Albert Berger


Chancellor of the Technical University of Munich

Albert Berger Copyright: © Andreas Heddergott / TUM

Widespread In-Person Teaching in Large Lecture Halls Will Be a Thing of the Past

In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic completely transformed working, teaching, and studying at universities overnight: forcing University buildings to be closed, classes to canceled, employees to work from home, business trips canceled worldwide, and university operations classified as essential or not. Universities, with their many disciplines and widely differing organizational units, were suddenly called upon to manage crises immediately, caught between public service with ministerial directives on the one hand and the need for agile scientific operations with rapid entrepreneurial responses on the other.

Impressive success in the digital transformation and redesign of many teaching formats were offset by considerable needs in the digitization of work processes.Remote offices and video conferencing have made it possible to get a lot of necessary work done, but at the same time, the danger of segmenting thinking by separating staff by location has increased. And now, after testing and vaccinations and perhaps even overcoming the pandemic: will universities go back to working as before? Certainly not, at least not completely!

The necessity to rethink innovative teaching and learning formats and their student-friendly implementation will mean that total in-person teaching in large lecture halls will become a thing of the past. The many well-functioning video conferences, some of which have a wide range of participants, will remain in the future, as will more frequent remote working. The crisis-induced shutdown taught us that we can, as best we can, overcome dislocated places of work, teaching, and learning with virtual formats; but it has also clearly shown us that innovative and excellent work is determined not least by people's socio-empathic capabilities. So the certainty remains: life at universities or university life cannot simply be replaced.