Good marks for the digital summer semester
Winter semester begins as a “mosaic semester”

Ulm University

On 2 November, the lecture period for the winter semester will begin under corona pandemic conditions. The second academic semester is designed as a mosaic semester, with a combination of on-campus and online classes. Specifically, practical seminars are to be taking place on campus, as far as the occurrence of infection allows. Lectures with many participants, by comparison, are easily digitalised and can be held online. When planning classes and teaching methods, the University draws on the results from the now completed teaching evaluations and the experience of the summer semester, which was largely digital. In the online evaluation, the surveyed students gave positive feedback on the first mainly digital semester.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summer semester started with exclusively digital classes. Lecturers were required to design digital course formats within a very short amount of time. The Communication and Information Centre (Kommunikations- und Informationszentrum, kiz) was available to provide assistance with technical matters and paedagogical assistance was available from the Centre for Teaching Development (Zentrum für Lehrentwicklung, ZLE) and the digitalisation assistants in the individual faculties. As the semester progressed, exams or seminars that required a lab desk, for example, were able to take place at the University in compliance with distance and hygiene regulations.
At the end of the summer semester, the Department of Quality Development, Reporting and Auditing surveyed students in the non-medical subjects on their impression of the largely digital teaching. From the more than 4,600 responses to the online questionnaire, it is evident that more than 90% of the lectures were held on the online learning platform Moodle. Other commonly used services were the video conference service “Big Blue Button”, which is integrated into Moodle and suitable for interactive formats, and the service “Open Cast” for recording lectures.

Positive reviews for seminars and lectures

Overall, many students gave a positive evaluation of the quality of online teaching. More than 90% of the evaluated seminars and lectures received positive reviews (87% of the exercises and 74% of the internships). “As part of the evaluation, students reported considerable relief in the learning process: contents could be reviewed flexibly and as often as desired”, says Rüdiger Fiebig, coordinator of the online survey. Many surveyed students expressed the desire to integrate online elements on a permanent basis. On the other hand, students report an increased workload in comparison to on-campus teaching. Furthermore, personal contact can apparently not be replaced with online offers. Many surveyed students formulated the wish for more interaction with lecturers. At the same time, efforts to create a communicative atmosphere in a digital format were applauded. The overall positive impression is supported by the results of the exams from the summer semester, which were evaluated independently of the teaching evaluation. Students did not perform more poorly than in the previous semesters. A further student survey on the topic of learning under pandemic conditions is currently in progress.

“Studying safely” under pandemic conditions

The theme for the winter semester is “studying safely”. The concrete design of the teaching programme is dependent on the current occurrence of infection. Especially for new students and students completing their studies, as many lectures as possible should be taking place on campus. Furthermore, practical seminars that require a lab desk or contact with patients, for instance, should be held in person. The same applies for seminars, tutorials and colloquia, where learning success is dependent on personal contact.
In order to offer as much on-campus teaching in the winter semester as possible, a hygiene plan has been developed for each lecture or seminar. Contact data for all the participants is collected electronically via scannable QR codes, which are posted in the rooms. In addition, groups are to be mixed as little as possible. This is to ensure that any possible chains of infection can be traced by the public health authorities.

“The digital summer semester was a big challenge for teachers as well as students, and we all managed it together. We can go into the winter semester feeling stronger, as university life continues under the influence of the corona restrictions. The plan is to have significantly more on-campus teaching and thus more interaction between teachers and students – as far as the occurrence of infection allows”, says Olga Pollatos, vice president for teaching at Ulm University.

Information about the winter semester

Media contact: Annika Bingmann

Studying under corona pandemic conditions
Studying under corona pandemic conditions (Photos: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
Learning with distance at Ulm University
Learning with distance at Ulm University