A successful premiere: Day of Teaching and Learning

On June 30, 2021, the Day of Teaching and Learning had its premiere at the University of Stuttgart. A follow-up report.

The university’s first Day of Teaching and Learning was supposed to take place last year, and the topic had already been decided; namely, the benefits of digital teaching. But then came the pandemic, which resulted in a transition to almost 100% digital teaching. But postponing for a further year was out of the question, and so the first Day of Teaching and Learning became - appropriately - an online event.

How good is digital teaching? How digital is good teaching?

These questions arose even before the pandemic and, in the current context, they could not have been more topical. The event also simultaneously created a new framework for awarding the University of Stuttgart's teaching prize, and the stuvus special prize for excellent teaching. For the first time, stuvus also presented a special prize for digital teaching. To read an article about the award winners, click here: Awards for excellence in teaching.

The rector addresses the participants in the virtual room.
The Rector delivered an address as part of the Day of Teaching and Learning.

As university Rector Prof. Dr. Wolfram Ressel succinctly asked in his address, "Who would have thought that the first online semester would be followed by others?". He also took the opportunity to thank everyone at the university for their inventiveness over the past 16 months, and for working on a wide variety of digital materials and developing new online formats. The Rector also announced that the Day of Teaching and Learning will be held annually from now on, in recognition of the importance of teaching and the educational mission of the university.

The Vice Rector for Teaching and Continuing Education guides through the event in virtual space.
The Vice Rector for Teaching and Continuing Education leads through the event.

Prof. Dr. Hansgeorg Binz, Vice Rector for Teaching and Continuing Education went on to say that the aim was to initiate a discourse about the digitization of teaching, "We all got thrown in at the deep end and received a crash course in becoming digital experts". The Day of Teaching and Learning offers an opportunity to take stock of the experiences made. What was successful and what could have been better? What can be incorporated into on-site teaching? “We are all longing for the return of face-to-face teaching”, emphasized Hansgeorg Binz: “The personal and social contacts, which are an important part of studying, are missing.”

A rich program offered exchange and discussion

This very informative afternoon flowed into the Market of Possibilities, which offered a wealth of information about e-learning and topics such as media didactics, accessibility, diversity and personal development. Participants were spoiled for choice, with eight different tracks, each offering up to five lectures: they were able to discuss the opportunities and challenges of digital teaching and learning formats, grapple with the topic of interaction, communication and networking, and get to know innovative methods and tools. The event also focused on post-pandemic strategies and innovative concepts for the introductory study phase.

The virtual conference foyer
The virtual conference foyer on the Day of Teaching and Learning.

“Everyday university life changed completely from one day to the next”, reports Felicitas Leese, an Aerospace Engineering Master's student, who is also a member of the stuvus team. Frontal teaching, tutorials in small groups, a direct exchange with others, going to open office hours - all of that was gone. Instead, the struggle with declining self-discipline, hours sitting in front of the computer, the worry that distance teaching formats would remain forever, that there might never be a return to the auditorium. But everyone, students and teachers, showed how creative they could be. And there are, of course digital elements, that can be used in on-site teaching. And, as Leese points out, it is easier to combine family and studying if lectures are online, and online examinations also have some advantages, but she also adds: “Communication and personal exchanges have been lost, shared experiences are missing.”

In his guest lecture, Dr. Malte Persike from the Center for Teaching and Learning Services at RWTH Aachen emphasized that good digital teaching must offer much more than the uninterrupted presentation of a lecture. To truly involve the students in front of their computers and to keep their attention, audience response systems, as well as subsequent or interspersed quiz elements can be useful. Even videos alone are not enough. His lecture ended with the acknowledgement that digital teaching is more demanding than analogue teaching. This made his references to digital learning tools all the more valuable. Based on empirical evidence, these have a particularly positive impact on student retention and their motivation to learn.

Portrait of the Vice Rektor for Infomation Technology
The Vice Rector for Information Technology draws a positive résumé.

Résumé

More than 170 participants – a colorful mix, a sustained interest shown throughout the day and the motivating statement from the Rector that the Day of Teaching and Learning should now become an annual event - this was the résumé delivered by Dr. Simone Rehm, the Vice Rector for Information Technology, who was pleased with the event's success. What will happen with on-site teaching and digitization at the University of Stuttgart after Corona remains to be seen, but it has become clear that "not everything that is digital is automatically good." Hansgeorg Binz also spoke of a very successful start to a new tradition. He hopes that the next Teaching and Learning Day will not have to be held virtually and that the many suggestions from the event will now be used to contribute to excellent teaching.

Recordings and feedback

Did you miss the conference, or would you like to listen again? Recordings from the presentations from the main program can be found on the ILIAS platform.

There is also a form available where you can submit personal feedback. The organizing team is looking forward to receiving your comments.

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