So here we are, from one day to the next we have landed in what seems an entirely new reality. On the one hand, it feels like we have all been set free to do things in new and creative ways. On the other hand, we have to make this work through cooperation and discipline. We continue with all the work planned for this semester in courses, projects, senior projects, and other work you may be involved in for credits.
You will be informed about the online tools we are acquiring shortly. Starting next week, your fellow students and colleagues may be working in courses and on projects with you from Middelburg, Capelle aan den IJssel, Franeker, Nimes, Frankfurt, Accra, Skopje, and Annandale-on-Hudson. Professors will, in the days to come, contact all students with homework sets for the last week before the Spring break. This will enable all of us to adjust to this new situation whilst allowing ample room for planning. No exams and strict deadlines will be set for this last week before Spring break. However, your professors will set assignments, homework, exams with extended deadlines, etc. We do have to feed your hunger for academic learning and our hunger for teaching. And we will!
There are many ways of looking at all this. Allow me to single out two: A cynical take would be that all this will negatively affect the quality of teaching and learning, or that small-scale and intensive will be thrown out of the window. A positive and more upbeat take on the same situation would accept that intelligence springs from experiment and hard work. And that, through experiment and hard work, this new approach could become one of our most interesting semesters yet. I will not waste time over refuting one position and arguing for another. Only one of these is morally and intellectually acceptable… and I feel a Theodore Roosevelt quote coming: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
I suppose the question for many would be: why should we accept these drastic measures when most of us are not at serious risk? We’re a tough bunch, you might argue. Young. Or middle-aged. Healthy. So why can’t we stick to the status quo? The answer is simple; this is not just about us! We are not doing this only to keep ourselves safe, but to contribute to a collective attempt to “flatten the curve” on the Coronavirus pandemic.
In supporting as many measures as possible that may contain the pandemic, we contribute in our way to a global undertaking. It’s our collective way to make sure our health services do not become overburdened. In China, in the last weeks, and in Italy currently, hospitals and doctors have to make professional and moral choices that they really do not want to make; who shall we offer the best possible care to, and who shall have less, or — no care at all?
Universities are seedbeds of (in our case small-scale and) intensive interaction between people. The Dutch Government and Dutch universities have decided that the temporary shift to distance learning is our contribution to enable humanity to get on top of this challenge whilst giving those who need it most, fair opportunities to access the healthcare they need.
Thus, imminently, we will start working in this way. We will be using software that simulates, as much as possible, the experience of an ordinary classrooms online. One in which you would be able to see and hear your instructor and each other. One in which you will be able to interact with your instructor and your classmates. Of course different disciplines require different ways of working. But I have seen colleagues experiment with specific tools and apps already – all of which are very impressive.
This is the spirit of believing that you can – and then doing it. Some patience may be needed before we are well and truly set, but we are doing our very best and hope to have the process concluded very very soon.
Will we be back in our beloved UCR classes soon? If only we had a crystal ball – it is, unfortunately, impossible to predict that. All depends on how quickly and successfully, as world society, we will be able to flatten the curve together.
Of course our teams are plugged-in to national and international developments and we will keep you updated on how the situation changes. Any changes that affect you, your studies at UCR and your life on campus will be communicated to you in a timely fashion.
Finally, should you or your significant others need that care right now or in the future, please let me, on behalf of UCR community, express our commitment to support you in and through this challenging time.
You can contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns you may have. Please also check your UCR and UU e-mail accounts several times per day, and visit the Coronavirus information page on our website regularly: https://www.ucr.nl/coronavirus/.