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Best practices

Activating working methods

How do you engage students in times of corona? Sara Brandellero, co-chair of Latin American Studies, created assignments that require a wide range of skills. And the result was beautiful.

Read the interview with Sara Brandellero Challenging the digital natives.

Digital examination

N=300, T=120, Proctoring: No, Remindo: Yes

Online Philosophy of Science exam, with the option of collaboration.


Due to the covid crisis, the Philosophy of Science for the Humanities examination could not take place physically. But how do you offer an online multiple choice exam for hundreds of students without encouraging all kinds of cheating?


The two forms of cheating that could easily take place are using books/literature and consulting with other students. Of course, you can try to somewhat discourage this by increasing the time pressure and randomizing the order of the questions, but that doesn't get to the root of the problem. Instead, I have chosen to embrace the new situation. I have made the exam an open book exam, with fewer questions that delve deeper into the texts the students have read. And I gave the students the opportunity to work together with up to three other students. Everyone writes their own exam, but they were allowed to consult with three others; and on the exam form they were asked to mention those other students as well.


Cheating is prevented. Students come into contact with the study material again in an educational way, by discussing it with each other. The questions can delve deeper and become more interpretative. And the grades were not very different from usual.


Of course, you have to think very carefully about the questions you ask. Anything the students can look up within a minute is not a good question - they really need to show some form of insight.


I was inspired by the clip Flipping the Class Exams by Frans-Willem Korsten. (You can watch the video in the Videoportal).

Victor Gijsbers 

Flipping the classroom

The challenge: take three hundred students from widely varying fields and teach them the basics of academic thinking in twelve lessons. Impossible? Professor Ben Arps and his team of tutors did it. A flood of positive student evaluations was the result.

Read the interview with Ben Arps on Flipping the classroom.

In Dan Levy's article The Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Balancing Act you can think carefully about the structure of your online education and prepare yourself with two simple questions:

  1. How do you divide the content of your course into synchronous and asynchronous educational material?
  2. How can I learn to use asynchronous teaching material so that live lecturing becomes better?

The article contains good examples of how you can split the educational content. Dan Levy speaks of the 'laundry test' for asynchronous activities. A student recently told him that if he could fold the laundry during an online lecture, he would watch the recording of the lecture and not participate live.
By building in a step between the asynchronous learning and the live session with students, you can find out more about the students' progress and what concepts they are struggling with. As a lecturer, you can also use this step to allow students to prepare the asynchronous material properly. In this way you can also adapt your live lecture to the students' reactions.
Dan Levy's general tip: start small, change a few lectures first and see if it works.

Online education

Do you know what a chatblast is? Do you encourage casual encounters between students online, now that physical chatting after class is not possible? Or do you create a playlist to make waiting until a video lecture begins more exciting? On 12 November, Ionica Smeets, professor Science Communication at W&N, gave a surprising webinar about 'communicating during strange times'. She offers very useful and tangible tips for online education in the context of the new series Nuffic meets...... which she based, among other things, on Dan Levy's article The Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Balancing Act and her own experiences during her lectures.

Ionica Smeets' webinar consists of three parts of about 20 minutes. The first part (starting at 24 minutes) is about science communication, in the second part (starting at 40 minutes) Ionica offers very useful and tangible tips for online education and stimulating interaction with students. The final part is about communicating in an international context.

On the last subject, 'Internationalisation', she is optimistic. Look at what the current situation does make possible. She offers tips on how to collaborate internationally, also on education, with researchers and lecturers from all over the world. Are you already thinking about your lectures and your course in the second semester? If so, invite an international guest lecturer who can offer an interesting (perhaps non-Western) perspective on the content of your subject by having the guest lecturer teach an online lecture.

The link to this webinar will remain available until the end of December 2020.

The webinar consists of three parts

  1. Science Communication (starting at 24 minutes)
  2. Online education: good practices (starting at 40 minutes)
  3. Internationalisation: what is possible during the corona pandemic

Good practices

What is it?

Online multimedia "textbook": The study material consists of twelve digital multimedia lessons with plenty of variety: texts, video-talks by the author/lecturer, case studies, reading material, interactive knowledge checks. The academic reading material is embedded in the lessons. These articles are by definition difficult. In prior, engaging case studies - short documentaries, interviews, news articles, web pages - academic issues and theoretical concepts are implicitly addressed. All of this is offered online in a format accessible on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

What was the occasion?

Threefold: (1) The lack of a general textbook for area studies. (2) The need for case studies to bridge the gap between students' knowledge and interests on the one hand and the abstract topics and concepts of area studies on the other. (3) The need for online education (Covid-19). Make a virtue of necessity!

How do you go about it?

Think in terms of Generation Z, but do not make any concessions regarding the end goal: academic reading, writing, speaking, observing, analysing. Use Rise Articulate, Kaltura Capture and reliable and interesting materials on the web.

The advantage

The learning material is varied and divided into short pieces. It is accessible 24/7.

Assessment of the work format: number of stars (max 5):



Make sure that each part requires 5 to 20 minutes of concentrated work. (The reading material - academic articles - is an exception.) But avoid disorientation: indicate time and again how the section in question fits into the whole.

And: start, as an experiment, with a lesson or two. Just like making a textbook, this is very fun to do, but a lot of work.

Technique used:

- See "How do you go about it".

Number of students:

- 268, from 14 different BA and pre-Master's programmes


- one semester, 12 lessons


- Online in 2020/21, hybrid expected in 2021

Link: - Lesson 6 from the course: <https://rise.articulate.com/share/mNnMglbz-EdQfDRHvL1HCrlLHUCsYQIi#>

Support enabled:

- Grant provided by ECOLe: use of student assistant in designing the case studies

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