Teaching in times of coronavirus

University of Amsterdam

When the coronavirus pandemic first struck in March, face-to-face teaching became impossible in the Netherlands. Like other universities, the UvA had to switch rapidly to online teaching in order to avoid students falling behind with their studies wherever possible. Among other things, monitoring the impact of online teaching has shown that the average pass rates and average marks per course in the second semester of the past academic year were comparable to those in previous years. It has also revealed that a proportion of the students is dissatisfied with the possibilities of online tutorials when it comes to the ability to interact with fellow students.

An initial analysis of the data in UvAdata (the UvA management information system) and UvA Q course evaluations produced the following overall findings in relation to the second semester of the past academic year:

  • There was no fall in the average pass rates and average marks per course in the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year compared to previous years.
  • The responding students assessed the quality of teaching as comparable to other years.
  • The majority of students have the tools they need to be able to participate in remote teaching and the rapid switch to online teaching caused very few technical problems for most of the respondents.
  • The students were least positive about the ability to interact with fellow students.
  • Students rated Zoom the best online tool to work with.

Figuur 1

Figuur 3
Figure 2 shows the average course evaluation (on a scale from 1 to 10). 88% of respondents rated the course taken as ‘satisfactory’ and 12% as ‘not satisfactory’. 78% of respondents rated the course taken with a score of 7 or above. The average scores were comparable with those of the two previous academic years.

Suitable equipment, not always a suitable workspace

For period 1 of the second semester, we included additional questions that specifically related to the evaluation of online teaching and the corresponding assessment formats, such as ‘timed take home’ or open-book examinations.


Figuur 6

Students miss interaction

The students were least positive about the ability to interact with fellow students: 29% of the students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that the online tutorials/seminars enabled easy interaction with fellow students. The larger the group size for the course concerned, the more positive the respondents were about the possibilities of taking the course online (either completely or in part). In these cases, they were also more positive about the extent to which online tools facilitated online teaching. The larger the course group size, the more negative the respondents were about the degree to which the online lectures/seminars/tutorials helped them understand the course material. They were also less positive about the ability to interact with fellow students and about the information provided on and the representativeness of the assessments.


Zoom the best rated tool

The online tools used most to participate in online teaching were Zoom (42%), presentations previously recorded by the lecturer (20%), other online content (e.g. previously recorded web lectures and YouTube videos: 16%) and the Forum function in Canvas (12%). The respondents felt that Zoom worked best (51%), followed by presentations previously recorded by the lecturer (18%).

Preliminary findings

The UvA emphasises that these are initial, preliminary findings. The response rates for the course evaluations were relatively low and the respondents did not represent a random cross-section of the student population. More detailed analyses will be performed later this year.

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