15 April 2020

Honours programme’s EDLAB: online is also fine

“Students are so flexible and creative”, Fabienne Crombach concludes. The coordinator of the EDLAB honours programmes for master’s and bachelor’s students (Premium and Honours+) is impressed by the adaptability of students. And thanks to online tools such as Tumblr, Zoom and Skype, they’re making the best of it together. Although, for some assignments, this is nearly impossible.

Honours+ is for second-year bachelor’s students who also participate in the honours programme in their own faculty. In teams with members from different faculties, they address challenging issues derived from the Dutch Research Agenda. Take, for instance, 'effects of the 24-hour economy on health', or 'the balance between responsibility and freedom'. Coincidentally, these issues are also very relevant during this crisis...

A slightly lighter programme for bachelor’s students

Fabienne Crombach: “This academic year, 87 students are participating in Honours+. Since education is being offered online, they too only see each other online, which in itself is going very well. We do notice that they need a clear structure and, where possible, simplification of the programme. Their regular education is now demanding a lot from them. Many students have gone home and have different priorities, or are in different time zones. That is why, for example, we have a video pitch as an alternative for the big closing ceremony of Honours+, which would have actually been on 14 May. We don't give them difficult replacement assignments, but we do make sure that all of the established learning goals are met.”

Ninety master's students in twenty teams

Premium is the EDLAB programme for motivated master's students who are especially interested in interdisciplinary projects. “This programme also looks very different than it normally does”, says Crombach. The ninety students who are participating are working together in twenty teams on assignments for twenty different clients. For example, ING is having Premium students analyse the social housing market and healthcare sector in search of opportunities and threats. Or UWC Maastricht is asking to have its impact on the region measured. Crombach: “In these times, these are difficult subjects for finding people who can work with you on them. Take, for instance, the foundation Mens Achter de Patiënt, which asked Premium students to come up with a platform through which they can help patients connect with one another. Of course, this is also complicated these days. The scopes of the projects need to be adjusted in consultation with the clients, as does the way in which data will be obtained. On the other hand, it also creates interesting new perspectives and opportunities for clients, which can now be identified with the help of the Premium students.”

Taking care of each other

A large percentage of the Premium students also went back to their home countries, and team meetings are now only taking place online. “You would be amazed at how students and their supervisors from UM, as well as clients, are now mainly concerned with caring for each other. Together, we are now looking at topics such as online team building, celebrating team successes online, keeping everyone engaged—and all that on an ad hoc basis.” (text continues below photo)

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Online video presentations

Online midterm presentation

The master’s students started in January and mid-March was the midterm presentation. Now that this was no longer possible to do in person, the teams each made a video to present their project and its progress to their fellow students and clients. They posted the video in Tumblr, in which the progress of all of the teams’ projects was already being tracked anyway. “We had to set it up like that all of a sudden, but we’re actually very satisfied. Students indicated in the evaluation that although they were looking forward to getting together, the alternative set-up of the midterms sparked their creativity, led to useful insights from fellow students, and strengthened team spirit.”

A completely different Premium than before

Each student is required to attend a certain number of workshops before the end of May, for example on public speaking, time management or design thinking. These are now also offered online, mainly via Zoom. Crombach: “Unfortunately, we also had to cancel the closing ceremony at the end of May, which is normally a big party where students get their certificate. Consideration is still being given to an alternative, possibly in October, at the same time as the graduation ceremonies for which some students are still planning to come to Maastricht. “All in all, it's a very different Premium than before, but within the community I notice that they are taking good care of each other. Everyone is very flexible and is trying to make the best of it and that’s nice to see”, concludes Crombach.

By: Femke Kools