Like many others, biORAKEL needed to adapt for this pandemic to be able to resume our weekly meetings. Back in March, when the national lockdown went in effect and physical lectures were replaced with Zoom meetings, we took a small break to try and figure out how we could continue our meetings. After a few tries with Zoom and Discord, we quickly realized that students were saturated with digital solutions and we started to think of a better one for the next semester. On the positive side, our peer-review service remained frequently used and received a lot of requests.
So, in August, we decided to start again with physical meetings, with oracles being simultaneously available on Zoom. Of course, we had to adapt to the new limitation of 15 students at a time to meet the requirement of 1-meter space. During previous semesters, students were always welcomed with the smell of fresh waffles and hot drinks. This has now been replaced with less environment friendly plastic wrapped snacks, like nuts, “knekkebrød” and chocolate. The oracles are also equipped with custom biORAKEL mask matching their t-shirts. New routines are in place: each student who drops by is registered, in case there is a need for infection tracking, and all tables are washed before and after each meeting.
A challenge so far has been the outreach to the new students. During previous semesters, we have gone to the early lectures in BIO100 packed with new students to promote biORAKEL with the teachers’ blessing. Now, with these being digital, we were invited to their Friday digital talk which they hold on Zoom. After appearing there, we started to see more first year-students at biORAKEL.
So far, this semester has had its ups and downs. Our first meeting went fine with a few students that stopped by. Then Bergen had a larger local outbreak of transmission and campus was closed for 3 weeks, with only digital meetings in that time. From the end of September, there has been a good mix of masters and bachelor students dropping by either for a quick chat or doing some studying.
We have seen a promising response from the students, and if the situation keeps stable, we can continue to anticipate numbers like those we have seen the last three weeks going forward. Our biggest challenge is still the room capacity, previously limited by the number of chairs and now by the 1-meter rule. In times like these, to have the ability to maintain this platform were students can meet physically, be social together and get some studying done is important when so much else is either limited or cancelled. This is especially important for first-year students who only have digital lectures, which makes connecting with new people difficult. We hope to continue with these meetings and hopefully find an even better solution regarding the capacity problem. We will also continue with our digital solution. Even though it is not used an awful lot by the students, it is still nice for them to have the opportunity to talk to someone or discuss with an oracle if they for instance are quarantined or can’t get to the University campus.