Teaching is trying during the pandemic
Teaching in a Covid secure way and at the same time maintaining a good educational level, can the two go together? We asked several teachers about how education on campus is working this autumn.
Before the start of the semester in August, a number of measures were adopted to reduce the risk of spreading infection. These include limits on the size of groups, spacing furniture, information signs and hand sanitiser points.
“These measures have worked pretty well, students and teachers are doing what they can to socially distance,” says Sara Naumann , Head of the Department of Engineering Pedagogics. Having said that, she feels they have had an impact on teaching.
“We have not been able to attain the same high quality of teaching as when our campuses were open to all. KTH is a campus university and teacher-student and student-student contacts are important. We have students that have been studying online for almost six months now and I think this has had a negative impact on both their learning and motivation.”
Joakim Jaldén , Program Director of the Degree Program in Electrical Engineering, also thinks maintaining the same level as pre-pandemic is a challenge:
“It has been hard for students to stay in phase and know what is current in the courses they are taking. This has illuminated an already existing problem, but one that had not had such a big impact as the students then were able to meet with each other and their teachers face to face and ask questions more easily,” he says.
Avoiding big groups
On the other hand, he feels that the measures to avoid crowding, large groups and to reduce the spread of infection, have worked well. But that they have also put a bigger burden on teachers:
“When students are spread out in several lecture halls, you need more teachers and teaching assistants, which has been difficult to organise. In certain cases, teaching assistants have had to switch between rooms, which has resulted in a drop in quality compared to when one assistant is responsible for one room.”
“At the Department of Production Engineering, where much of the teaching is practically based, students must ensure they are symptom free before entering workshop labs and engaging in other practical exercises,” says Director of Studies Per Johansson .
“Keeping teaching and study environments Covid secure has worked well on the whole. But we do sometimes have to remind students that the pandemic is not over yet.”
He thinks that the department has managed to maintain a good quality of teaching, despite the prevailing circumstances.
“Limits on the size of groups and spacing between furniture has worked well I think. The change in the size of groups has taken its toll on teachers to an extent, as they need to arrange a larger number of practical lessons than normal, but in principle, all the teachers are happy to be able to see their students in person.”
Is there anything you would like to change?
“Not really, bearing in mind what we are going through. I think we have a functioning solution in place with online lectures and practical sessions on campus. But like most teachers I talk to, I would naturally prefer to return to normal teaching, with everything on campus.”
Earlier this autumn there were reports of widely spaced furniture not always working, that desks and chairs were being moved between rooms. According to the Facilities Management Department, communicating information has been difficult.
Sara Naumann recognises the picture:
“Our rooms are open to students for self-study outside scheduled lecture times. It is important that we make it easier for students to socially distance and that they understand why they are not to move furniture. It is pleasing that the president has now emailed all KTH students explaining about the furniture layouts in rooms,” she says.
Text: Christer Gummeson