RSU Pre-courses In Demand Also Online
Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) pre-courses for first-year students were organised remotely for the first time, and the popularity of the courses has grown.
For the fourth year, the study year at RSU started not only with a first-year student seminar organised by the RSU Student Union and Orientation Week for international students, but also with various introductory courses for first-year students of the Medicine study programme. 65 students applied for the introductory courses including 31 international students from 12 countries ranging from closer neighbours like Germany, Finland, Sweden, as well as from countries further afield like Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and Nepal.
The courses were held in English and Latvian and took place five days before the first study semester started. The purpose of the courses is not only to summarise the knowledge and skills students have from school, but also to highlight those subjects from chemistry, physics and biology that will be necessary starting the first semester in courses like Medical Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Medical Physics.
The students who attended the courses point out that they most appreciated how actively involved the lecturers were, the feedback they gave, and their attitude towards the course in general. Everything was explained thoroughly, students were motivated to think and look deeper and to analyse information from various angles. They conclude that the courses were well structured, that the classes were interesting and the atmosphere relaxed.
Assoc. Prof. Rudīte Koka is one of the lecturers who says that the students who chose the biology course were highly motivated. ‘They asked questions, solved tasks, explained and substantiated their opinions. Students have different experience levels since several of them studied biology a long time ago, which is why courses like these are especially important. It was also a pleasure to work with young people remotely. I want to organise the work as precisely as possible in a short amount of time and highlight those parts of biology that cause the students difficulties,’ Koka says.
The idea of remote courses has been around for several years, and this year was particularly suitable to realise it. Remote studies, especially in experimental sciences such as chemistry, physics and biology, are a major challenge for both lecturers and students. This required evaluating the results and goals that needed to be achieved during each lesson, carefully selecting teaching methods and forms of communication, testing and reflection. The lecturers’ experience during the previous semester and the information technology infrastructure at RSU (e.g. updating the e-learning environment, the widespread use of Zoom) played an important role.
The introductory courses could also be called a training camp for students and lecturers, as it is not only students, but also lecturers who have to prepare for the upcoming year. Lecturers from the respective study courses are invited to conduct that year’s introductory courses. This year they were led by Agnese Dreimane, Coordinator of Education Programmes of the Continuing Education Centre, Assoc. Prof. Rudīte Koka, Assoc. Prof. Zanda Daneberga, lecturer Anita Pastare, lecturer Irina Kazuša, lecturer Ilmārs Rikmanis, lecturer Mihails Haļitovs, assistant Jānis Kungs, Assistant Professor Jevgenijs Proskurins and lecturer Ansis Ēcis.
The pre-courses date back to August 2017, when the first introductory courses in chemistry and biology in Latvian were held with the support of Professor Guntis Bahs. Since then, introductory courses have been developed in both English and Latvian and a number of subjects have been added over the years: physics was added in 2018, and Latvian and Latin in August 2020. This was the first year that the English-language courses were two weeks long for the first time, but it was also the first time courses were held remotely using specially designed teaching methods and course structure.
RSU has an advanced e-studies and online learning environment that has allowed the university to ensure the continuity of the entire study process at all study levels in a modern way. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RSU study process has not stopped: the previous year of studies was successfully concluded and the national degree examinations and final theses defences were organised online. RSU will start the new study year remotely, but introduce blended learning in October.