The covid-10 pandemic forces us to do experiments. However painful this episode might be, it offers the chance to learn and to question old habits. We often hear opinions like, “Online can only be a stopgap solution.” Sorry, there will be no way back. Those who dream about an imaginary pre-corona-idyll misjudge how deep the crisis is uprooting all our lives and procedures these months.
Time leap. It´s the year 2030. The corona crisis and the concomitant lockdown dragged on for years, a vaccine was finally found in 2024. For lack of alternatives, we have learned to discuss even the most complex topics in teleconferences. The technology for doing so received an enormous push. “Flying to China with the entire team for just one meeting? That´s so 2019!” There are better ways to use the time and energy for the trip and the jetlag, not even talking about environmental aspects.
The situation is similar in classroom settings. The first attempts 2020 appear almost comical in retrospect. Internet bandwidth was clogged by uncompressed video recordings of lectures in empty seminar rooms. When the lockdown was finally fully lifted in 2025, teaching was enriched by many new methods. In lecture theatres, seminar rooms and online-conferences, we profit from the experiments of 2020. Group size, learning preferences as well as private and professional circumstances can be analysed and considered for each event, so that a fine-tuned mixture of online and offline content can be compiled for that setting. Participants with care responsibilities? Let´s do evening webinars with compact in-person meetings in the morning. An international team meets up for a multi-day event in order to build up personal relationships? In this case, a compact in-person workshop during the meeting could be the best solution, framed by online content before and after. Without the pressure from the pandemic, we wouldn´t have gotten that far. Spending two full days in a cramped seminar room, just because the trainer has to travel from afar? Nowadays in 2030, this sounds as outdated as a lecture read out in Latin.
Of course, online can´t reproduce all elements of personal interaction. However, in-house seminars also can´t reproduce all benefits of online learning and meetings; spatial and temporal flexibility as well as the possibility to learn at one´s own speed to name just a few.
This article was originally published in Nachrichten aus der Chemie (06-2020)