3 questions about digital learning
Professor Jürgen Handke from Philipps-Universität Marburg runs the Virtual Linguistics Campus, the world’s largest learning platform for English and general linguistic content. Since 2006, he has been digitising his entire teaching programme step by step. In 2015 he was awarded the Ars Legendi Prize for excellence in university teaching.
Professor Handke, how widely available are digital courses at German universities?
Professor Handke: There are a number of university presidents and tutors who are highly committed to digitisation. Nonetheless, digital courses are only gradually becoming more widely available. Quite simply, many university lecturers have no desire to change. But I believe that things are beginning to move just now thanks to the German Forum for Higher Education in the Digital Age. The forum has allowed many of the “makers and shakers” to get together and share their experiences, everyone from university rectors to research associates. I am also confident that one key group of stakeholders that is often ignored will actively demand more digital teaching: students themselves.
Is that not a bit too optimistic?
Professor Handke: No. The student parliament at the University of Bayreuth only recently issued a manifesto demanding the expansion of digital teaching. It is simply a question of making it clear to the students what advantages digital teaching has for them. For one thing, it increases their chances of obtaining a degree. We offer our students a media mix of texts, hyperlinks, videos, interactive games and electronic assessment tests that they can use to study the relevant content. Each student selects whatever suits him or her best. As a result, students are much better prepared than they used to be.
Which no doubt also pleases their lecturers ...
Professor Handke: Absolutely, they can engage with the content on a much deeper level now that students are able to acquire a basic knowledge level online in advance. They positively bombard me with questions in our face-to-face sessions. When I was still giving conventional lectures, very few questions were asked and I often went home feeling frustrated. These days I enjoy the teaching much more!
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