Arjen Heijstek is an employee at the educational development department at the VU. He was one of the key figures in switching from offline to online education at the VU during the first weeks of the corona crisis. Among other things, he organized faculty online consulting hours to help teachers and other employees navigate the digital world of online teaching. “Every morning I organized consulting hours together with a student assistant. Via Zoom, I sent an Outlook invitation to lecturers at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
“I tried to be there for the ordinary teacher who found it just a little harder to make good use of all digital resources. Initially it was difficult to get in touch with teachers, but soon questions and assignments flooded in.”
Arjen was also involved in the preparations for the new semester. “We wanted to invest in a blended system. I have always been an advocate of blended learning, but I would have preferred to achieve this in smaller steps.” According to Arjen there was a lack of a clear structure in the early days, both on the policy side and on the education side. “Teachers did not know what they wanted. They had to rethink questions such as: ‘How do I put my subject together?’; ‘What do I expect from students and when do I expect this?’; and above all: ‘How am I going to test?’. During online meetings, whether these are meetings or lectures, it is very easy to get distracted. That’s why there must be anchor points that provide structure and support.”
By now we have been in the corona crisis for a while and, to some extent, we are getting used to the current situation. Like others, its took Arjen some time in to adapt to the new situation. Thanks to his specialist knowledge, Arjen was also able to take up the challenge to contribute to an online system that works as well as possible, in which people can connect with each other. “It remains busy, but in a positive sense” he says. “Teachers contact me to improve their education. I provide a workshop every week, especially at FSW and I still do the consulting hours every day. Online test forms play a major role at the moment. We are looking at how we can best test online and how to work with Testvision”.
To the question what Arjen hopes to keep seeing, he answers the following: “When everything is over, I hope that people have stepped over the digital threshold they used to experience. I hope that more use will be made of the digital possibilities and that they will be properly incorporated in education. I also think that working from home will be much more normal. I also think I will be at home more often.”
Finally, Arjen wants to tell teachers that providing structure and feedback is very important. “Students could use that in this day and age. Make use of the tools that are available, like giving audio or video feedback in Canvas or using the program FeedbackFruits and get in touch with your students. These digital tools also allow you to look at education in a completely different way. You’ll be able to map out what students are doing while learning, and as a teacher you’ll be able to provide more focused support.”