Universities and Corona – No more digital whining! – Training

The chants of lamentation just won’t stop, and neither do their responses, “Keep teaching face to face!” Some are crying out; “Don’t demonize e-practice!” He echoes repeatedly. 5,860 lecturers signed an open letter “In Defense of Classroom Teaching” (www.praesenzlehre.com), including myself. Now is the time for a sober mid-term evaluation.

If you read the worried statements of university teachers barracked in your home office, the first thing that throws you is that mostly well-established people are speaking here. The middle-level faculty, which bears the main teaching burden and often offers innovative (more) forms of teaching, remains under-represented in the debate. Above all, the image of old and new universities given by staunch digital critics says a lot. For example, the art historian from Freiburg, Angeli Janhsen, wrote in Baden newspaper: “Teachers miss students, students miss teachers. They all sit alone in front of their own computers and at best deal with e-mails and small pictures. Communication is somehow directed from the cramped house to the open one. lively places of education, meetings and self-confidence Students learn from specialists what they cannot learn anywhere else You meet, exchange ideas, compare, learn with each other, create networks without which you would not get anywhere Students compare teachers , They criticize, weigh the positives and negatives. They measure teachers. This way they understand themselves anew. Teachers also compare themselves, evaluate each other, evaluate students and test themselves and their standards over and over again. “

This is the beautiful world of lecturers. We always meet the topos of the university as a space for life and study, into which all involved, sociable and inquisitive people enter equally, where they meet at eye level and together broaden their horizons, preferably “alive” of course. For many students and a handful of lecturers, however, the university is often the opposite: a place of frustration in the face of hopelessly overcrowded, disorganized and often boring seminars; a place of humiliation and insecurity, fear of speaking out and stupidity, let alone addressing stressed lecturers outside the seminar room; a place where there are primitive hierarchies and a competitive climate of constant testing, where office doors are mostly closed and teachers are beings to whom only hasty apologies are turned for alleged disruptions.

What is behind the romantic praise becomes apparent at first glance. In face-to-face surgery, students are said to learn “from specialists what they cannot learn anywhere else.” There is something real! So far, no one has questioned fundamentally the meaning, purpose, and value of Humboldt’s principle of community of teachers and students. Above all, however, the expert’s fear of losing importance in the face of a world in which more and more people acquire humanistic knowledge, in particular through non-university, i.e. digital, and not only channels, speaks here. from professors of government officials in poorly ventilated seminar rooms.

So now the hangover is bad. Trying to prevent the ministerial bureaucracy in this way from cutting funds on good old face-to-face teaching in relation to the Crown is not very effective. Conversely, it becomes a shoe: it cannot be disputed that the unintended learning outcomes caused by the Corona crisis generated a positive boost in digital university learning. And while many students do miss their seminars ahead of the pandemic (and possibly not just for reasons imagined by teachers), the first grades are surprisingly positive. While the lockdown caused economic disasters in the first place for many of the university’s young residents, people appreciate the flexibility of online learning, which can now be accessed from their parents’ old children’s room. And not only those who are mostly silent at the seminar thrive in digital settings. Audio or video lectures can be adapted to your own biorhythm and heard or watched as often as you like, so that well-known things can be skipped and the gaps can be filled in with additional tasks and additional material yourself.

Instead of lamenting, a different strategy is recommended. Those worried about funding cuts must go on the offensive. And that means, in this case, that face-to-face learning requires a professional build-up of digital infrastructure and skills appropriate to the subject, culture and content of the teaching, and therefore fresh funding, which is now certainly required for Corona. and the practical experiences of recent months should.

The future of teaching in the 21st century is not about abolishing face-to-face teaching. The university is not a fashion store, its strength also lies in its long tradition. But in a modified form, what Karl Lagerfeld wrote in his family book on the industry applies to them: You need a foundation, but you also need to keep up with the times. So now it’s time to combine the best of both worlds with a sense of proportion and without hesitation mixed teaching Take it seriously: reserve face-to-face teaching on what makes it unique: exchange, intensive discussion (preferably in smaller groups than before); and to convey much of the content more efficiently and possibly also better in digital form.

Christian Dries, 44, teaches at the Institute of Sociology at Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg.

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