Since most universities no longer have a general obligation to attend, it is discussed with increasing intensity whether this represents a step towards self-responsibility of the students or rather causes unintentional side effects.

While on the one hand the freedom of the students is emphasized, since the blessings of modern information technology now make a time- and location-independent learning possible (keyword Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)), on the other hand it is pointed out that learning without the academic Discourse is not very promising. Thus it is doubted that students can easily acquire independent knowledge and competences which they can call up in the exams. In the process, there is a fear that higher education institutions will turn into mere examination committees and will only be needed to query the students’ competencies.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has brought about a particularly paradoxical situation here, namely through the anchoring of two apparently contrary rules in the new Higher Education Act. Regulation one: “The universities are committed to the success of the study.” Regulation two: the prohibition of “attendance obligations”. How a university, however, should guarantee a successful study for someone who refrains from taking advantage of the study program remains at least unclear.

International study results

Therefore, an extended look at international study results may help to suggest that grades will deteriorate as soon as the compulsory attendance is lifted. There seems to be a connection between overly lax handling of on-the-spot learning and overburdening many students. It therefore seems plausible that much depends on the personal ability of the students to structure and motivate their own responsibility with regard to the acquisition of knowledge.

However, whether all students are highly motivated “digital natives” who easily pull off any lecture, and understand and internalize their content without any exchange, may be doubted. Rather, the results from learning research argue that the digital treatment of learning content should be complementary to classroom teaching in order to achieve the greatest possible impact.

Digitalisation is undoubtedly changing the role and understanding of universities. They have to ask themselves how they can convey a new quality of education to their students as places of discourse and learning community. The strict division of roles between teachers and learners is also softened as students take on a more demanding and active role, while educators have to transform their role from specialists who share and convey their exclusive knowledge to being an accompanying learning coach. However, they can only play this role if they can (and want to) maintain an exchange with the students.