Marijke Leijdekkers from VU Amsterdam
Going all out: the VU Amsterdam was fully aware of this when the COVID-19 crisis broke out. Numerous initiatives sprang up like mushrooms. But there was no time to reflect on online education. “That’s an essential next step,” Marijke Leijdekkers says, teacher training coordinator at the VU and advisor education & IT.
“In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, you saw that institutions started giving workshops in an automatic reflex. New websites were created. There was no time to develop a vision of what good online education is. But in the end, we need that vision, for teacher professionalisation, it’s a success factor.”
Marijke is also involved in teacher professionalisation within the university. She outlines how there was a collaboration with the University of Amsterdam after the lockdown. “They quickly set up a website with all kinds of tips and tricks. The VU was allowed to use it. In the meantime, the VU had quickly set up Q&A moments for staff.” Teachers could call in every day to ask questions about technology or didactics. Then came the workshops, organised from the Network Teaching and Learning (NT&L) centre. The LEARN Academy, aimed at the professionalisation of teachers, also participated in this.
The workshops were announced on the website, within the Canvas environment, in newsletters, and via social media. “In the beginning, there were about 30 participants. But at times, there were more than 100. In order to reach as many people as possible, we adjusted the titles of the workshops. A workshop about Zoom became, for example, ‘What do I have to do to activate students? in online education?’ Such a title appeals to more people.”
Finding solutions yourself
During the workshops, participants also got to work. “Because if you only give a presentation, the knowledge hardly lingers. So people were given assignments. Then they all had to work together in digital breakout rooms about on how to design online education. This way, teachers found solutions for their own education.”
In addition to the workshops, the website and the Q&A sessions, there were intervention groups. “Teachers could register for the intervention groups. All sorts of things were shared. From the feeling of panic and ‘how do I get this done in time?’, to ‘you can solve this in no time with this tool.’ People gave each other tips. That was a great way to professionalise.”
But was there structural attention for didactics? Marijke didn’t let go of that question. “During Q&A sessions, I noticed we were very busy with explaining which buttons to hit. While good online education can’t exist without didactics.”
A didactic counter where teachers could call filled the gap. “This allowed us to better meet the teacher’s needs.” Because that was a question that was central to boards, managers and support services: how can we facilitate our teachers as well as possible within the limitations we have? It is a starting point that remains important, says Marijke. “It may no longer be about teachers who were faced with this challenge in the beginning. It is also about the new teachers who are starting up within our university and who have to shape their teaching.”
Make the balance
Now the turbulent period is over, she thinks it’s important to take stock. “To evaluate what we want to keep and what we still need to work on. And then we have to make plans to do so.” She hopes the vision of good online education will be clear to everyone and will be taken into practice in all kinds of areas. She cites inclusion as an example. “How do you ensure a student is seen? That’s a very important theme for the university. You can find a lot of information about it, you can follow workshops. But then the next step is to actually apply the knowledge in real life. ” This can also take shape online, Marijke says. “Online, for example, students come into contact with other students they otherwise wouldn’t talk to.”
Interview: Hester Otter
This is part 6 in a series of a total of 7 interviews with participants in the Professional development zone. In the interviews, they share practical experience and inspiration for supporting teachers in educational innovation with ICT.
Tip from Marijke:
Give teachers more development time. In order to make the most of the opportunities for good online education, lecturers need more development time. To think about how to give substance to this theme. And which tools to use for this. “But you see that lecturers are currently being overcharged. Performing in this way cannot be sustained. Without sufficient development time you fall back on the reflex you had in the beginning. From making another video or an online lecture. is important for the quality of online education.”