What are the disadvantages of open universities

Consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for universities : "Non-semesters" required at the universities

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summer semester 2020 has to be a zero semester: Where possible, teaching should take place, but the semester is not formally valid. This is what professors from numerous universities are calling for in an appeal to universities and university policy.

In an open letter, the authors explain that it is unreasonable for teachers and students to simply continue the status quo of conventional teaching and examination operations with digital means.

Instead, the universities should be put in a position to react to the hasty pace of public developments and measures in a decelerating manner.

Not familiar enough with e-learning

"Students who are unable to achieve academic achievements must not suffer any disadvantages," says the letter initiated by the Munich sociologist Paula-Irene Villa Braslavsky, the Hanoverian Americanist Ruth Mayer and the Trier literary scholar Andrea Geier.

Neither the lecturers nor the students are sufficiently familiar with the tools and methods of e-learning to simply relocate face-to-face teaching online. In addition, the technical infrastructure and the necessary resources for research and teaching suddenly collapsed.

Libraries are now closed, computer pools are inaccessible, internet access is severely restricted by universities and rooms can no longer be entered. In addition, the relevant online platforms are already overloaded in many ways.

No disadvantages for the socially disadvantaged

According to the authors of the letter, the socially disadvantaged in particular would suffer serious disadvantages. Many students have already lost their jobs and have to look for new sources of income.

In addition, researchers, teachers and learners are faced with the new challenge of managing care activities such as childcare, homeschooling or caring for relatives in parallel to the demands of everyday university life.

The colleges and universities are still asked to fulfill their educational and research tasks - but solving the corona crisis, which is unpredictable in every respect, has priority.

University policy has a duty

“Apart from an adjustment of student loan and standard study requirements, a clear signal must be sent to students and teachers that the institutions are fully aware of the extraordinary situation,” write the initiators of the appeal (full text here).

Changed formats are therefore inevitable. Students could use the zero semester to cope with any legacy issues from the previous semester. Temporary university employees, in turn, must be offered an extension of their contract for at least one semester.

The initiators of the letter now see university policy as an obligation to implement the necessary plan for the non-semester. Over 1,400 university members have already signed the letter.

Opposition comes from the presidents of HU and FU

Sabine Kunst, President of the Humboldt University, contradicts this. "I do not consider this requirement in the sense of our social responsibility and in the interests of the students to be a practicable and therefore not a good suggestion," said Art to the Tagesspiegel.

A non-semester would mean "an interruption in the educational chain and lead to many organizational problems". She wants to advocate holding a semester that is not quite complete, maybe only half a semester: "We want and will find creative solutions to carry out the semester and not write it off."

"We don't want a missed opportunity"

FU President Günter M. Ziegler made a similar statement. "Our goal is to offer a full summer semester for everyone who can and want to take advantage of it. We don't want a non-semester," Ziegler told Tagesspiegel: "We don't want a missed opportunity."

In the summer semester, the university itself becomes an experimental laboratory, "in which we all work together to develop and test new study, teaching and research formats."

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