Wouter Ernst: ‘That’s why I completely changed my course’
Wouter Ernst was looking for a way to get the students in his first year course of ‘Introduction to Constitutional and Administrative Law’ come to his lectures better prepared as well as engage them more interactively. Wouter Ernst: ’’That’s why I completely changed the course into a more blended version.’’
Wouter: ’’Our solution to better prepare our students was to provide them with a weekly assessment prior to the work group classes. It is practically impossible to organise a location for such a weekly test for 900 first year students. Because of my experience with Remindo, a digital testing application, I was willing to use this on a weekly basis for a digital ‘take-home’ assignment. The assignment was subsequently checked in Remindo per work group by the twelve work group lecturers. While we think that checking and, in particular, discussing the assignment could be done in a more practical way, we had a positive assessment about the Remindo application. It never failed or was inaccessible, which were problems some of us were a little apprehensive about in advance.
In addition to a better preparation of our students, we also wished to add a more interactive element to the course. This year, we decided on a FAQ lecture. Based on the weekly assessments, the students could send us their questions about the specific subject matter. In this way, we created a dialogue with space to provide more in-depth knowledge, clarification or context. A – digital – dialogue which does not happen in the lectures because of the large numbers of students or in the work groups because of the high level of information density. Students sent us questions straight after the test via Blackboard or email. From 1 PM, we were ready with a small, weekly changing team to compile the questions into a fluid, short tutorial, often supported by videos or websites. This tutorial was recorded on camera the very same day and from 6 PM made available online via Lecturenet. Creating the FAQ lectures was a positive challenge and generated positive dynamics in our team of lecturers.
The complete course has been rated a 4.2 out of 5, which we are very happy about. The students were positive about the online assignments and the majority agrees that these help them to come to the lectures better prepared. The FAQ lectures received a more mixed response. Some of the points of improvement referred to the timing of these lectures in their weekly schedules. We are currently discussing how to improve the individual elements of the course as well as their interdependence in order to offer next year’s students an even better course. Digitalisation will only ever work if the reason for it has an added value.