Distance Learning: This is How it Works

Student interaction during online teaching is also very important for course instructor Siegmar Lengauer.

What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to online education?

Siegmar Lengauer: As my mind tends be all over the place at times, on occasion I find it challenging to coordinate the high number of video-chat appointments. But objectively speaking, it can be very challenging to maintain a stable internet connection for a 60-90-minute session. During these difficult times, students may have difficulties accessing certain textbooks and documents, especially if these are unavailable online. In most cases, however, course instructors can make up for this quickly by making corresponding excerpts available for students to download as PDFs. In regards to homework assignments, the situation is not easy right now.

How does communication work with the students during class and outside of class?

I quickly realized that for me personally, simply recording a class session and not having any contact with the students does not work well. The direct interaction is missing and you feel like you are just talking to yourself. Since then, I started streaming my classes via ZOOM video conferencing software. You can run PowerPoint presentations and use the chat feature to ask students questions. Using ZOOM, I can also meet with several colleagues and this has recently enabled us to offer tutorials again for approximately 70 students. It just takes some getting used to. I also feel like students are less inhibited than in on-site classes and they use the chat features to ask more questions. Outside of class, e-mail communication works well and in this sense, I don’t feel like there is much difference to normal university operations. Of course, some things take a little longer at the moment, but most issues can be dealt with quickly despite working from home.

How do you motivate students to actively take part in the online courses?

During the first few sessions, students were highly motivated, probably due to the current situation and the fact that classes were online. This seemed to be a welcome change to everyday life at home. However, it is difficult to replace intrinsic motivation and personal initiative. This is true for both in-person classroom teaching as well as teaching online. So, even now while having to teach online, I try to give the students significantly important content that supports their academic progress. My influence is rather limited, however, in terms of whether or not students are receptive to the content on a long-term basis.

What do you miss most about the JKU campus?

That’s easy: I miss the personal contact with colleagues and co-workers as well as normal everyday campus life.