08.04.2020, by Ursula Müller

The question of how we can cushion the current corona pandemic as socially and economically as possible by using state-of-the-art technologies is currently occupying the entire world. In recent weeks the HFT Stuttgart has also been developing new solutions as quickly as possible, both in the area of teaching and in internal administration. Various players in the central areas and the faculties have been very active in developing new contactless processes and building on the existing IT infrastructure in making the changeover possible.

In the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Building Physics and Business Management (Faculty B) with six Bachelor's and nine Master's programmes as well as in the entire university considerations began with the announcement of the postponement of the face-to-face lectures, as to how these four weeks until after Easter - but also the period thereafter - could be sensibly organised. Regardless of which subject group - civil engineering, industrial engineering, infrastructure management, building physics, business administration or business psychology - all lecturers were and are under great time pressure to rework the content of their courses and convert them to an online concept.

Thoughts and suggestions were exchanged and many telephone calls and video conferences were held. Existing ideas regarding "inverted classrooms" are now being further developed. Various tools for video conferencing are being tried out and subjected to initial stress tests with small groups as well as large student groups. A simplified distinction is made between tools for synchronous real-time teaching (e.g. GoToMeeting, Zoom...) and tools for asynchronous teaching (e.g. Camtasia for recording and editing teaching videos). What is needed is creativity and strength of implementation, but also down-to-earth and pragmatism.

The students' feedback was very positive: in the past weeks they were pleased that they were informed closely and with only one week delay to the originally planned start of lectures were offered extensive teaching and learning in digital form since 23rd of March.

While the higher semesters were able to cope with the new teaching conditions quite quickly this is not so easy for the first semesters. They have never met the majority of their professors in face-to-face lectures - but the lecturers are highly motivated to compensate for this disadvantage. Fortunately the majority of our freshmen were still able to attend the preparation week as a rule. Here - as every semester - the first contacts were made and WhatsApp groups were created - real friendships will probably only develop in longer, personal contact.

With regard to the conversion of courses to online operation, it can currently be stated for Faculty B that in the Bachelor's programmes in many departments about 75% can be taught online, in most Master's programmes the proportion is significantly higher. However a smaller proportion remains in many degree programmes that cannot be taught online to the same extent or at all. This concerns for example modules with laboratory and field exercises.

But what can the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Building Physics and Business Management learn from this crisis management? The next step will be to evaluate the new solutions and the changes that have taken place as a result of this digitalisation push. Many positive effects are certainly due to the cooperation of our lecturers, staff and students, because they work together very well despite "social distancing" and break new ground, perhaps even pointing the way.