DVTD lecturers contribute to the Tropical Animal Health Course presented at Utrecht University in The Netherlands

Posted on March 03, 2022

For a number of years, lecturers from DVTD have been involved in teaching the elective Master Course on Tropical Animal Health at Utrecht University. The course is usually presented over a period of 5 weeks from the end of August to the beginning of October, with between 20 and 25 students enrolled. Pre-COVID, lecturers travelled to Utrecht for periods ranging from 2 – 5 days to present lectures and practicals. During 2020, however, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic placed severe restrictions on international travel, all but preventing any lecturer exchanges. This forced the organisers to offer the course almost entirely online via live streams (mainly Blackboard and MS Teams), which, in turn, posed unique challenges to lecturers to adapt their interactive lectures to the online environment. One of the drawcards most praised by course alumni is the unique interaction in small groups that allows the dynamic and free-flowing exchange of both knowledge- and personal experience-based information. Due to the unpredictability, and continuously changing, regulations related to the CoV-2 pandemic, the course was presented mostly on-line for the second year running.  To some extent the experience gained in 2020 made the presentation in 2021 less intimidating, because lecturers had gained valuable experience to optimise the course delivery in the online teaching environment from the previous year. Online presentation of a course like this remains a compromise which warrants careful consideration in the post-COVID era.

Alongside a number of Dutch and other international presenters, two academic staff members of DVTD were involved in the course presented in 2021 (as in previous years): Prof Anita Michel, who presented lectures on high impact diseases and their socio-economic impact from a southern African perspective, and Dr Hein Stoltsz, who presented lectures on ticks and tick-bone diseases of livestock and wildlife in Africa. Presenting the practical component on tick identification posed unique challenges, with course participants having to be split into mall groups which had to rotate in order to maintain social distancing in the venue where microscopes were available for the examination of specimens, and technical assistance had to be provided by Utrecht staff, whilst the lecturer was providing remote guidance and answering questions online from South Africa!

Course participants are assessed based on a group activity that comprises of both a written review/literature study for a research project and production of a knowledge clip (short video presentation) on a chosen topic. Dr Stoltsz was assigned to a group of 3 students whom he guided and assisted over the duration of the course to prepare their video clip on “Sustainable tick and tick-borne disease control in resource-limited communities in Africa” 

Despite the many constraints, course participants nevertheless gave the course a favourable rating of more than 75%.

Based on the positive feedback from course participants on the value of the presentations by lecturers from DVTD, course coordinators have already approached the lecturers for their availability to continue to contribute to the course in 2022. Although the travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021 may be relaxed sufficiently to resume a return to face-to-face tutoring in 2022, it is not clear whether the course organisers will invite the lecturers to Utrecht for their presentations (as was the case before 2020) since the successful online presentation of these topics in 2020 and 2021, results in a significant financial saving on the travel and accommodation costs for lecturers from South Africa.

Students attending the tick practical of the TAH course in Utrecht

Students TAH Utrecht

 

 

 

 

 

- Author Dr Hein Stoltsz
Published by Linda Poggenpoel

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