“Methodology has become considerably more dynamic”
The Methodology module component is a staple for many students. They need this foundation for the remainder of their education or when they are setting up their bachelor's or master's thesis themselves. Instructor Hans Heerkens teaches Methodology. He found a way to make the course more attractive to students (and for himself).
“The idea came from Martine,” Hans explains, pointing towards education specialist Martine ten Voorde-Ter Braack. “She suggested examining the possibilities for blended learning. We wanted to provide a good combination of online and offline education, so that it would be more motivational for both students and the lecturer.” The result: no more Methodology lectures, with the exception of an introductory lecture. Students now watch short microlectures: videos in which Hans explains the material.
Short, shorter, shortest
More than fifteen of Hans' microlectures can now be found on the University of Twente Vimeo account. The videos are recorded in one of the university's professional studios. The maximum length of the videos is ten minutes - much shorter than a standard lecture. “It is difficult to focus your attention if the videos are much longer,” Martine explains. “That is why I looked together with Hans at what topics we could make videos of. I modified and shortened the PowerPoint slides that Hans used during his lectures, adding less text and more movement. Getting right to the point in short videos is important.”
Grasp of the materials
Students view the microlectures whenever it is convenient for them. Then, they work at home on assignments that are posted on Blackboard, instead of working during seminars. As a result, during the work seminars, they are able to ask specific questions about the assignments. “This allows them to gain an even better grasp of the material,” Hans says. “Because even if the video is clear to you, it might be a different story when you get started with the material yourself.”
Assessing each other
Another innovation is that students in the working group assess each other’s work. “They then improve each other’s work based on the comments from their fellow students, so that they can get back to work on the materials,” Martine explains. “Moreover, this allows them to practise giving each other feedback and they learn what good assessment criteria are.”
So, no more lectures? “No, just an introductory lecture,” Hans confirms. “We have held a few Q&A lectures. Students had the opportunity to submit their questions on Blackboard before the lecture. If nobody submitted a question, the lecture was cancelled. At first, students routinely attended the question hour. That was very interactive. Students asked a lot of questions about the material. The students enjoyed this particular method, as did I.”
Better next time
Later in the course, fewer students showed up at the question hour. Hans attributes that, among other things, to the inconvenient scheduling (the only class on Friday) and conflicting priorities of students. “They postponed studying for Methodology until shortly before the exams. Which is a familiar story; I did the same thing when I was a student. But, as a result, they didn't notice until right before the exam just how complicated the material was.” For that reason, together with the students, Hans and Martine looked at how they could make the course even more appealing. Students asked for a voluntary test that would give them an idea of the exam’s level of difficulty. “Maybe this will allow us to better motivate students,” Hans says.
First-year Business and IT student Alexander Menne, 19, was among the first students to take the Methodology module component in its new form. “I sometimes have trouble focusing in full lecture rooms. These micro lectures are short, which I like. In addition, you can watch the lectures whenever it suits you, which means you can organize your own time. You can watch the videos again if you need to. I have heard from dyslexic fellow students that they appreciate having these videos, to complement the course book.” Alexander found the assignments quite useful. He never attended the question seminar. “It was nice to know they offered us the opportunity to do so, but I never had any questions about the subject matter. The book is interesting and quite easy to understand.” In the end, he passed the exam on his first attempt, scoring a 7 out of 10, so he is pleased with this new approach. “I wouldn’t mind having more courses taught this way.”
Setting up the course is so much fun, Hans and Martine explain with excitement. But it takes a lot of time and it is demanding for you as a lecturer. “You have to be willing to think and be willing to teach outside the box. I now have much more one-on-one contact in the lectures, which suits me much better,” Hans says. “The first module has now been completed and the students are pleased with the new teaching method. The module component has become much more dynamic. For that reason, we have also recorded a series of lectures for the second module. Martine has also taken a great deal of work off of my hands with the next series. The new courses start in February and we will be applying the lessons that we learned in the first module. I want to try to integrate the Methodology course even better into the overall curriculum.”
Would you like to know more about ICT in the field of education? Or are you a lecturer and would you like to get started using blended learning yourself? Visit the website of Technology Enhanced Learning and Teaching (TELT).