Academic assistants share their experiences on switching to remote teaching

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the academic life of our students, but luckily they could count on the committed help of our Bruges campus teaching staff, consisting of directors of studies, (visiting) professors and, last but not least, the academic assistants. How did they experience the drastic but necessary switch to digital work and remote teaching? 

"The virtual classes have forced us to rethink our teaching methods, and to adopt new approaches, such as flipped classroom teaching. While the in-person element is lost, professors now have more time for virtual meetings as they do not have to travel", explains Bram DE BOTSELIER from the International Relations & Diplomacy Studies Department. Or as he amusingly described it on Twitter:  "One advantage of moving all courses and meetings online due to COVID-19 is that I can finally be in two places at the same time!" 

“In the framework of the Master of Arts in Transatlantic Affairs programme, a joint degree with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, we have already been using virtual tools for our transatlantic courses in the past. Hence, I feel lucky to have had previous experience with distance learning. This has proven to be very useful now that we have moved all our educational activities online. I also think that the students of the Hannah Arendt Promotion have shown a remarkable degree of resilience and adaptability during these difficult times. They mastered new tools fast and have been engaging in class discussions and successfully completing group work while at times being separated by thousands of kilometres. When this is all behind us, we can look back and think: we persevered no matter what", adds Yana BROVDIY, academic assistant of the Master of Arts in Transatlantic Affairs

Vincent DELHOMME of the European Legal Studies Department says: "We have worked hard with professors to preserve the teaching quality. Remote teaching works well, but nothing replaces direct contact with the students." And sometimes, working from home also means: dealing with somewhat special challenges, like keeping away cute animal intruders. "My main challenge during this period? Working with a cat", Vincent winks while sharing the adorable picture below. 

Rachele TESEI of the European Political and Governance Studies Department talks about her recent experiences: "Romans said: mater artium necessitas or necessity is the mother of all skills. Working remotely brings its own challenges, but it also pushes all of us to reinvent our way of working, finding new ways of solving problems and developing new skills. The challenge is keeping a direct contact with students and providing the same level of academic support. We have the feeling of living longer days, but time management is more important than ever and it is key to be reminded of the importance of focus."

"All successful individuals, organisations, and societies have one thing in common: an ability to adapt, and to do so speedily", reckons Tony O'CONNOR, academic assistant of the European Economic Studies Department. "In the last few weeks, I hope that is what we have done — certainly the transition to online teaching and meetings went better than many expected. Let us hope that the rest of the year runs as smoothly!"

Anahita SABOURI and the European General Studies Programme organized their scheduled compact seminar Leadership and decision-making in the EU with Professor Herman VAN ROMPUY, President of the Administrative Council of the College of Europe and former President of the European Council. The seminar was conducted digitally via video conference tool WebEx. Professor Herman VAN ROMPUY shared his rich experience and also his unique insights about the coronavirus crisis:

“Many say that our way of life has changed so much that there will be a time before and a time after this crisis. For me, there is a distinction between values and behaviours. There is, undoubtedly, a kind of togetherness between people, grown out of the feeling that we are all in the same boat. A lot of creative energy has been released. Digitisation has prevented us from becoming alienated from each other. Social media have shown that they don’t just polarise. Their positive uses have made the new media truly social. We have also learned that we can meet remotely, collaborate and be productive.”

EG students have seized this opportunity with enthusiasm to discuss the issues presented by Professor VAN ROMPUY.