A teacher’s perspective: campus or remote

Jenny Balkow

Jenny Balkow, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Business Administration and Textile Management, and Programme Coordinator for the Master Programme (One Year) in Textile Management, gave her view.

How do teachers decide whether a component should be held on campus or remotely?

The choice of whether an examination or a teaching occasion should take place on campus or not is based primarily on the syllabi, both how the learning goals are formulated and how the examination is described. It is our duty as teachers to ensure the quality of our teaching, that students meet the goals described in the syllabus, and that we can guarantee a fair and legally certain examination. The latter has proven to be extremely difficult in some cases and depends on what kind of knowledge is being examined.

To change an on-campus exam to a digital one requires fairly significant effort on the part of the teacher. It is not just about changing it to a digital exam and learning the technology around that, you also have to think about both the content of the lectures and the goals in the syllabus to adapt them to what can be examined remotely. It is important to ensure that students have actually acquired the type of knowledge they need for the next course.

The important thing to take with you is that the decision about whether an examination should take place on campus or remotely does not take place in isolation and is not made by individuals but rather is something that there is a dialogue about continuously with other teachers and managers.

As a teacher, what is your view of the alternative of giving recorded lectures or hybrid variants?

There is no easy answer to that; in the end only the individual teacher can answer whether that will work for a specific component.

The fact that hybrid solutions are difficult can be due to anything from a lack of technical knowledge on the part of the individual teacher to difficulties in finding a room that is large enough to accommodate all students if they show up and at the same time have the right equipment. An effort is made at the university to purchase equipment, to train teachers to be able to use that equipment, and to support teachers at the beginning of lectures. But a fairly large change is required both in terms of the content of the course and in the syllabus to convert a campus-based course to a remote one.

It should also be noted that listening to a lecture that is not adapted to being digital does not provide the quality that we as teachers expect to be able to deliver. Quality in teaching is always dependent on the exchange that takes place between teachers and students, so without visual contact with the students, we have difficulty adapting the pace and content to the group we are talking to. When we also have to keep track of questions in the chat and hands that are raised, and sometimes also in text messages and emails, it becomes difficult to keep up with the thread of the lecture.

As for recorded lectures, there is the same concern. The main concern is about how these recorded lectures affect students' learning. If recorded lectures are used as a substitute for reading texts, there is a risk that students learn the teacher's interpretation of the texts rather than making their own interpretations and using the lectures as an additional perspective on texts. So there is a concern that students just memorise the teacher's words.

We should also keep in mind that even in those times that we are not in a pandemic, students sometimes miss lectures. If they are not mandatory, this is relatively common. As a student, you are then asked to look at lesson materials and to talk to your fellow students about the content of the lecture.

Mats Tinnsten

Finally, a question to the Vice-Chancellor Mats Tinnsten about what has been done at the university during the pandemic to improve teachers' knowledge of digital technology.

Even before the pandemic struck, the university had started up EduTech, a collective digital support for, primarily, teaching. Within the framework of EduTech, we have supported our teachers with equipment, applications, and management support. In collaboration with the Unit for Development and Research in Higher Education, they also arranged exchanges of experience between teachers. This was done in order to support and identify any issues about, for example, hybrid teaching. The Unit for Development and Research in Higher Education has in turn worked with the training of teachers in tools such as Canvas and Zoom and consulted about distance education and alternative forms of examination.