Anton Akhmerov: "Teaching online is the way to go"

News - 09 April 2020 - Communication TNW

All the material that 'quantum tinker' Anthon Akhmerov uses in his lectures can be found on a website he set up. Like the bachelor's course Solid State Physics, which he gives to about 200 students each year." Since everything was already online, teaching at a distance during the corona crisis is relatively easy for me to do."

All information online
Through Skype, Anton tells us that he is seriously considering continuing to give the lectures online when the corona crisis is over. "The advantage for students is that the lectures are much more personal, everything is right in front of you. It's a lot less personal if you follow a lecture from the back of a large hall." The Quantum Nanoscience expert has gradually placed all the information from the Solid State Physics course in an online environment. "Brightspace was inadequate for this purpose, so the subject page now links to a website. On solidstate.quantumtinker.tudelft.nl students can find all of the lecture notes. Moreover, they can propose changes themselves. The quality of the material has gradually improved". Students can also find previous exams there and can discuss and ask questions on the forum.

Interactivity is essential
So online communication with the students has always been paid due attention. "Interactivity and finding answers to questions together is the most valuable way to learn. Organizing this interactivity is therefore now also the challenge for the remote teaching that everyone at TU Delft is doing. To make interactivity possible, I invite students to ask questions in between lectures via chat. One of the supporting Teaching Assistants then manages the flow of questions, because it's too much to keep track of alone. Approximately 100 students participate in these lectures, which is probably comparable to the number that participates when we physically get together."

Smart grading software 'Zesje'
The lecturer is keen to develop good materials and to give shape to innovations in education itself. For example, in his spare time he and a colleague developed the online grading software 'Zesje'.  "This is a 'just good enough' solution for electronic examinations. My bachelor's course runs for a few weeks and the 200 students get a mini test every two weeks. With Zesje we scan the tests and they can be checked more quickly through the web app. Teachers of all subjects can use it, it's open source software," he tips. 

Systematic data analysis performance
If Anton gets the chance, he wants to focus on another innovation: a systematic data analysis of the performance of students at TU Delft. "It is important to gain systematic insight into the progress of students. I suggested to the faculty that I be given access to all available data, but that’s tricky because it involves privacy aspects. It would be very useful, however, because on the basis of the results you can indicate whether basic skills are lacking, you can coordinate courses better and adjust exams and programmes in a targeted manner."

Share all your knowledge
Does Anton have any advice for other teachers? " Put all your teaching material online immediately and make it visible to the world. Everyone benefits from that. I am very much in favour of open source environments and sharing all the knowledge you possess, including outside the TU. What's more, it saves a lot of work. Especially for lectures that are given year in, year out, you can reuse the course material. Telling the same story every year is boring. If you renew your approach to subjects, you will be better able to dedicate yourself to other activities, such as research tasks.

More information and contact
Would you like to know more about online opportunities for your course? As a AS lecturer you can enlist the help of faculty coordinator online & blended education Carola van der Muren.

Please also check out the Education Innovation platform on Brightspace for more information. Here, you can also get in touch with other lecturers and exchange experiences. Do you have a short question or would you like to start blended education for your course? Then send an e-mail to the support team via EI-AS@tudelft.nl.

Anton Akhmerov

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