Alert: How Universities Remain Resilient In Times Of Crisis
How Universities Remain Resilient In Times Of Crisis
How Universities Remain Resilient In Times Of Crisis
How can universities and students emerge stronger from the coming crisis semester? An appeal from the Vice President for Teaching at the University of Cologne.
The winter semester 2022/23in Universities is just around the corner and with it a semester in which we will have to continue the innovations of the past semesters, the transformation towards a university for the future. Universities and colleges learned a lot during the four so-called digital semesters. The developments that have been initiated are not just about the much-discussed area of learning and teaching or about the further development in the way we conduct research and science, which has so far been difficult to assess.
Changes in the universities as an organization are also central. I’m not only thinking about the fact that we have succeeded in digitizing the entire university operation in a very short time, but above all also to a new culture and new forms and formats of cooperation, for example the arena I described, which developed during the crisis years.
The corona pandemic was a practical test for the science-based resilience of the university as described by the Science Council 2021. Nevertheless, we have emerged stronger from the pandemic thanks to our agile and flexible way of working. This development enables universities to confidently deal with new crises, such as the impending energy supply crisis.
When the start of the pandemic-related lockdowns two and a half years ago required universities to react quickly in unknown territory, the University of Cologne succeeded in establishing new formats and agile organizational structures. Involving all actors, status groups and areas, we co-creatively developed solution strategies and developed measures that were based on comprehensive expertise and were supported by everyone.
In addition, we rely on transparent and dialogue-oriented communication to protect everyone involved from uncertainty and excessive demands in these challenging times and to offer them perspectives as far as possible.
In essence, it is about focusing on the people within the “university” institution and their well-being. As part of the EuropeanUniversities for Well-Being, the strategic guidelines of the university include increasing and promoting well-being. We are able to do this primarily through continuous communication with representatives of all groups of university members.
In this way, we are made aware of the need for action at an early stage and can make offers on our part, such as comprehensive company and student health management, sporting offers and networking opportunities or psychotherapeutic support.
Energy saving measures for the winter semester in Universities
With this in mind, it is important to the University of Cologne to ensure on-campus operations in the coming semester, in particular teaching and learning operations on campus, and to restrict them as little as possible despite any measures that may be necessary.
The lockdown years have made it clear to us that studying is much more than completing teaching-learning events and that campus life is an important part of the study period. Nevertheless, the university is working at the same time to improve the framework conditions for digital teaching, for example with a view to questions on assignments and guidelines.
In another energy working group based on the model of the Corona Crisis Management Team, the University of Cologne has developed a comprehensive, evidence-based energy saving concept that covers all areas, which does not transfer the burden to students and therefore the switch to digital teaching, if at all, only considered as a last resort.
With the measures described in it, we want to reduce energy consumption significantly, ideally below the 20 percent required by the statesaving, lowering. Specifically, we will, for example, adjust the heating period, lower the heating temperature and only provide hot water where it is needed. Raising awareness of the need to save energy and appealing to individual initiative form the basis for solidarity in a winter that may be full of obstacles.
In the midst of the acute crisis management, we are in the constantly developing, future-oriented strategic planning in the field of study and teaching, which also includes the path to system accreditation. In this context, the corona pandemic represented a catalyst for processes that had already been initiated in the direction of innovative, future-oriented and holistic higher education.
With the publication of relevant handouts, the conception of workshops and the equipment of the rooms with new media technology as part of an AV media strategy For example, the possibilities of hybrid teaching and other innovative teaching-learning methods are increasingly being strengthened and made possible.
Digital and digitally supported teaching and learning formats – such as flipped classroom scenarios – are already firmly established in accordance with our holistic concept for digital education. In this way, we make the best possible use of the advantages of both modes – presence and online. Nevertheless, it should be noted that factors such as disrupted supply chains, monument protection and the sheer size of the university represent real obstacles.
“Don’t let crises slow you down”
Of course, the successive crises are undeniably a challenge for universities and for all their actors. Students in particular suffered from the four digital semesters in which they were unable to experience campus life, in which they had significantly fewer opportunities for networking and exchange and in which many were initially only able to get to know the university from video conferences. Many complained, as did teachers and employees, about overload and excessive workload.
These tributes that we had to pay are also an obligation to take up and further develop the experiences and insights from the past semesters. It is and has always been important to me that we do not let crises slow us down, but instead that we also focus on innovation and further development of the university in all performance areas.
As a universities, we see it as our responsibility to plan and act in a targeted manner, to keep in touch and to focus on opportunities and progress, such as new possibilities for hybrid teaching or hybrid working together. Times of crisis are therefore always times of learning, whose very own dynamic can also be channeled into the path of progressive rethinking and further thinking.
They are also times of reflection and exchange. For example, next year we will be organizing the Day of Learning and Teaching at the University of Cologne for the first time, during which we want to talk to each other and reflect on the experiences we have made, including as many perspectives as possible, and create co-creative impulses for the future of the learning and teaching.
Crises as an opportunity for change
We are optimistic that we can continue our day-to-day scientific and science-supporting work and continue to develop it qualitatively and continuously. This is necessary, because the tasks that the future will set for us will not wait – in times of crisis they only become clear as if through a magnifying glass. Let us not hesitate, but boldly move forward. It can only be beneficial for the resilience of the university.
Finally, I would like to advise not only students, but also teachers and all other actors not to subject their curiosity, passion and openness to the crises. We are in a challenging time, which can be seen as a turning point but also as an opportunity for change. This requires a lot of trust and, above all, courage.
Take advantage of the offers that give you the opportunity to exchange ideas online or hybrid as well as in person and to support each other! Ask questions and question things! Let’s keep talking, arguing and negotiating. As a student in particular, you have the opportunity and at the same time the responsibility to help shape your studies.
For More Updates Click Here.