‘The impact of online teaching is huge’

Ivo van der Werk on organising digital education in an emergency

24 Mar 2020 11:52 | Communication

He wasn't supposed to officially start in his role as Digital Transformation Officer at the AUAS until next week. However, Ivo van der Werk is already fully on board. "Had you told me a month ago that the schools were closing, I wouldn't have believed that most of the education would be offered online within a week.”

Under the current circumstances, the AUAS is now forced to undergo a digital transformation and he is the linchpin. Ivo van der Werk – whose email signoff still says HRM training manager – looks back on an extremely intensive week in which we managed to switch virtually all physical education to online education.


There is still a long way to go, Van der Werk emphasises. "Now is the time for teachers to make optimal use of the digital tools. Because the interaction in the 'virtual classroom' is, of course, very different from interaction on campus. That's why, starting this week, we're going to devote more attention to digital didactics.

For example, Van der Werk is not in favour of posting two-hour lectures online. "It's better to cut the material into knowledge clips of fifteen minutes, alternating with interactive assignments".

This is just one of the examples of activities that lecturers can use to manage teaching in a new way. "We’re currently compiling good practices. And we want to show which tools work best for particular activities."


When it comes to the digital tools available for education at the AUAS, all of the instructions are now in Brightspace. "Now we're going to explain how to use them didactically in a way that makes education as effective as it used to be, or perhaps even more effective.”

It sounds as if the corona crisis could also be an opportunity for the AUAS’ digital transformation. But Van der Werk wants to warn against too much optimism. "I see that the impact of only teaching online, on us as human beings, is huge. We've only been at it for a week, and I can already see how hard this is for teachers and students. And how important physical contact is; the support, being able to look each other in the eye".


Van der Werk does not assume that 'this is a permanent situation'. "It has never been our ambition to offer our education entirely online. I believe that we will always be an organisation that brings people together to learn from each other and generate knowledge. That's where the enthusiasm is, the energy, the creativity."

Van der Werk considers the fact that we’re missing out on physical contact as a real danger to "the way we form a community". "Think of those moments at the coffee machine or with students at meeting points. If this situation lasts longer than 3 weeks, we will have to find ways to maintain that bond with each other and with the students. And that also applies to students among themselves. The AUAS is part of their lives, their social network."


Van der Werk is not yet sure how he wants to arrange this. He sees this as a responsibility that extends beyond his own mandate. "Virtual coffee moments and Skype drinks come to mind. Many AUAS graduates will have to do something with this; HR, communication, organisational experts and pedagogues. A school is more than an educational video with a few questions".

Want to know more? Visit MyAUAS for more information about Digital Education (currently in Dutch).