On 3 April, the Conference of Education Ministers published its decision that "the summer semester 2020 will take place". It will be an unusual semester, but it should not be a lost semester. Lectures at the Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences were originally supposed to start on 16 March, but in the course of the corona crisis, they were started virtually without exception.
"Even though we now have an official start for the summer semester," reports the Rector of the University, Professor Dr. Thomas Spägele, "almost everything will be different this time. Due to the still valid avoidance of contact situations, the teaching takes place exclusively in digital form. According to Spägele, great efforts have been made in recent weeks to provide alternative teaching formats. These range from sending out documents in combination with various media offers to live video conferences in virtual lecture halls.
Bachelor's degree programmes fully utilised
RWU received 850 Bachelor's and 200 Master's applications for the summer semester. Although this represents a decrease in the number of applications, the Rector is pleased to report a significantly higher acceptance rate. The Bachelor's programs are fully utilized, with 280 first semesters in total. Currently, 3,645 students are enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences in Weingarten, which corresponds to a 7% increase in the number of students compared to last summer semester. Once again, most applications were received for the courses of study Social Work (222) and Business Administration (191). The proportion of international students at RWU is also traditionally high. 75 of the new students come from 19 different countries.
Especially the Bachelor first semesters are unlikely to forget this semester start and their first months as students. First the semester is postponed, and then the whole thing takes place as distance learning. No festive welcome at the Weingarten Culture and Congress Centre, no campus tour, no beginners barbecue, no beginners huts.
Marriage proposal in the online colloquium
"From the point of view of the student council," reports Dennis Mager, "the introduction to studying online worked out well for us in the Faculty of Technology and Management. The student council was also able to introduce itself, which is very important for getting in touch with the newcomers, said the chairman of the constituted student council, who is enrolled in the Technology, Management and Optimization program at RWU.
The situation demands commitment and flexibility, not only from the students, but especially from the professors. "In applied psychology, we have already entered online teaching," reports Professor Dr. Jörg Wendorff, for example. In the course of several online conferences, a concept for online teaching has been developed. There are online lectures, which are held live at the planned time, but also asynchronous online activities.
The Media Design course of study also reports a successful entry into digital teaching. Colloquia were already held online in March. "At the end of the last presentation even a marriage proposal was made in front of running cameras. The graduate is now not only a bachelor student but also engaged", reports the head of the course, Professor Klemens Ehret.
Uncertainty due to loss of part-time jobs
With regard to the digitalised teaching, the constituted student council praises the university didactics, which has achieved a lot in recent weeks. However, Dennis Mager is also critical of some formats. For example, live events that are not recorded may be difficult for students with children to perceive in the current care situation. "What also occupies many students at the moment", says Dennis Mager, "is their financial situation, because many part-time jobs are cancelled and therefore job opportunities in the summer semester are uncertain".
According to Rector Thomas Spägele, the past few weeks have shown that the university was able to act at all times, even in this extraordinary situation. "This was only possible because in all areas, university members have completed their tasks and assumed responsibility from home or on site. What further consequences the postponement of the start of lectures will have for the university cannot be conclusively predicted at this time. In many respects, the university is also dependent on how things continue in other areas. For example, it may be that the application deadline for the winter semester (usually 15 July) will be extended, depending on when grades in the Abitur can be expected. And as a consequence, it cannot be ruled out that the start of the winter semester will be postponed. The Corona crisis will therefore continue to influence university life for the foreseeable future.
Text: Christoph Oldenkotte