Sofia Kritikopoulos, a student in the Bachelor in International Relations, decided to return to Spain to continue her studies.
In this article, she describes her experience on campus following IE University’s new Liquid Learning model, which fluidly combines online and in-person education. Read on to discover how this innovative format has allowed her to pursue her degree with minimal interruption.
Nearly seven months into the pandemic, it seems as though coronavirus is here to stay for the time being. As restrictions are lifted across the world and people adjust to the “new normal,” one of the groups finding everything is different is university students. We have had to change our previous lifestyles for the health of ourselves, our peers and the city we’re in.
IE University has introduced a brand-new Liquid Learning approach to ensure our education continues to the highest standards during this crisis. I am grateful to have been able to travel back to Spain and enjoy the benefits of this new system.
Liquid Learning is the hybrid model that IE University is using in its classes this year. New health protocols have also been adapted across campus, including routine antigen testing and mandatory serological tests before starting a course for the term. Students fill out a daily health checkup that grants them access to campus, assuming they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms. There are increased cleaning measures on campus, with staff disinfecting the space after any of our classes. The campus feels extremely safe, and the individual academic schools have been monitoring each section with antigen tests to ensure that outbreaks are contained from the get-go.
Classes are now split into three types of models: face-to-face, videoconference and non-class learning. Face-to-face has of course been my favorite method so far but the other two are also working extremely well. If students cannot attend face-to-face classes, they connect online and are projected onto a television screen in the classroom. Given the circumstances, it’s as close as we get to feeling like we are all together as a class again. Inside the classroom, professors are separated by a protective shield, and students are seated at least 1.5 meters apart from each other. On top of this, everyone in the room wears masks and the windows are kept open.
When term began, it took me a while to get used to non-class learning, but I now find that it has really allowed me to dig deeper into courses. I engage with work that I wouldn’t have had time to do in a normal-model classroom. For example, this semester I’m in a course called Research Methods in International Relations. The non-class learning sessions for this consist of practice programming activities, using datasets that are related to International Relations. These weekly practice sessions have provided me with the opportunity to engage in up-to-date research, going far beyond textbook learning. And when I am confused about the assignments, I simply talk with my professor via Zoom.
Other non-class sessions are asynchronous video lectures, online discussion forums and various creative projects. My Comparative Politics course used graphing systems to study democracies and populism in different nations. I truly do feel like these sessions are allowing me to learn about my subjects in a real-world context, rather than just memorizing content for exams.
In addition to attending face-to-face classes, simply being on campus has been refreshing. During class breaks, my peers and I will take in the views and weather Segovia has to offer, while adhering to proper social distancing guidelines. In an effort to keep our community safe, most of us are still quarantining in our flats or at least keeping social bubbles. Seeing peers on campus is a way to get social interaction in a safe manner without worrying about spreading the virus to any vulnerable population.
To get a better understanding, a typical day in my life now looks like this:
- 11:00–12:30 → Use Zoom to have a club meeting for coordinators.
- 14:00–15:20 → Head to campus and attend an in-person class.
- 15:20–16:00 → Chat with friends outside during a class break.
- 16:00–17:20 → Attend a second in-person class.
- 18:00–19:00 → Work on a non-class learning project at home.
When I had to make the decision in July about whether to fly 9,000 km back to Spain, I was hesitant. I didn’t know if all my classes would be online or if I would be stuck in confinement away from my family and the comfort of home. But as always, IE University has risen to the challenge and provided a workable “new normal” through the Liquid Learning format. While the coronavirus has put everything else in my life on pause, my education can continue. This term will surely be one to remember and I am excited to see how the hybrid model improves.