The students of the Open Universiteit live scattered over the Netherlands, Flanders and farther. It is not easy to bring them physically together. For studies with rather small numbers of students, such as environmental sciences, it is also difficult to arrange group sessions with sufficient students for effective and efficient teaching. For that reason the number of meetings was kept low. In addition, meetings for different courses were clustered and held on one day in one building. They had a plenary part and parallel sessions. Mutual contacts between students and contacts with teachers were enhanced in this way. It worked perfectly for most courses, but for a few that required much more explanation, the system failed. One of my colleagues, Jikke van Wijnen, pioneered in 2006 with an electronic classroom for students who followed a course on chemistry. Students and teacher were sitting at home or on their office behind a computer. The teacher was talking, could use a powerpoint presentation and a white board, and could ask questions. Students listened and watched, could respond and also ask questions. It worked surprisingly well. In the next year the experiment was enlarged, and I joined with a course on evolution for students that recently started. In the mean time, the electronic classroom is an approved tool in the educational program.
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