Professor Hans-Ulrich Heiß


Vice President for Education, Digitalization, and Sustainability at TU Berlin

Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Heiß Copyright: © TU Berlin

Should we return to full live courses after the pandemic, continue to offer online-only teaching, or do hybrid teaching?

There will be no going back to the status quo we had before. In the future, we will see teaching incorporating virtual elements to a greater extent than before.

Which teaching formats would you like to see online, which ones in personal settings?

Traditional lectures in a lecture hall will continue to be offered by instructors who deeply appreciate and resonate with having students present – being able to look into their faces and see the reaction to what they are teaching. This is especially true when it comes to mathematics, with formulae drawn on blackboards. However, the majority will fall back on the predominantly positive experience of creating instructional videos and foregoing in-person lectures. Perhaps this is also a generational difference.

However, for courses that thrive on interaction, discussing ideas with and among students, video conferencing has not proven to be as valuable as in-person formats. This is particularly the case when many of the students participate anonymously and do not have their webcam on.

Your vision: What should the successor model of a traditional lecture look like that integrates research and "doing" (no matter whether in presence or online)?

I see the flipped classroom as the standard successor model to the traditional lecture. Knowledge transfer takes place via thematically structured instructional videos that students can download anywhere, at any time, and watch many times over, if necessary. To accompany and deepen this knowledge, however, dialogue-based sessions can be offered in different forms, such as Q&A or problem- or case-based in lecture halls or seminar rooms. Depending on the topic and concept, tutorials in small groups or practical exercises in person can be added to this. The concepts can also be adapted dynamically with just-in-time-teaching.

There will be a lot of experimentation and instructors will find their own concepts individually. Universities must therefore provide flexible support with rooms, technology, and organization.

Will lecturers still be needed in ten years' time or will AI/robots be enough to keep teaching?

There will certainly be AI approaches when it comes to learning analytics to support individual learning progress, but we will not be able or willing to do without professors who inspire students with their personality, even if there are powerful avatars. Avatars may play a role in "niches," but they will not be able to replace humans in the foreseeable future.

A number of demands are coming from industry and society as to what universities should include in their curricula in the future. If studies are not to be extended, one must also ask what we will no longer need in the future. Do you have any suggestions?

Universities have been confronted with such demands for many years. Some of the skills required, for example, soft skills, can easily be integrated into specialized courses. Others, such as aspects of social and ethical responsibility or sustainable development in line with the Social Developmental Goals, cover many different areas and can also principally be integrated into specialist modules.

However, current demands, for example, for in-depth knowledge in data science and/or programming must indeed lead to considerations as to whether the curriculum is still up to date. There is a great deal of inertia in the faculties, and this is partly a good thing, so as not to jeopardize the core competencies of the courses of study. But a regular review of what the core competencies should be in order to optimally prepare graduates for the next decades of professional life is urgently needed and may also necessitate a break with tradition.