This year’s WUR Teachers Day was, as all things are this year due to Covid19, organized a bit different. Instead of a one day face-to-face event, it was spread over several days in virtual sessions. The four-day programme provided sessions on online and blended education (tools, apps, design of activities, the Covid19 transition), transdisciplinary education and learning (developing boundary crossing, authentic environments, principles in complex courses such as the Academic Consultancy Training or ACT) and innovative assessment (rubrics, formative/summative assessment). It seems as if most innovations at WUR at this moment have a main focus on the course level.
Dean of education at WUR, Arnold Bregt, opened the Teachers Day(s), looking back on a difficult and dynamic year, calling 2020 an educational landmark. Though, 2020 also had a positive side with a lot of educational innovations, home labs and successful online activities, such as the BSc open day. The dean of education thanked the WUR teachers for their great efforts in switching to online/hybrid teaching. There is no denying in the fact that they experienced a strong increased work pressure due to Covid19. Students, as well, seemed not that happy with the online-situation and reported to feel less motivated, though success rates remained overall good. Concerns from the teachers were expressed on the students and their well-being.
The activities of the Education and Learning Sciences (ELS) chair group were well represented. Tim Stevens organized a Q&A session on his research on The Transition to Online Education during the Corona Crisis Situation at WUR. Judith Gulikers, Cassandra Tho, Carla Oonk and other members of the Boundary Crossing (BC) project presented their learning activities/trajectories, outcomes thus far and BC implementations in several study programmes at WUR. Also, Valentina Tassone and Cassandra Tho organized a session on how to make transdisciplinary oriented course work. Finally, Perry den Brok, chair of both ELS and 4TU.CEE, asked the teachers for input on what they felt is important for their own future education (input that will be used to formulate the 4TU.CEE strategic plan 2022-2025). Next to topics such as entrepreneurial learning skills, developing skills for responsible and sustainable engineering, the audience mentioned topics such as student resilience and well-being, and attention for teaching excellence, for example considering a Senior Qualification in Teaching (SQT). The Teachers Day(s) was closed by Perry den Brok as well, by looking back on the sessions and looking ahead to innovations yet to come and the 2021 Teachers Day.
The Teachers Day sessions were well visited, with 30 to 100 attendees each session, including teachers and education support staff. Although all sessions were organized virtually, they were highly interactive, engaging the attendees with padlets, interactive forms & presentations, chats and break out rooms and giving them the opportunity to ask questions, comment on things and take part in discussions. Teachers pointed out that there was a positive atmosphere and a sense of belonging during the sessions and that they felt part of a real community.
Looking ahead at what’s still in store, WUR will implement the new student information system, Osiris, in 2021. Also, Education career paths for teacher development will be implemented and a professionalization fund will become available for teachers. Skills learning lines for the Bachelor will be developed and there will be further elaboration on the new Master structure, with more attention for career orientation and further flexibility in creating a personal programme. The alliance between TU/e, WUR, UU and UMCU will be launched, focusing on expanding challenge based learning and life long learning within and between the four institutes. Finally, technological innovation (EdTech) will play an important role in 2021 and if Covid19 allows it, WUR will focus on ‘returning to normal’.