more students had not earned any credits and the average number of credits per student had decreased, by the end of the semester (blocks 4, 8 and 12) nearly all of the students had caught up. This was true for all groups.

Lessons learned

Although the situation is by no means ideal, the lecturers appear to have coped very well with the swift transition to online teaching, and the students’ general progress does not appear to have suffered too much in the process. The students and lecturers have learned a great deal about online teaching and these experiences will help with further improvements.

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