© hj barraza/Unsplash21.04.2020
Guest contribution: A sudden change of course - classes moved online
The summer semester has started at German universities. But teaching this semester is taking place online at Berlin's universities. Chats and video conferences are the new lecture halls. This is a completely new experience for both lecturers as well as for students. The current general conditions in this time of Corona pandemic are creating new barriers and can, for example, exclude students with less access to technology or create issues for parents forced to multitask in their suddenly improvised home office. Dr Barbara Schäuble is Professor for Diversity-Conscious Approaches in the Theory and Practice of Social Work at ASH Berlin (Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin) and a lecturer for the university association BASA-online, an online programme for students to earn a bachelor's degree in social work while working full-time. She teaches didactic and justice-related theoretical perspectives related to the topic of online learning. In her guest post for Brain City Berlin, she reports on her experiences in the first days of the unexpectedly digital Summer Semester 2020.
"This is not the semester that we expected," I'm telling my students. Not only am I looking forward to the upcoming two-block days with 42 students, but I'm also excited. Because I've never done block days online as a teacher for BASA-online. Before, students were required to come to ASH once a month for two-day in-person intensives at, but now we're having these online for the first time.
I sent the group a schedule a few days in advance to indicate exactly when we will all be online together: two 45-minute sessions every day for each of the two days of the intensives for inputs and group work. Everything else is planned synchronously, but with very large time windows. And: it can be done earlier or later as needed. This also applies to the inputs. I've created narrated PowerPoint presentations, uploaded them to the learning platform in advance, and also made working materials and questions available there. I know that some of the students are using their smartphones and not computers and that they have different technical requirements and skills. Doing as much asynchronously as possible is therefore important.
I wrote to the students: "Please work with me on how we can make the two days a good and interactive seminar. This is an experiment for me, too.” And: "Please exchange phone numbers with another student and write down the first names of your partner on an etherpad. The telephone teams should call each other from time to time to exchange information about the assignments listed in the seminar schedule." This creates a sense of belonging and motivation, as I learned from the participants' perspective just last week.
I promise the group that I can be reached online via text or video chat during the intensive days. Of course, I'll be doing other things when I'm not chatting with them. Among other things, I chat briefly with Lisa Gutsche and Julia von Schick, who accompanied the first hour of the seminar as a colleague and tutor, respectively. Their presence made me feel confident that everything was going well.
The day is going well. All students were able to participate. Even those who would otherwise not have been able to attend the on-site intensive due to work or childcare issues. Some are also multitasking: they may have taken in children from the residential group home, are on-call, or might have to go to their facility for an hour. They stay connected via the seminar schedule, which I adhere to exactly in time, and their telephone partners. If they have any questions, they write them down in the chat or on the etherpad. I keep looking there and formulate answers. There aren't that many, actually. Apparently the teaching format is working. But not without a few moments of shock: our etherpad breaks down when 42 people try to write at the same time. Fortunately, a student quickly suggests switching to the chat. In the future, I will only let small groups work in the pad and they will then designate one representative to transfer their interim results to the main pad.
The second day begins with a short introduction by video or alternatively with a narrated PowerPoint presentation. Then the students spend 90 minutes reading one of seven theories of social work. They then decide on a theory and choose a "theory" group on the course platform. In an online small group room, they exchange information about the texts for 30 minutes and form groups of two. All students start preparing material to create a short presentation in the next block session. Those who can't be there will create them in advance. The following presentation formats were suggested by me: A simple mobile phone video, a PowerPoint presentation, or a written set of bullet points. I uploaded a sample solution and working questions to the learning platform and add that the example shows my quality standards, but that I will not apply them to an assessment in this particular semester.
We are all in emergency mode. In any case, the current seminar will be graded only based on participation. I still make standards clear, because in my opinion examples and clearly formulated criteria (e.g. via extended assessment schemes such as rubrics) are important in every course, especially online. Especially online because the students have less direct impressions of the teacher's perspective on qualitative criteria.
One of the questions that I give to the theory groups: How might the selected theory of social work help us understand the mandate of social work in the context of the health crisis? What are the limits of the theory? How do clients orientate themselves to their lives and their world in the face of social distancing? And is social work becoming more authoritarian? Should it be better equipped as an essential service? One student asks: Do we have to go into the Corona pandemic? "No" is my answer and I begin to think about how one can create spaces in the seminar explicitly marked as spaces for dialogue about the crisis and others that protect participants from those discussions. Not least because I sometimes feel I want to delve into these questions, while, at other times, I'm more creative and stable when I ignore it. Students should be able to choose. I take note of these concerns so that I can bring it up with colleagues in a meeting scheduled for the day after tomorrow.
The second day is also going well. What I like best is that the students are not only clearly trying out the exercises provided, but are also thinking very carefully about my perspective as the instructor. Their questions in the chat room are short and to the point. Sometimes their fellow students answer before I get to them. Online teaching in times of crisis is, as I see it, economical (clear and focused on essentials plus additional materials for those interested), foresighted (informing at an early stage and providing standards), and social (i.e. attentive and focused on making connections).
I am even more aware of the essential nature of the teacher-learner relationship than I usually am. And this is also important for creating relationships with key technical and social issues. I work a lot with reading response papers and in teams of two. Technical tools are the vehicle. The most important techniques are the exchange of materials, telephone, chat, forum work, and individual feedback. Some video time together in a block seminar is nice, but not a must.
- Insights Foto: ESCP Business School BerlinInsightsWhat to do when distance is suddenly the order of the day? A guest contribution by Dr. René Mauer, Professor of Entrepreneurship und Innovation at…→
Using Whiteboards to Combat Digital Fatigue
- Insights Credit: Alexander Rentsch/HTW BerlinInsightsBrain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. Florian Koch of HTW Berlin brings together science, business and civil society in his research.→
“Increasing Urbanisation also Creates Opportunities”
- Insights Credit: Rudolf GrillborzerInsightsGuest contribution by Brain City Ambassador Dr.-Ing. Onur Günlü, Technische Universität Berlin.→
Exploring the "ultimate limits"
- Insights Credt: Startup Incubator BerlinInsightsThe Startup Incubator Berlin at the Berlin School of Economics and Law is particularly successful in supporting founder teams – as proved by the fact…→
“We Bring Ideas to Market”
- Insights Credit: Mimi Thian on UnsolashInsightsGuest Contribution by Brain City Ambassador Dr. Petyo Budakov, University of Europe for Applied Sciences.→
“Proudly presenting Brain City Berlin in 2020”
- Insights Susanne Plaumann (private)InsightsInterview with Brain City Ambassador Susanne Plaumann M.A., Central women's representative at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin.→
“Careers are now easier to plan for women scientists”
- Insights Adi Goldstein auf UnsplashInsightsStadtManufaktur Berlin conceptually unites research projects of the TU Berlin under a single roof. The long-term goal of this “open laboratory…→
Science in Dialogue with the City
- Insights Falk WeißInsightsThe knowledge portal “humboldts17” presents current research on the subject of sustainability and welcomes open dialogue with the general public. The…→
17 Goals for the Future
- Insights Foto: Olga Makarova privatInsightsBrain City Ambassador Olga Makarova reflects on being a microbiologist during the pandemic, and the urgent need for microbiology literacy in society.→
Guest Contribution: COVID-19 and microbiology literacy
- Insights HIIGInsightsBrain City-Interview with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz, Research Director at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG).→
“A sustainable goal of our work is to make clear what the technology can actually do”
- Insights HTW BerlinInsightsAn interview with Brain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. Kai Reinhardt. On October 28, he will be speaking at the second SpreeTalk at HTW University of…→
“The pandemic has been a catalyst for digitalization”
- Insights dentalXr.aiInsightsdentalXrai is the first dental start-up to be spun off the Charité. It was launched via the accelerator of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). We…→
Artificial intelligence in the fight against tooth decay
- Insights Anna Raysyan (private)InsightsBrain City Ambassador Anna Raysyan has been living in Berlin for 3,5 years now. She is a PhD student at the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und…→
Guest Contribution: “Berlin likes the bold!”
- Insights ©Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und TechnologieInsightsMany top-class researchers and scientists are being attracted to Brain City Berlin every year. The Dual Career Network Berlin helps partners of…→
Dual Career Network Berlin: getting a good start in Berlin
- Insights ©Matthias PicketInsightsDr. Anne Schreiter, Managing Director of the German Scholars Organization (GSO), reveals in the Brain City interview what alternative career…→
"Science is not just about research"
- Insights © Pocky Lee on UnsplashInsightsMatches in front of empty stadiums, virtual marathons, and many postponed events. Brain City Ambassador Professor Gabriele Mielke is tracking the…→
"Now is the time for innovators"
- Insights © AW Creative on UnsplashInsightsJuggling a degree course or teaching with the extra burden of the care of children or other family members is not an easy task. Both students and…→
From “Zoo School” to “Maternity Protection”: family-friendly universities
- Insights © HTW Berlin / Nikolas FahlbuschInsightsTeaching is currently only taking place online. Guest author Dr Dorothee Haffner, professor for Museology at HTW Berlin - University of Applied…→
Guest contribution: "Online teaching is more engaging than I thought"
- Insights Franziska SattlerInsightsIn the interview: Brain City ambassador Franziska Sattler on her series of events "Kaffeeklatsch mit Wissenschaft" (Talking Science over Coffee) at…→
"Science needs the trust of society"
- Insights Fotocredit: Ortner & Ortner / SiemensInsightsSiemensstadt 2.0 is a place of the future. The Berlin Senate has approved 9.9 million euros for the first research project "Electrical Drive…→
Siemensstadt 2.0: Research and industry closely linked
- Insights ©Credit Silke Oßwald/FMPInsightsBrain City interview: Professor Dr. Volker Haucke, Director at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) and Professor of…→
In the balancing act between detail and overall concept
- Insights ©DexLeChemInsightsLaunching a start-up while at university? Sonja Jost's success shows the way. Together with three fellow students, she founded DexLeChem after…→
"Bringing new knowledge to the market is very important to us"
- Insights ©Ivar Veermäe / Centre for EntrepreneurshipInsightsBrain City Berlin is the German capital of start-ups. Many young companies have successfully been founded through Berlin and Brandenburg based…→
"Society in particular benefits from high-tech start-ups" - university survey enters its third round
- Insights ©BIH|Thomas RafalzykInsightsAt the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) the main focus is on "translational research" - the transfer of findings from the research lab into clinical…→
“There are now many great female scientists, achieving great things”
- Insights ©fotografixx - istockphoto.comInsightsIn the digital age learning behaviour changes profoundly. It is student-centered and technology rich. As a member of the Erasmus+ funded project…→
Exploring the future of learning
- Insights © Brain City BerlinInsightsResearch results quickly and easily accessible online: The Open Access movement is campaigning for a paradigm shift in the field of publications and…→
Open Access: free knowledge for everyone
- Insights ©ESCP EUROPEInsights29.10.2019 | Professor Andreas Kaplan is a Brain City Berlin ambassador and Rector of ESCP Europe Business School Berlin. The economist's research is…→
"We have to be able to take everyone on the journey."
- Insights Gudrun Piechotta-HenzeInsightsIn time for the 2020/21 winter semester, ASH, the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin, is launching the first bachelor's degree to…→
"We have to completely rethink nursing!" | 27.09.2019
- Insights ©Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/Matthias HeydeInsightsThe courses offered by the HUWISU Summer University are varied and exciting, the target group is international: students from abroad who come to…→
When Berlin becomes one large seminar room ... | 15.08.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsThe literary scholar Dr. Betiel Wasihun was traveling for science. After stops in Heidelberg, Yale, and Oxford, it brought her to Berlin two years…→
“Berlin is a perfect location. Especially if you don’t want to pursue just a single avenue of scientific work.” | 12.08.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Berlin University Alliance/Matthias HeydeInsightsTogether we are stronger. And also more successful. As the "Berlin University Alliance," the Technische Universität Berlin, the Freie Universität…→
Congratulations: The “Berlin University Alliance“ receives funding of the Excellence Strategy |19.07.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] David Ausserhofer/IGBInsightsBerlin is one of the most water-rich cities in Germany. But climate change does not stop at the Havel, Spree or Wannsee either. Dr. Michael Hupfer is…→
"We're trying to take a look into the future." | 04.07.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Helena Lopes / UnsplashInsightsSend a digital lollipop or delicate fragrance notes via email or let the wind virtually blow against your face - research makes it possible. Learn…→
Experiencing the digital world with all senses | 18.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] HZB/M. SetzpfandtInsightsIn these times of fake news and pseudo-scientific publications, many people find it difficult to distinguish legitimate from dubious content. Only 54%…→
"Science needs to make us curious" | 11.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Tim LandgrafInsightsBrain City Berlin is considered one of the leading locations in Germany working on artificial intelligence. About 30% of all German AI companies are…→
Fish, bees, and self-driving cars | 07.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsScience and cultural heritage, freely accessible to everyone at any time on the Internet: The Open Access movement is promoting a paradigm shift in…→
Knowledge for All - Open Access in Berlin | 28.03.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Thomas Rosenthal - Museum für Naturkunde BerlinInsights660 million euros in 10 years: The Natural History Museum Berlin - Museum für Naturkunde Berlin receives financial support for the further development…→
Future of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin | 14.01.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsSpace exploration is experiencing a revolution thanks to commercialization by such companies as Elon Musk's SpaceX. But did you know that more facets…→
From Berlin to the moon: the space industry is booming in Berlin | 03.09.2018