Ready for lectures starting
Students start virtual summer semester at FAU
Switching to online teaching for approximately 38,500 students in just five weeks is no mean feat, and was only possible thanks to the close collaboration between many different areas of FAU. ‘We’re ready for lectures to start. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to our teaching staff and everyone else involved who have demonstrated such commitment and admirable creativity whilst working to switch so many classes over to an online format,’ says FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger.
Science Minister Bernd Sibler expressed his best wishes for everyone at the university starting out on the first ever lecture period held entirely online. ‘In spite of all the challenges we are facing, this summer semester can still be successful. We are all working as hard as we can to find feasible and pragmatic solutions. I am proud of the joint effort which has been made and is still being made to tackle the situation and would like to warmly thank everyone involved at FAU for going above and beyond. We want to guarantee reliability and equal opportunities for all, whilst ensuring the highest possible degree of security. We don’t want our students to be disadvantaged in any way.’ He called on everyone to continue to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and to concentrate on the various online options available.
Diverse formats for online teaching
The various options available at FAU range from introductory videos and online tutorials to presentations with voiceover narration, virtual or pre-recorded lectures and collaborative online seminars to group discussions using chat functions or Wikis. ‘It goes without saying that things might not always run smoothly, especially in this initial teething period. We have extended the capacities of our systems, but they suddenly have to cope with a significant increase in access requests and activity. Like always at FAU, we will rise to the challenge and solve any issues which may arise,’ emphasises Prof. Hornegger.
More than 1,000 e-mails with questions on how to create online learning resources, which formats are most suitable from a teaching perspective and which technical tools can be used – ten staff members at the Innovation in Learning Institute (ILI) at FAU are always on hand to help in spite of being inundated with requests since mid March. Not only that, they have also received approximately 500 applications for the newly launched funding programme ‘FAU schnell digital 2020!’ which supports lecturers in rapidly switching to online teaching. As well as receiving funding, everyone who submitted an application was also able to discuss and design their own individual media-based teaching concept together with the experts at ILI during an individual coaching session. During these sessions, participants were given suggestions on how to produce teaching materials at short notice and find the perfect balance between covering course content and catering to the needs of the students. ‘We were particularly pleased to see that the lecturers were keen to find out how best to support, motivate and supervise their students during this unusual online semester,’ explains Prof. Dr. Bärbel Kopp, Vice President Education.
Collaboration across FAU
The contribution made by ILI is only one example of many. Other institutions such as the Erlangen Regional Computing Centre (RRZE), the University Library, the Centre for Continuing Education in University-Level Teaching (FBZHL), all five faculties and the University Administration received a great number of questions day after day, questions which as a rule could not just be answered off the cuff, but tended to require intensive research often followed by detailed consultations. At the same time, technical capacities had to be extended, whether by buying special campus licences or increasing the capacity of computer and network services in order to cope with the increased access by students and teaching staff. The results are impressive. Nearly all compulsory classes and most of the classes offered at FAU have gone online for summer semester 2020.
One of the major factors contributing to FAU successfully switching to online teaching at such short notice was the fact that FAU was not simply plunged into the deep end with no preparation. Tried and tested structures for topics such as media production, gaining qualifications or consultations on how to use media to teach most effectively were already in place at ILI, which is responsible for the topic of online teaching at FAU, and these could be scaled up for all teaching staff relatively quickly. Furthermore, the learning platform StudOn, which can be accessed by all teaching staff and students, has been the backbone of teaching at FAU for years now. Finally, the University also benefited from well-established cooperation between e-learning coordinators at the faculties and the central institution ILI.
High level of commitment at all faculties
All five faculties at FAU demonstrated commitment and creativity, tailoring their teaching to suit requirements in this unusual summer semester. One example is the School of Business, Economics and Society, which launched the #WiSoVirtual platform. The platform has been designed not only to ensure that students can continue with their studies but also as a way of trying out new possibilities at the same time as consolidating existing skills and developing new ones. The school developed its concept in close collaboration with the Centre for Continuing Education in University-Level Teaching (FBZHL).
FAU has not forgotten new students just starting at the university in the summer semester either. The Center for Applied Philosophy of Science and Key Qualifications (ZiWiS) offers a wide range of information material, including its own online course on starting studying and brief online tutorials for anyone who is new to FAU. ZiWis also offers a wide range of classes in key qualifications which give students valuable assistance when studying from home. The Student Advice and Career Service offers a comprehensive checklist for starting to study and has drawn up a list of useful tips for first steps at the university in the digital summer semester.
- FAU website on coronavirus for students and staff: www.fau.eu/corona
- ILI ‘schnell digital’ platform for teaching staff: www.schnell-digital.fau.de
- ILI ‘schnell digital studieren!’ platform for students: www.studon.fau.de/studon/goto.php?target=cat_2975312
- Information on digital service offered by RRZE: www.rrze.fau.de/medien-entwicklung/digitales-arbeiten
- WiSo platform #WiSoVirtuell: www.wiso-virtuell.fau.de
- Tips for first year students
- Orientation Programme (GOS) from ZiWis
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