‘It was immediately clear how the study advance funds would be used’
Proximity. Motivational. Practice-oriented. These three words offer a concise summary of the Marketing degree programme’s Educational Vision. With COVID-19 as a catalyst, the degree programme has used the past year to develop a rough outline for an Educational Vision 2.0. This vision centres on intensive student guidance. The study advance funds will help this refined vision take on real-world form, according to team leader Sushy Mangat.
Long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, the Marketing programme was working enthusiastically to design and implement its educational vision, NAP. Sushy Mangat: “This vision centres on proximity and studying in a motivational and practice-oriented way. Proximity: we never want to lose sight of our students. Students should be able to reach the lecturers easily as well. It is also important that they can get in touch with one another when they want to. Motivational: because we give daily assignments, active participation becomes an urgent necessity. In addition, our cumulative assessment (see below) was promoting motivational study even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The practice-oriented nature of our education is self-evident. During the first semester, first-year students are given assignments that deal with hypothetical situations. In the second semester, they start their own businesses and by the second year they are already taking part in internships.”
Adjusting the course of development
How has COVID-19 impacted this didactic model? And what role have the study advance funds played in that development? These are two questions that Sushy Mangat can put into perspective straight away. “It was not the case that we got hold of the study advance funds and then thought: hey, what kind of great things can we do with this money? On the contrary, thanks to COVID-19, we were forced to adjust the course of an educational development that had been set in motion before the pandemic. To that end, the extra bit of funding came in handy. We immediately knew how it would be used.”
Emphasis on the group process
“Suddenly, we had to switch gears from offering great education on campus to providing great education online. And all kinds of questions became relevant overnight, like how to organise that online education. How to prevent students from dropping out. And how to make sure they earn enough credits to maintain their study progress. In that situation, you’re concerned with how to realise your educational vision and didactic model under new circumstances and with all kinds of limitations. We were certain that we wanted to offer the students intensive guidance. And that we wanted to keep offering in-person teaching, no matter what.”
Normally, students in the Marketing programme are given a project assignment at the beginning of the day. They complete the assignment and receive feedback from the lecturer the same day. “That feedback is aimed at how the students do their assignment. At the process. They learn more from this kind of process feedback than when the lecturer focuses only on the final product. Here in the Marketing programme, we were accustomed to using cumulative exams relatively often. In other words, we designed each exam to include what students learned in the previous block.”
Now, the degree programme has had to abandon that cumulative assessment. The emphasis on the group process, the daily assignments and the afternoon feedback, on the other hand, are still in place. The classes of 28 students have been replaced by smaller groups of 12 students each. Each class previously had a mentor as first point of contact, as well as two coaches who support the students in the group process. Now, every group has a tutor who both provides the need-to-know information and coaches the group process.
Sushy: “In the first semester of this academic year, the students attended in-person education for two half-days each week. Due to the tightened COVID-related measures, unfortunately, we had to replace that physical teaching with online classes. One half-day per week is reserved for the tutor meeting. And during the other half-day, specialist lecturers provide more in-depth teaching.”
Enriching the student experience
We asked two students how they feel about the modified structure of the degree programme. They are satisfied with the tutor meetings and in-depth teaching sessions. What they don’t like is that those class sessions now have to be held online again. If you ask first-year student Laura Kruijdenberg, the physical teaching sessions were an enrichment of her student experience. “Online, you study alone or with a small group. Even though I am absolutely happy with the group I’m in now, I still really want to go back to having class on campus as usual. I sit at my computer in my room, working hard every day. But for what? I never see other people. It would really help my ability to concentrate if I could visit the campus again.”
‘I plan to complete my foundation programme, no matter what’
Fellow first-year Amien Assaf is in complete agreement. He, too, looks back fondly on the in-person tutor meetings. “Of course the tutor had prepared something for each session. But he was always willing to get off-topic when we had questions. He’s still willing to do that online now, of course. That’s not the point. But I miss actually going to class. You just retain so much less from online teaching than you do from being in a physical classroom. When you’re free to do whatever you want, it’s a lot harder to concentrate. It takes personal discipline. I know I can do it, yeah. Because I plan to complete my foundation programme, no matter what.”
Like Laura and Amien, Sushy Mangat hopes that in-person classes will be able to resume as soon as possible. “The well-being of our students is extremely important to us. We had already established procedures for monitoring that well-being. And by deploying the study advance funds, we have been able to refine those procedures. In the past year, we have gained new insights into alternative ways to organise education. Through experimentation, we will be able to realise an NAP 2.0 that is good for the Marketing programme and good for the students.”