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Digital World Café

“A Semester Like No Other: Challenges and Experiences in Studying and Teaching during the 2020 Summer Semester”

In 2020, we were all confronted by an extraordinary summer semester that relied on digital technology instead of face-to-face contact. What we learned from this experience was especially important for the strategy process “Teaching and Education in 2030 – Shaping the Future Together.” This is why we organized a digital event on June 22, 2020, where we invited people to talk with each other about experiences, challenges, successes, and solutions of the summer semester.

16 tables were set up – including one English-speaking table – where people had intense conversations with different perspectives on the extraordinary few months they had experienced. Below you can find a selection of prominent statements and quotes from the conversations between the 125 participants. The selection does not aim to be exhaustive. We’ve provided a link here to the whiteboard notes made at the time by the 16 tables. The insights gained from the event served as a valuable basis for the strategic planning process and the kickoff event the following fall.

Round 1 – Looking Back: How was the summer semester 2020?

“Exciting, better than expected, lots to do, technological challenges, grateful for tech support,” “Really missed: personal exchange,” “‘Still works, but does it work well or as well as it could?” “Steep learning curve – but how can we secure this knowledge?” “Team spirit and trust”

  • Constructive and cooperative work with colleagues from all areas of the university
  • Room to experiment, pioneering spirit, and a strong interest in trying things out
  • Heavy workload for students, employees, and instructors
  • People missed interacting directly, meeting in person, and contact with others
  • Lots of hard work and dedication from all involved

Round 2 - Where are we now? What did we achieve? What difficulties did we face? What challenges are we still facing?

“Thrown in the deep end (now we can swim),” “Very different living conditions: Students’ fears (financial, professional, the future),” “More conversations about being together and the ‘how’ of teaching”

  • Digitalization requires people to reflect on teaching, examinations, and communication.
  • A majority of courses were still able to take place this semester
  • Many (surprising) questions came up because of digital education (do students ask more/better questions in chats? Do “quieter” students need more attention? How does group work function in digital formats?)
  • It’s important to keep discussing data protection, diversity, accessible learning, work-life balance, and many other issues.
  • Positive experiences with digital tools, platforms, and formats

Round 3 – Looking Ahead to the Future. What should we keep in mind for the winter semester and the strategic planning process?

“Reflection: develop digital solutions together for next semester,” “Keep communication with students open (which formats worked? which didn’t),” “Keep flexibility and explicitly incorporate it,” “The special circumstances make the question all the more urgent: How much do we value education?” “Take the best from both worlds”

  • Further develop digital education, work on standards, develop teaching plans and strategies from the perspectives of both teachers and students
  • Keep talking, go deeper into important issues
  • Expand services and support for students and teachers
  • Seek more in-depth exchange with students, especially first-year students
  • Maintain dynamic, practical, and goal-oriented cooperation: agile communication and cooperation between departments
  • Continue to develop better conditions for teaching and education