And so it happened for real. Universities of applied science and research universities alike were locked up for the rest of the semester almost overnight. Teaching had to be moved online. I was lucky in the sense that I only had one more lecture to go: economics of natural resources. Moreover, it contained less material than usual because it also contained the final course evaluation and the mock exam.

My lecture was postponed for a week to give me a bit of room to improvise. While others around me experimented with MS Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom and alternatives, I decided that it was time to dust off my experiences with flipping the class room. I used that earlier in Denmark, and was rather pleased with it. Why did I not continue with it here in Holland then? Well, doing it right takes time, and of course time is the ultimate scarce resource.

The idea of flipping the classroom is NOT “record your lectures, and you’re done”. The idea is that students learn the basics at home for example from video, giving you more time in class to do the real tough and fun stuff, where the deep learning takes place. Oh wait… in class… yeah, that’s why we call it online emergency teaching.

All right, after some experimenting I can record the first videos. I am amazed by the possibilities: record, reform, insert texts and equations (I am an economist after all). Upon editing the videos I suddenly pity the students that usually do take part in my lectures. Do I really drop that many uhm, ehm and thinking silences in my lectures? Remove, remove, cut, cut! And while you’re at it: why don’t add a bird chirping sound to that introduction video about resources, and have trees in the background? Hollywood here I come….

maarten teach
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I make a few short videos. Ideally these are embedded within exercises that allow students to test their learning, but I only have a week, and recording and editing a good 15 minutes video usually takes me at least 2 to 3 hours. So we leave that part out and also put it on the account of “emergency online teaching”. I upload the videos  and tell students to watch them upfront. I do prepare exercises for the material “in class”.

A few days later I have the online lectures. As this is the first try for many of us, I open with a netiquette slide, with the same birds chirp sound. Unfortunately, I only find out by the third instance of the lecture where the button is to let students hear my system’s sound. The same applies to the Kahoot.  Students are creative too though, and once they learn that they are supposed to hear sounds they look for an appropriate YouTube video  and share that in the chat. After all Kahoot without music “is just not the same”.

The latter also applies to the online lecture overall. Because of bandwidth and chaos I ask students to turn off their mics and camera’s, and respond in a chat window. The result is though, that it sometimes feels as if you’re talking to a wall. To my utmost shame as an economist, I realize only by the third lecture that the structure I had in terms of order creates the wrong incentives. Want very few students in your evaluation? Be sure to give out the mock exam and answers before that! Especially given that it’s easier for students to leave the class without notice.

Still, students do participate. And in the evaluation the students that are there, indicate that they liked the lecture very much, especially the videos. “Because you can pause and rewind them”. Yeah, that is hard in the class room…


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