Online education in highschool & MBO: a growing emergency or easily solved?

Since March I have focused on supporting online education in Higher Ed. That does not mean I have no eyes for other sectors. I follow quite a few educators on Twitter, and I also have the experiences of my children, my friends and their friends. I can see the struggle, and I feel for all professionals in those fields. Times are hard, for all of us.

I think the major take away here is that previously there has been no investment in education innovation in regards to online learning in neither VO (highschool) nor MBO (community college). In part that is because of funding. I have had teachers and directors tell me only Higher Ed has the luxury to invest in studio’s, and, say, a Centre for Innovation. “Free money” from the ministery (vernieuwingsgelden) was thrown at HBO and WO, and the rest was not so lucky. I could argue against the characterization “free”, but I see the point. Other kinds of education were even more underfunded and now that comes back to haunt those in charge. Yes, VO and MBO are one step behind, at the very least.

Another take away however is that material produced by HE is in general Open Access, and generally spread through all kinds of generous training of other sectors. This has for a large part not been taken up by VO & MBO and this in part is on them. The biggest learnings are not applied, and they could so easily, provided they have the infrastructure which most institutes have.

The top five is not that difficult to define. Let me run you through them quickly.

  1. Re-use existing material also called open educational reasources. There is so much out there. Use it and provide your context in guidance to the material.
  2. Blended Learning: provide content (whether that is text, video, podcasts or anything else) asynchronically, and then use your live sessions for more indepth discussions of that material and ways to apply knowledge rather than sending it. You can continue to do this when we are back to face to face instruction….
  3. .. which means an activated classroom where students learn more, though they will have to get used to the system and likely will complain a lot about not getting passive lectures.
  4. Create a community out of your students. Socialize before, during and after class, creating the complete learning experience for your students to ,,,,
  5. collaborate together on higher level skills. Think asking them to meet peridically to work on something, with just the minimum of monitoring. Just a start and end.

It sounds simplified, but the MBO of my daughter actually is applying this and it seems to work, even though Corona has forced them to go fully online. The VO of my other daughter seems to struggle a bit more, but yet Teams are used for emergencies.

So I would like to end with this encouragement: don’t re-invent what is necessary, just copy paste from Higher Ed and translate only the tiniest bit for your students. You can do it.

2020: Annulus Horriblis or Annulus Mirablis?

I always knew that 2020 would be a year of reflection for me. It is one of those anniversaries you can mark on your calender decades in advance. Born in 1970 I have an easy way for people, including my children to keep track of how old I am, and so there was no avoiding 50 and really, why would I?

Now, counting in decades is not always a useful way of describing periods in one’s life. There are other markers along the path that may be more useful, such as graduation, the birth of children, new jobs etc. Still, I think 50 deserves special consideration, at the very least because unlike 40, most women I know are willing to acknowledge such a momentous ocassion. Meeting Sara. It is when you stop hiding and say, yes, I am older than yesterday and yet here I am, with all that I am.

As 2020 started I was full of optimism. I planned several holidays, and booked them in the university system to be efficient. The first one, a trip down memory lane in London with my son to celebrate his propedeuse for English Teacher, in retrospect was rather omniously predictive. In the last week of February we smiled at some people in the street wearing masks, mostly Asian visitors, and had a lovely high tea in the British Museum, saw a most wonderful Royal Stuarts Exhibition and, of course, some pints in the pub. I think it might be several years before either of us returns to this town close to our hearts.

By the time my second holiday kicked in, to celebrate the 18th birthday of my Freedom girl early May, we were all at home already since mid March. Easter had seen us doing a family pub quiz. This time I had help from some of my innovative co-workers so friends and family could celebate with us with a nice creative digital project with well wishes and pictures. We were making do. We were, against all hope, still expecting we’d be back to normal soon.

By the time summer came, and we escpaed to a small castle tower in the Ardennes for a week, nobody in my family was under any illusion of normality returning and instead we found ourselves a hiding place. We enjoyed the sun, the Belgium beers and a lot, a LOT of card and table top games. Yet, we also knew that my work would would extend the staying at home period till somewhere in 2021 and the kids too feared most of their learning would be online for the foreseable future.

Now it is Autumn and my fourth break, originally to celebrate Leids Ontzet and my birthday, both of which are now virtual and but a pale imitation of what could be, with a grim lining because my household is in self isolation, for the 2nd time. Being in touch with many young people has its drawbacks, bless ’em.

Yet, is it all doom and gloom? I must admit that my work has never been so exhilerating as this last year, with years of hard work, research and innovation coming to the rescue of my 445 year old Leiden University. We have explored online learning, platforms, trolling, data analytics, virtual meetings & seminars and more in the past 7 years and finally, the campus was ready for it. We have all worked ourselves to death, I’ve written my fingers blue, but it has been very, very satisfying to be of help and getting that work recognized by the university. I even got to attend the Opening of the Academic Year as you can see from the glorious pictures on my site.

It helps, I think, if during a crisis you have something worthwhile to do, keeping people first in a digital age. Not to mention the fact that tech developments now allow for online communities to form at our university, opening whole new levels of digital transformation, efficiency and cohesion. We started the Sustainability Network and even the Luscious Leiden cooking club. For somebody working as community manager that is exciting! People are connecting and even collaborating. It will bring us further.

It is a year full of new chances, already apparant or still to be sprung upon us. One upcoming chance at least is clear in my mind: the road back to hope in the USA, my original object of study. I foresee a few days off from work in November just to keep track of history there. I always keep in mind what prof Lammers told class “Always keep close attention on presidential election news, it will save you a lot of work when you have to catch up.” Indeed. The T. wil remain the T. but the end of this presidency can’t come soon enough.

Speaking of history, think of how we will look back on this year decades from now. In 2020 we will have survived a very memorable (if not perhaps wonderful) year that historians will write about for a long time and which you might tell your grandchildren about. I hope for future historians you have all kept diaries, logging your actions and most importantly, your thoughts. Donate them to museums and archives, to prosperity, to historians and your descendants. May the new decade be the dawn of new social movements, the end of neo liberalism and substantial action for climate change.

As I celebrate my last holiday of this year, three months from now, I hope you will raise your glass with me and say goodbye to 2020 with all its horrible lows and wonderful highs. Another decade. Another road full of discoveries.

Starting a blog?

Never easy, especially as I have a ready publishing place at the website of my work. However, there is enough to keep my occupied over the years, so I will in share some thoughts here from time to time, on writing, on gaming and on going green.