‘Learning by doing’ in an uncertain, constantly changing period
“The trickiest thing in this period was probably that so much was unknown. You thought you had made arrangements but then issues came up, or call them challenges,” as Inge van Rijt describes it. Inge is an innovation manager at TiSEM. Before this, she worked for Tilburg University’s Professional Learning as a learning & development manager. In this interview, Inge tells how she has experienced the past few months.
How did you, as an innovation manager, experience the transition to online education?
“When the news came, in the middle of March, that all classes were to be provided online, I was still working at Professional Learning. At Professional Learning Tilburg University instructors teach professionals. All these classes, too, had to be provided online. We had the means as well as the ideas, but we had a hard time convincing the target group that the same result could be achieved with online education. And, on the other hand, the instructors had different priorities at that moment. Therefore, we decided at Professional Learning to reschedule the classes. In collaboration with Alumni Relations, we set up a number of webinars. Participants had the opportunity to make a voluntary contribution (donation) to the University Fund, to help students in need in this difficult period.
On May 1, I started as an innovation manager and I entered a completely different dynamic. Instructors had already made the switch to online education, mainly through ‘learning by doing’. But it was still unclear how Tilburg University expected to continue online education and what the best way was to support instructors.
I was involved, among other things, with exploring opportunities in the near future of hybrid, online and blended education for the university. Apart from that, what kept me busy most was thinking of how we could best support ours instructors in the coming period and afterwards. This is very important, because online education is completely different from face-to-face instruction.
Instructors had already made the switch to online education, mainly through ‘learning by doing’.
Questions that instructors have include: what tool do you use and when, how do you give structure, what is the best way to communicate, how do you set up an online class, how do you get interaction with students? And also very practical questions: how works a particular tool. In sum maybe: how and where do I start as an instructor and how do I make sure that my classes are up to scratch and that the objectives are achieved?
I've hardly been busy with online testing. In my view, the colleagues who have been working on this faced many bigger challenges!"
What challenges did education at a distance give rise to?
“The trickiest thing in this period was probably that so much was unknown. You thought you had made arrangements but then issues came up, or call them challenges. You just didn’t have the overview. It often remained, and sometimes still is, stuck in ad hoc work and crisis management, in short, there was simply no time to properly think things through.
We all faced the big challenge: how do we make sure that students are taught well and don’t run into too much study delay?
It was a hectic period, in which you were constantly occupied with your work, mornings, evenings, weekends. Not always behind your laptop but always in your head. I think that everyone within the organization has worked overtime, everyone within their area of expertise. We all faced the big challenge: how do we make sure that students are taught well and don’t run into too much study delay? Nobody has a crystal ball that can predict how long the situation will last or what is around the corner.
The additional pressure that many of us including me had to deal with was challenges in your family life, like health and home-schooling. As a result, you were constantly busy, you were on all the time. There was hardly any time for relaxation …”
Perhaps in the future, we should switch to the so-called ‘High Flex’ course format, whereby students themselves decide whether they want to take classes online or offline. As long as it can be organized and is feasible from a learning and teaching perspective, of course.
What are you most proud of?
“I am most proud of the fact that we did this together, that, in a time of social distancing, we were maybe much closer to each other than before. We knew where to find each other, both at central and decentralized levels and within the School. We tried to help each other, to share, as much as possible. At least, as regards the group of innovation coordinators, Teacher Development Desk, and EDUiLAB. But also with TiSEM, collaboration was stronger than before. That was a positive vibe that we should strive to hold on to.”
I am most proud of the fact that we did this together, that, in a time of social distancing, we were maybe much closer to each other than before.
Would you like to see online or blended education implemented in the long term?
“Yes indeed, partially, at least. Much transfer of knowledge can be done equally well online, in fact, more effectively and efficiently so. However, education is so much more than just knowledge transfer. For instance, socialization, connection, and character building are aspects that are not so easy to realize online. It is important to take the learning objectives into account and decide what learning activity fits best (this can be online, offline, or a mix of the two). Perhaps in the future, we should switch to the so-called ‘High Flex’ course format, whereby students themselves decide whether they want to take classes online or offline. As long as it can be organized and is feasible from a learning and teaching perspective, of course."
Online Education yes/no/no choice
Because of corona we are all in the same boat
How do students and staff experience the transition to online education?