The Technion campus has opened; students are back in the classrooms. "It's just like the first day of first grade," said one biology student
The Technion opened for the 2021 spring semester on Sunday, using a model of hybrid teaching – a combination of online and frontal teaching – in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s restrictions and “green” guidelines. After a challenging year of online learning, students are returning to classrooms, campuses, and frontal learning after presenting a vaccine certificate and pre-registering.
The Technion buildings and faculties were well prepared for the students’ return. The security unit has assigned bouncers, security guards, scouts, and certified COVID-19 inspectors on the contained campus to keep students and faculty members safe and to ensure that green regulations for COVID-19 are maintained. Only students with a vaccine certificate are able to study in classrooms, and class sizes are regulated.
Returning students were greeted by a banner that read, “We Came Back Green,” placed by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Student Union. The celebration also included eye-opening flags, placards, fortune cookies, and cards.
“This is a special day for all of us,” said Technion President, Professor Uri Sivan on a tour of the campus with Senior Vice President Professor Oded Rabinowitz and the Deans of the Technion. “The members of the academic and administrative staff have already gradually returned to campus in the past two weeks, in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. Today, it is the turn of the students, who are the heartbeat of the Technion, to return to the classrooms. This spring semester comes after a long winter, and after the pandemic that lasted a whole year. Now we can finally go back and hear the academic hum in the classrooms, in the labs, in the hallways, and in the offices. With the return of the students, the campus will return to being a vibrant intellectual center.”
“I haven’t taught on campus in over a year and it’s definitely refreshing – a thousand times more comfortable than teaching on Zoom, which is sadly what we’ve become used to,” said Professor Eitan Yaakobi, researcher and lecturer in combinatorics in the Taub Faculty of Computer Science. “For the students here in class today, it’s the first time that they are studying live on campus. We now understand how important it is to have a personal relationship with the students, something I really missed this past year. Good luck to all the teachers, and especially to those learning, the students.”
“I’m really excited to be here, and I think the lecturer is more excited than anyone,” said Liad Pearl, a second-year student in computer engineering. “Suddenly, people are making jokes in class and laughing for real, not in front of a screen.”
“We’re very excited to be back in class,” said first-year biology students in Professor Meital Landau’s biochemistry and enzymology course, “just like on the first day of first grade.”
“Studying at home, on Zoom, was difficult for us,” said students in Dr. Nadav Amdursky’s analytical chemistry course, “both in terms of having technological issues as well as having distractions at home. We’re happy to be back in class.”
A year ago, on the eve of opening the spring semester 2020, Israel Council for Higher Education imposed a blanket ban on frontal teaching. Despite the short notice, the Technion managed to open the 2020 spring semester online on the scheduled date of March 18, with hardly any problems. It was the result of a conscious and ongoing effort to introduce digital teaching technologies in the years prior to the pandemic.
The two semesters since March 2020 have taken place online, thanks to the tireless work of Technion Senior Vice President Professor Oded Rabinowitz, Dean of Undergraduate Studies Professor Hossam Haick, and many others. This period has shown that while digital platforms allow for online learning and continued studies, they cannot completely replace frontal teaching. The interaction between students and lecturers is an essential component of campus life, learning, and student development. This is the background for the advancement of hybrid teaching, which combines online teaching with active classroom learning.