Blog by Emiel van Puffelen, 4TU.CEE project leader WUR

Higher education organisations have been forced into online education by the corona pandemic. The results of the “chase the sunlight” online conference of CDIO in November 2020 show that universities and polytechnics worldwide were able to make that shift rapidly. In general problems and unwanted consequences are reported in combination with a “but we could do it” message.  Some of the remarks seem to indicate options for change in post-pandemic education design as well.

In the last months of 2020, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) conducted a small-scale survey to determine what education innovation topics are requested by lecturers and other university staff for 2022. It is hoped that from 2022 onwards the pandemic will have less influence on education and that the lessons learned during the pandemic can be used in combination with other ideas to improve education.

Photo by: Marte Hofsteenge

Ideas for education design from 2022 onwards

The survey response was limited to 17 persons, that gave 75 free-text reactions in total. Also, 85 Likert scale scores on the importance of topics were given. Even with this small number of persons, this combination provided a wealth of information.

Most responses were on balance between online and face to face teaching. In general, the respondents see options for more online education than before the pandemic. But they stress the importance of the role of face to face and campus education. That is not much different from pre-pandemic opinions as described by Van Puffelen, van Berkum and Diederen (2018).

The ideas on more online education are not merely about flipping the classroom. Flipping the classroom often focuses on exchanging two forms of Teaching and Learning Activities (TLA’s). Most ideas in the survey responses require optimising the complete combination of TLA’s geared towards higher learning goals and more active and personalised learning. This can be achieved by selecting TLA’s on their characteristics towards types of learning and by creating a smart design using various kinds of TLA’s as described by Van Puffelen (2017).

In the years before the pandemic, the reported education innovation at 4TU was more on course than on programme level (Van Puffelen & Vonk, 2020). In 2020, the pandemic shift towards online education could only be done by quick changes on course level. That might still be on the responders’ minds as quite some remarks were on course level.

But there were remarks on programme level as well. One respondent requested assistance on programme innovation. And many comments were about learning goals at the programme level for the skills needed in the future. The ideas for those learning goals differ amongst the respondents. Some feel that the recent introduction of more general skills education has already caused an insufficient focus on academic skills and the connection between research and education. Whilst others see a clear need to focus more on other skills, including IT and a value-creating mind-set as seen in challenged based and entrepreneurial education.

In the present situation at WUR, there are courses on general skills. And all master students have creative academic consultancy type education. In addition, there are student challenges and options resulting from an effective entrepreneurial education policy. This resulted in some “this is enough” reactions. In general, there seems to be a need for a new balance and integrated plan for all types of skills mentioned above. Research into the existing situation might be a good first step for that.

This survey is a first step to add post-pandemic lessons to the publications on education design for new challenges, in the ResearchGate project. In 2021 publications combining information of all 4TU, CDIO and other sources will be added.


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