Interview: Anne Vilcot, Dean, Grenoble Institute of Technology’s Phelma Engineering School

Categorie(s) : Education, Interviews, Life @ MINATEC, News

Published : 6 July 2020

We are preparing for all possible scenarios in the fall.

How well did Phelma navigate the shift to 100% online learning?

It was hard to get things going. Our faculty had to reorganize their entire course loads on very short notice. The videoconferencing tools we had couldn’t handle the capacity: We only had ten Zoom licenses at the time. But everyone rolled up their sleeves and the solutions were there. A group of students recommended we use Discord, a free online chat platform for gamers. Zoom granted free educational licenses. And the Chamilo online document repository was upgraded to handle more traffic.

Were you able to keep the students on board?

Some students were at a clear disadvantage in terms of technology, with problems ranging from slow internet connections to old computers and basic cell phone plans. Here again, we rapidly turned problems into solutions. A student club collected and reconditioned second-hand computers. In terms of the school, we made sure we stayed in touch with these students by phone and provided financial assistance to some of them. Our dropout rate was between 1% and 2%, the same as in a “normal” academic year.

What are you doing to get ready for the fall?

The French government has asked us to prepare for all possible scenarios, including a hybrid scenario with some classes online and others in person. Our top priority will be to make sure that the school year gets off to a good start for our incoming first-year students. We want to at least be able to offer them in-person lab classes, study hall, and project sessions. The idea is to give these incoming students the foundations they need to stay enrolled.


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