Virtual Faculty

But first, coffee

Having a coffee at the office is almost a ritual. It begins in the morning for some, just after the lunch break for the others. It’s also a choice of a specific cup and then of the precious liquid, so espresso macchiato or black? Above all, it’s a place to meet. A break in the day that allows informal exchanges between colleagues of the same floor.

With the containment measures, no more cups go astray in the Maison des Sciences Humaines, but it is also the end of spontaneous chats in front of the coffee machines.

This is why the Department of Geography & Spatial Planning is launching the "Geo Café” on Webex, a videoconferencing platform. Constance Carr, who is behind this initiative, explains, "I was listening to the various voices around the net, and it was becoming apparent that there were likely a variety of different issues surfacing. There are a multitude of difficulties surfacing that affect work. Some are finding it hard to concentrate on work with the kids at home (or to learn with roommates in the background). Some are dealing with isolation.  Some might find it hard to focus with the crisis in the background. There are a bunch of issues. At the same time, while thinking about this, I was experimenting with WebEx and Zoom for teaching purposes, That's when I realised that these might help mitigate some of these negative effects”.

The idea is quite simple. Open up a  Webex channel for 30 minutes, twice a day: one for the morning coffee addicts, the other one for those who prefer their caffeine boost in the afternoon. People can pop in and pop out as they please. "These meetings are entirely social, informal, and optional. The idea is to catch up, share the issues we are all facing, and exchange just like we would on campus”, adds Carr.  She underlines, “In time like these, communication shouldn’t only be top down. Messages from the top are, of course, imperative, but people need means to communicate and share ideas horizontally too”.

Just like in real spontaneous meeting in the hallway, four members of the department met this morning over a home-brewed coffee. "Even if none of us miss the university coffee, it is good to have an opportunity to stay in touch with digital technologies, not forgetting, of course, that these technologies cannot replace face-to-face meetings" says Carr.

Similar projects

Virtual Faculty
Confined but not alone
Greeting the baker, the pharmacist or sharing a coffee with our colleagues each morning, all these simple social interactions that made our daily life before seem already far away. This week, on the pages of the Tageblatt, Isabelle Albert addresses the increasing risks of loneliness and isolation in this particular time.
Virtual Faculty
When a cat becomes your only classmate
It's been a week that Liz Weis, student from the Bachelor en Cultures Européennes, follows her courses online. Today she shares with us her first impressions as a student about this new teaching methods far away from campus.
Virtual Faculty
Distant but more connected than ever
Few months ago, we were all far from imagining the situation we are living today. A deserted campus. In less than a week, the classroom were emptied, the noisy canteens went silent and only the sunrays are still entering the conference rooms of the Maison des Sciences Humaines. Everything seems to have stopped on Campus. However, you just need a few clicks online to realise that our Faculty is more alive than ever and far from being quiet.