In November, more than 40 teachers at BIO joined in the digital teacher meeting to sum up our experiences from this semester with online and hybrid teaching. We all recognize that it has been a different semester, due to the Covid 19 restrictions which have been rapidly changing back and forth through the semester. This has represented some challenges for the staff and students,
During the meeting teachers from first semester introductory course discussed how they have worked to adapt their course , and shared their experiences. Although the intro course students have attended classes and completed assignment, they miss their social learning environment. The small conversation with your fellow student on the way in and out of lecture-halls proves to be an important part of the social and scientific networking. This semester shows that students need a social framework and a learning environment. The impression from the intro course is in line with local and national student surveys, as well as recent international studies on the student experience of the digital transition.Jeffery and Bauer (2020) show that students use their class time in about the same way, attending (digital) classes and teaching activities. However, students experienced a substantial loss of inter-personal contact and peer networks and this affected their motivation and understanding negatively. Students also report that it is harder to concentrate in digital lectures. Surveys at BIO, UiB (DigiTrans) and other institutions also show that we have lost an important part of the students learning environment, and that loneliness is common. The leaders of two of BIOs student organizations also participated, reporting on the student experience this semester, confirming the impression from the surveys and studies. Students miss their campus as a social and academic arena to meet and emphasize the importance of working shoulder to shoulder with their peers, and that the threshold to get to know each other is higher on a digital platform.
The teachers have done a tremendous job on making digital recourses and re-designing teaching activities, and we now see the time for a collective effort for the student learning environment -everything that comes “in between” the courses. This cannot be the sole responsibility of the individual course teachers, but has to be a collaboration between staff, administration, leaders, student organizations, student mentors, the students and bioCEED. If all these good forces join in a “Task Force Learning Environment”, we hope that this collaborative effort will put the learning environment higher on the agenda and identify solutions to support students both during the pandemic and after we return to more to a more normal situation. During the last two semesters, we have put much effort into the transition to the digital teaching, and now may be the time for a collaborative effort for the learning environment?