Like Sarah, who studies social sciences in Lausanne, thousands of students have never experienced a normal return to university. “For the past two years, we have spent more time at home in front of the screen than in the classroom,” succinctly sums up the aspiring lawyer. It’s a relief for Sarah to know that next week will open a new chapter in her student life. “I have the impression that these online courses keep me at home a bit. And when it came back face to face, a kind of laziness came over me, which came hand in hand with a decrease in my motivation.
Other students, such as Louise (22), a second-year law student at the University of Neuchâtel, do not see the possibility of returning to the classroom with a good eye. “I personally found my rhythm thanks to online courses. There is no need to prepare to go to campus, to watch classes at a time that suits me best, or to get precious hours of sleep. I see almost nothing but positives.’
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Prioritize returning to the classroom
While each student perceives online courses in their own way, each university has decided to prepare for the start of the school year as they see fit. The management of Unil wishes to take the time to assess the location of distance education. “We will start a year of transition. We will move from the suffering situation to the chosen and thought-out situation of transferring lessons online. It requires reflection, which we could not do during the pandemic. In the coming weeks and months, we will carry out different types of consultations with the aim of arriving at a real institutional policy in this area for the next year,” says Giorgio Zanetti, vice-rector for education.
Like Sarah, however, Unilo’s 17,000 students will have to return to the Dorigny site more often than they have in the past two years. Because if all the courses were recorded a few months ago, next Tuesday, the day the academic year begins, it will no longer be the case. “It is a reality, there will be fewer online courses. We left the choice of teaching at different faculties, says Giorgio Zanetti. In addition, we really want to encourage the return of face-to-face for everyone. As a result, for many teachings, the choice was to remove the recordings.
A decision somewhat disputed by the Unilu Federation of Student Associations, which hopes that campus life will be restored in retaliation. “We had numerous discussions with representatives of different faculties and the idea of returning to a face-to-face meeting after two years of studying without social contacts convinced us,” comments Hannah Wonta, General Secretary of the FAE, before continuing. : “But we expected more online courses. This is useful when viewing complex material and for those working on the side. We will evaluate the first semester and, if necessary, we will come up with proposals for Christmas.”
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In Lausanne, the vice-chancellor for education explains this tendency to reduce recordings by the fear of a decline in the quality of learning. “There is automatically less interaction online, which requires different preparation for the lesson. In addition, higher education is meeting-based. The fact that there is less joint work and fewer relationships is a fear that animates the considerations, as well as the advantages of online resources”, analyzes Giorgio Zanetti, who insists, however, that no institutional decision has yet been taken. accepted.
An advantage for elite athletes
In the benches of the University of Geneva, the situation is perceived differently. A return to face-to-face is encouraged, but an important facility is being installed to keep courses online. “We decided with the rectorate not to impose anything. For the 2023-2024 school year, we are preparing automatic recording scheduling so that the teacher does not have to worry about it. Eventually, we would like recordings to be scheduled for all major courses. But to be clear: a teacher who does not want to do this can opt out of the system, “explains Micheline Louis-Courvoisier, vice-rector of the facility, who has seen many advantages associated with this alternative. “Students like this model because it is more flexible and very useful, for example for those who have a job in addition to training, or for elite athletes.”
From the beginning of the school year, Unige plans that three times as many courses can be followed remotely, live or from a recording. But aren’t you worried that the campus corridors will turn into a desert area? “What worries us is that there is a kind of desocialization. Then it’s up to us to bring students to the site so that the complex is very user-friendly. It should not be forgotten that there are also seminars where the courses are in smaller groups and require physical presence.
UniNE in Neuchâtel expects students to return to campus. If the courses are usually recorded for later viewing, it will no longer be possible to watch the given period live and thus communicate with the rest of the group. “We strongly urge students to return to the classroom. The strength of our university is proximity. We are convinced that fostering close contact between students and teachers is a significant added value,” he comments Nando Luginbühl, Head of Communications.
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