Involve students and break things!
Their year on the board of student associations LSVb and ISO is almost over for Roos van Leeuwen (LSVb) and Eline van Hove (ISO). This will be the end of their seat in the Acceleration Plan Steering group. This week they will hand over the baton to the next board. In this interview, we look back on an eventful year with them.
How do you look back on the Acceleration Plan last year?
Eline: “For me, the 24-hour session in November stands out. There the Acceleration Plan and the work of the various zones came to life much more for me. When I look back at the first six months of my board year, the ‘Education and privacy’ portfolio had started fairly quietly. In January the hack at Maastricht University suddenly stirred things up. Then the COVID-19 crisis followed in March. That has had a major impact on digitalisation and educational innovation.”
The enthusiasm among the participants and their curiosity to hear what we think of their plans is great.
Roos: “Those are the highlights of last year for me too. Which isn’t that surprising, really. I was surprised how many zone members from the Acceleration Plan were interested in talking to us about their activities. They wanted to hear what we thought of their plans and I found these conversations very inspiring. It has inspired me to discuss this with students in order to be able to communicate their opinions and ideas as a representative of the interests of students and to consider how we can achieve cooperation. Digitalisation is a relatively new topic. By talking more about this, you stimulate students to share their opinion about the developments.”
It’s important to keep talking with various stakeholders about digitalisation and to keep it on the agenda.
Attention from The Hague
The enthusiasm is something Eline also recognises: “The enthusiasm among the participants and their curiosity to hear what we think of their plans is great. In January, the zones presented their plans for 2020, which I thought was very good to see. Now it’s interesting to see how their plans have changed due to COVID-19. I was also present at two working visits with Minister Van Engelshoven, one physically on the Avans campus, one online. It is very good to see the Minister also pays a lot of attention to the Acceleration Plan.”
Roos underlines the attention from The Hague and its importance underlines: “There’s of course also a lot of attention from the House of Representatives for the Acceleration Plan. In November, I took part in a round table discussion to contribute to the discussion about digitalisation from a student perspective. You will notice it’s important to keep talking to various parties about this digitalisation and to keep it high on the agenda. ”
Eline adds: “I hope people will continue to talk about this. We recently organised Reflection Rooms with the ISO, the ComeniusNetwork, and the Acceleration Plan, in which we spoke with many students and lecturers about the digitization of education in the light of the corona crisis. We exchanged experiences and ideas, but we were far from done. I hope this exchange will take place more often in the future. ”
Is there a project from a zone that you are most looking forward to?
Roos: “I am very curious about the national education catalogue of the Flexibilisation zone. I hope that they really manage to realise this because it really is a precondition for realising flexible education in practice. As a student, you also need extra information and guidance when education becomes more flexible. If we succeed in realizing that national catalogue, we have taken a big step. In addition, I am very happy to see that we are looking at the ethical side of (the use of) learning analytics and student data. I think it is good that there is a lot of attention for this within the Learning analytics zone.”
Student mobility and digital learning materials pilot
The importance of dealing with learning analytics ethically is also high on Eline’s list. She adds: “I am also looking forward to the results of the Pilot Student Mobility of the Flexible education zone. I hope more institutions will participate in a similar pilot. With the help of good pilots, more can be learned about how we can make it possible for students to follow education off the beaten track and at other institutions. In addition, I look forward to developments around digital educational resources. I hope we’ll be able to take steps to better facilitate the exchange of existing materials. And I hope lecturers will also be included in this, in order for them to find and use these digital materials in their teaching. I think digital educational resources can also contribute to the inclusiveness of education. In this way you can offer a broader range of educational resources, making it easier for students to find a format that suits their needs.”
I hope delegations from other countries visit us to learn from the Acceleration Plan.
The COVID-19 crisis
The advantage of diversity in educational resources also applies to diversity in the educational offer. Because without wanting to detract from the crisis that is unfolding, there are also upsides for education. Roos explains: “I am delighted to see how, as a result of the crisis, we have proved that digital education can provide very flexible education. You also see that some students benefit tremendously from being able to follow their classes from home. These students thrive more than before. We just have to find a balance, because on the other hand, you see students for whom online education doesn’t work. So we urgently need both forms, where students have a choice.”
Roos: “I hope that the Digital educational resources zone and the Flexible education zone will continue to pay attention to student welfare and supervision of students in the execution of their projects. It is so important to check with students how they are doing and how they are getting through their degrees.”
Eline adds: “It might even be something for the Professional development zone because lecturers also play a role in guiding students.”
What results do you hope to see at the end of the Acceleration Plan?
Eline: “I hope there are a lot of students who notice the difference in their education. And I hope that there is still a lot of energy among participants of the Acceleration Plan and the institutions. I would like to see the projects and networks set up to continue after the Acceleration Plan. In addition, it would be great if we get results implemented in institutions that don’t participate in a zone or in the Acceleration Plan, and that we also include people outside the Acceleration Plan, so not just the frontrunners.”
It’s important the sector thinks, This is what we have been looking for, and that it fits their needs.
Roos couldn’t agree more: “I look forward to the moment the final products are there and we can see how they are communicated and disseminated. It is important the sector thinks, “This is what we were looking for,” and that it meets their needs. We should avoid giving people the feeling that they have to do extra work to use or implement products and results from the Acceleration Plan in their daily educational practice. So make sure that your products are applicable in the field and throughout The Netherlands. ”
Eline: “Oh, and I hope delegations from other countries visit us and think, ‘We need this too!'”
What advice do you want to give to the Acceleration Teams?
Eline: “Different projects show different amounts of impact on students. It remains a challenge for zones to involve students in everything they do and to continue to test themselves by asking the question: “What are the benefits of this for students?” That is my main recommendation: use students’ creative and critical thinking skills to improve plans and projects to come.”
Use the creative and critical thinking power of students to arrive at better plans and projects.
Roos also emphasises the importance of involving students: “When I think about some teams, I wonder how much contact there is with students and lecturers. If that group only gets to see the final products, it might not fit their needs. It is nice if you can already generate enthusiasm among students and lecturers for the work of the zones. Students have a lot of ideas about how education can be improved and are eager to contribute. They just need to know that there is a place where they can make that contribution. Take the SURF Education Days. We arranged for a group of students to go there. They were very enthusiastic and enjoyed seeing all the developments surrounding digitalisation, and there are many more students who would like to see this.”
Students have a lot of ideas about how education can be improved and they want to contribute.
Eline also finds it important that the teams celebrate their successes. Eline: “Celebrating your success brings positive energy and it makes people want to celebrate with you in the future and become enthusiastic about the projects and products.” Roos also likes to see the energy of tackling it: “Don’t spend too much time on planning and thinking. Talk to students and lecturers, test on a small scale, and if something fails, you will learn from it.”
Any final words?
Eline: “Yes, take advantage of the opportunities of the pandemic, but remain critical about which aspects you do and do not want to take with you in the future. That needs to be thought about and discussed, a conversation that is perfect to conduct with students.”
Roos: “I would like to see institutions let go of the idea of competition and instead, focus on how they can work together and complement each other.”
After their eventful board year, it is time for the next step. Eline starts her job at Hiemstra & De Vries in Utrecht. Roos is going to write her thesis and will be finishing her master’s in Applied Ethics. We thank Eline and Roos for their efforts of last year and wish them both the best of luck in the future!