Innovative education in EU Policymaking and Implementation
Feeling nostalgic, Professor in Public Administration Science Bernard Steunenberg explains how some years ago he would occasionally show a TV broadcast to his students, first removing the videotape from its big box and putting it in a VHS player. Today, a student from Maastricht, sitting in the train on his way to Leiden, can watch short videos (‘knowledge clips') on his smartphone in which Steunenberg addresses a particular topic. This is part 3 of a series of articles about lecturers on innovation in education.
Short instructional videos, literature, in-depth videos, weekly three-hour discussions about the subject matter, thinking up an individual research project, gathering and understanding data, writing a report, digital exams: the EU Policymaking & Implementation course is a paragon of innovation in education.
Time and energy
Professor Steunenberg sees many advantages to this new structure. As a lecturer, you can anticipate current affairs better and explain topics in more detail. Students actively work with the subject matter and there’s a lot of opportunity to discuss work together. The disadvantage is that the preparation costs time and energy. Fortunately, Steunenberg was able to re-use much of the material of his successful online EU Policymaking and Implementation MOOC.
In the present academic year, the topic of the revamped course is air quality. The entire process is dealt with: from the decision-making process in Brussels to the modifications requested by citizens. Steunenberg interviewed those concerned from other member states via Skype. ‘You become aware of the different ways in which you can view something, but also the different problems. In Austria, for instance, there are entirely different problems since people live in valleys surrounded by high mountains. As a consequence, when there is no wind, the pollution can hang in the air in such a valley for a long time.’
Students research how a Dutch municipality deals with the EU guidelines. What is the problem? How is it tackled and what is the effect? Does money play a role, or the composition of the council? And what happens when citizens want a different solution? Steunenberg: ‘In this kind of situation, it all becomes very specific. When we talk about dualism, in which the local council has to follow a particular strategy in tackling air quality problems, many students want to know: What is that strategy? Terms don’t continue to be empty shells; this kind of approach gives them meaning: you see how it works in practice.’
‘Only do this if you are really keen on it and if you enjoy the subject matter. If you do it to save time, it probably won’t go well.’