Making education more flexible

Action plan

Four student routes for flexible higher education

This zone is working on making education more flexible in time, pace, place and programme. We do this based on four student routes:

  1. “Own pace”, where the student follows a study programme at their own pace (either accelerating or slowing down);
  2. “Off the beaten track”, where the student can study outside of their own study programme, faculty, or institution;
  3. “MyDiploma”, in which the student determines the content of the study programme;
  4. “Modular studying”, where the student registers for modules of a study programme and not for a complete study programme.

21 institutions are currently participating in our zone with different visions and projects in the field of flexible education. To keep the complex multidisciplinary issue manageable, we’ve developed the four student routes as a conceptual representation of flexibility in education. These routes are a starting point for a number of projects. In the summary of the action plan below, we reflect where we have ended up and outline the goals for 2021, bearing in mind the goals for 2023, the end date of the acceleration plan. Would you like to see the complete action plan? Send an e-mail to communicatie@versnellingsplan.nl.

Het plan

Activities 2020

Looking back at 2020

With the arrival of COVID-19, a lot of processes have been disrupted for higher education in the Netherlands. This has caused movement in the Flexibilisation zone. In the first half of 2020, the four newly formed working groups started with an inventory of the themes that play a role for the respective working group. Topics that required output were identified and work started on them. In 2020, the following intermediate products were realised:

  • Blog post on flexible study and regulation from the OER working group.
  • Publication “Impact of flexible student routes on educational logistics” by the Technology and Organisation working group in collaboration with the VU Amsterdam.
  • Publication detailing the didactic aspects of the “Self-paced” route, by the Working Group on Educational Issues.
  • Publication on the possibilities of flexible education within the current legislation and regulations with regard to external quality assurance by the Quality Issues working group.

Furthermore, the following publications and activities initiated by the zone took place:

  • Opinion piece on the law on higher education and scientific research published by the core team on Scienceguide.
  • Article: ‘Flexible education increases the chance of success’.
  • The Challenge Day in which suppliers of student information systems were challenged to show whether acceleration and deceleration are possible. Short conclusion: more is already possible than we initially thought.
  • A Futures Thinking workshop was held at SURF for inspiration.
Goals for 2021

From projects to publications

The zone is working on the following plans in 2021:

Projects

  • Microcredentials: from the central organisations for universities, the zone has been commissioned to develop a plan for a pilot for a micro credentialing offering in collaboration with other stakeholders. Part of this is the requirement to develop a proposal for quality assurance. The pilot is scheduled to start at the end of 2021 and is open to all higher education institutions.
  • Project Student Mobility Continues. We expect a start in May/June 2021. Meanwhile, three other institutions are also planning to enter the zone and the pilot: the LDE connection. In addition, some universities have shown interest. The project will continue to share knowledge with the participating institutions of the Flexible education zone in 2021.

In development

  • MijnDiploma: within the framework of the TUe/WUR/UU alliance, a first outline has been made of this route: a proposal of a transdisciplinary master’s degree, based on challenge-based learning. In discussions with students and administrators, it appears a completely ‘free’ route is still difficult for many to imagine. We’re now choosing to give free routes a first step/advance via minors and electives. To this end, we are also working on cross-institutional portfolios around current themes, where students can put together a route for a greater or lesser part of their program.
  • Research into learning communities/own pace continues and will be completed this year.

Publications

  • Working groups: in 2021 the three cross-institutional working groups will continue their work and deliver an interim product before the summer, and then another one before the end of the year.
  • Fact sheet student needs for flexible education: in collaboration with the national student councils, ISO and LSVb create an overview of existing research on student wishes and needs for flexible education. That’ll make it easier to demonstrate the importance to third parties.
  • Higher education landscape overview 2030: a blueprint will be created to use as a discussion document to move forward. The goal’s to connect the various national infrastructure projects to make steps towards a student central information architecture. This is in collaboration with SURF, Studielink, HORA, HOSA, among others.
  • Impact flexible student routes will be used as a basis to organize a webinar in collaboration with SURF’s SIG Education Logistics.

In addition, by 2021 all zone members will be working on flexibility projects within their own institution and concrete goals will be set for this.

Working method

Institutions commit to a flexible student route

Within the zone, we’ll have six plenary meetings in 2021. During these meetings, there is room for exchange and intervision. The members of the zone will provide input for the various discussion tables in which we are involved on a national level from the core team. This input can be collected both during the plenary meetings and in the working groups or separate theme meetings, for example in a separate meeting on vision creation for micro-credentialing.

All participating institutions are involved in at least one working group and have committed to projects/pilots on at least one of the four student pathways (as reflected in the institutions’ plans of action).

The working method of this zone is agile, where no fixed programme plan is written until 2023, but where the course is continuously monitored.

Goals for 2023

Making flexible educatin possible

The following goals have been formulated:

  • At a political and administrative level, based on the experiences of the experiments and field labs, a conversation is held about the necessary steps to make flexible education possible on an even larger scale. Possibly microcredentialling have been introduced into the system.
  • There is a plethora of current flexible and personalised teaching practices at participating institutions and beyond.
  • There is a working national infrastructure that allows students to enrol in a course at another institution without administrative barriers.