New Approach to Learning an "Opportunity to Excel", Wittenborg President Tells Staff

Hybrid Learning Set to Be Norm at Wittenborg in New Academic Year

Hybrid learning – a mix of online and classroom sessions – will become the new norm in the coming academic year and Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences plans to excel in it. This was the message from Wittenborg President Peter Birdsall to staff as they prepare to continue delivering quality education to new and current students despite the looming presence of  COVID-19 around the world.

While Birdsall would normally deliver his message during the annual general staff meeting just before classes commence at the start of a new academic year, this time it was done via email. The annual teachers meeting did, however, continue in a semblance of normality with many teachers attending in person – while observing the national corona regulations – while others tuned in from remote locations.

Essential to Offer Students "Worthwhile Experience"

And what will definitely continue are in-person classes along with virtual classes, Birdsall assured staff. "Wittenborg’s key characteristic is providing young international people and Dutch people who have an international outlook a higher education that is specifically experience based.  We cannot simply switch all of our programmes online, and we also cannot tell our students who have arrived from all parts of the globe that it’s ‘nice to see them’, but they ‘have to study from their student rooms’. It’s essential for us that we can offer, to at least a small number of students who wish to study in school, a worthwhile experience.

"For that reason, it is lucky that at this moment we are able to start the new academic year with an approach to teaching and learning known as ‘hybrid’. This means that there are three ways in which a student can study and learn and complete their modules.

"One opportunity will be for students who are in the Netherlands to attend class. Whilst attending class they will actually be studying through Teams and Moodle together with those students who cannot attend class, or wish not to be in school, and are following the lessons from home or another place. There is a third group of students who are still abroad, unable to arrive in the Netherlands, and for many different reasons are studying completely online."

New Approach to Learning "Has Long-Term Value"

Birdsall urged Wittenborg staff to see this new approach as an opportunity to excel at hybrid teaching and learning, rather than taking this new situation as something forced upon us, and of short-term value. We should strive to achieve best practice at hybrid teaching and learning, and, if we do so, then it will enhance everything we do and stand for. It is possible that ‘hybrid’ will be the way forward, with or without coronavirus, and if we can be ‘good at it’ then we can provide a benchmark for others to follow.

New students will start with Introduction Week activities from this week, though some interactions have been scaled down. Wittenborg has implemented a number of policies around hygiene and social distancing to make its facilities as safe as possible.

In addition, Wittenborg is also asking all staff members and students to wear face masks in all its locations, at all times, unless sitting behind a fixed staff desk or work space. "We also request staff not to take communal lunch and coffee breaks at school, instead to stagger these breaks as much as possible. Lunch and coffee should always be eaten and drunk at the work station, or taken outside of the premises."

Corona App

Furthermore, Wittenborg supports the installing of the Dutch Corona app on smart phones in order to assist the authorities in determining the current state of the pandemic, and warn where necessary. "We feel that it is important for us to inform students of the opportunity they have to install this app and that technology is an important tool to assist normal life in society."

WUP 25/8/2020
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press