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What can we take with us from the pandemic?

Vaccinations are in full swing and we can look forward to more normal conditions. Finally. And yes, we have all had to fight that bit hard at a time when there were many challenges that sometimes felt insurmountable. But what positive experiences can we take with us moving forward?

The first thing that springs to mind is digitalisation and the big opportunities this offers to benefit student learning and to achieve course learning goals for education and examination. And here, I am not thinking about digitally invigilated written exams at home or of live online broadcasts of mass lectures in monologue form.

What I am mainly thinking about are the opportunities for diversity in both forms of teaching and examinations. A diversity that benefits broader participation. This can concern digitally recorded lectures and interesting demonstrations, that students can watch at a time that suits them and as many times as they wish.  And that are followed by scheduled Q&A sessions and other activities that enable dialogue and social interactivity.

Examinations can be made diverse, for instance via digital individual multiple choice questions that cover more basic factual knowledge and skills that can later be followed by written reporting and oral presentations, in groups or individually, for the higher learning goals. It can be advantageous to then conclude an examination with an individual oral examination, to assure individual goal fulfilment for example, and that can be brief, as little as 15 minutes is possible. Most of these activities can be done online or physically on site.

There are good examples where the above have been done in courses at KTH with around a hundred students and with accrued teaching time that is actually less than for equivalent courses held in a more traditional way. And best of all: the activities benefit student learning and the possibility of achieving course learning goals and at the same time are similar to their actual work activities after completing their studies.

Digital thesis defences where the opponent, grading committee and a larger audience are permitted to attend remotely raise the quality and reduce the climate footprint as it is easier to find a suitable opponent and grading committee when they can participate from home. It also reduces the need to travel.

Another positive experience is the importance of teacher teams. We can see that it has become increasingly common during the pandemic for teachers to start working together to solve challenges between them, provide support and spread good experiences. This is a development that is important to maintain.

There have been a lot of digital teacher meetings. One positive experience worth noting is the possibility of being able to participate in meetings while on a walk. These walking meetings have not only boosted my fitness but also my creativity. A creativity that is important in both education and in research.

The role of our campuses has become clearer. They are important for lab work and other key practical teaching elements. And not least, they are just as important for social interaction.

Last but perhaps most important. The pandemic has shown that we actually can change. And that maybe, there are other, better ways. Ways that were way outside the box before the pandemic.