University of Amsterdam (NETHERLANDS)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN18 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Page: 7606 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-02709-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2018.1778
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
The Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam aims to optimize its education to be ready to deal with the future. It applies blended learning as means to realize the objectives to:
- give students more insight in and responsibility for their own learning process
- enhance deeper learning, stimulating students to attain higher levels of knowledge and insights
- accommodate for individual differences in the heterogeneous student population
- strategically deploy of teaching staff to realize optimal learning effects and results.

Against this background, we’re executing a pilot Professional Skills Labs within the Master Earth Sciences, including the Environmental Management track. At regular intervals, we organize Skills Labs where students can acquire important 21st Century Skills and matching attitudes, such as learning how to make a SWOT Analysis or a Slide Report, Creative Thinking, Networking, and Leadership. Students can select the Skills Labs that match with their ambitions and talents. Besides these face-to-face Skills Labs, there are self-tuition modules that serve as deficiency modules. The deficiency modules help to accommodate for individual differences in prior education, study skills, learning styles, motives and talents amongst our international student population. In addition to the self-tuitions, we have also selected some Massive Open Online Courses that are of interest to our students, such as Design Thinking for Innovation and Creative Problem Solving & Decision Making.

The Skills Labs are an activating form of education, as the students are given more responsibility for their own learning process and as proper training can only be achieved by active practice. Participation in the Skills Labs does not merely mean attending meetings – only sitting in and listening –, but implies active involvement and requires preparation beforehand and finishing assignments after training.
By introducing a bonus system, we hope to invite students to do more than just meet the minimum requirements. To obtain a higher grade, students need to do something extra on top of the baseline, for instance write a scientific article for a journal, or organize a seminar around a self-chosen topic. Students are also invited to bring forward interesting additional activities that might earn them extra credits themselves. This has resulted in students coming up with additional MOOCs (e.g. Programming) and even in students organizing Skills Labs themselves (Diversity and Science Communication), i.e. peer teaching.

We also think it´s safe to say that the Skills Labs can enhance deeper learning, if not with regard to knowledge and insights then at least with regard to putting these insights into practice via learning-by-doing. Since they can participate in the Skills Lab they prefer, in general the students experience the assignments as useful exercises. Moreover, the Skills Labs and the assignments are often linked to topics or assignments in parallel running courses. For instance, the Skills Lab on Leadership is scheduled at such a time as to be able to make a connection with the course System Innovation & Transition Management. This way, the assignments either fulfil a supportive function to a successful completion of the assignments in the parallel course, or challenge them to incorporate the knowledge they have learned during the parallel course to help give shape and form to their personal skills.
Blended Learning, Professional Training, Skills Labs, Online Self-Tuitions, MOOCs.