A year in which our educational system was put to the test

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Our assessment of 2020 is obviously overshadowed by the pandemic. But we can safely say that, despite all the challenges, EPFL’s educational system weathered the storm well: courses continued, exams took place and degrees were awarded.

Our staff have been actively involved in online education for years and were therefore able to set up a distance-learning system over the course of just one weekend and train teachers quickly on how to use it. We would make a second observation about 2020, however, which is less positive. The long months of social isolation caused a lot of suffering among our students: the resulting fatigue, discouragement and loneliness have gradually eroded their enthusiasm. As we write this, the end of the tunnel is certainly in sight – but reaching it will require considerable patience and endurance.

To ease the burden on students, we modified the rules on how failing grades are accounted for and are trying to be as flexible as possible whenever we can while maintaining the same academic requirements. In partnership with student groups, we set up various support programs including a system of personal coaches for first-year students.

The new management team that just took the reins at EPFL will continue to navigate our School through the crisis over the coming months, while laying the groundwork for how classes will be taught at EPFL in the medium term. We will all be back on campus as soon as possible. In the future, education will certainly involve leveraging the synergies revealed by this crisis between the depth and intensity of human interaction and the benefits of digital technology.

Prof. Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice President for Education
Prof. Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach
Prof. Luisa Lambertini, Associate Vice President for Postgraduate Education


Teaching | 6 articles