Nyenrode Business University
The new era of education: how Nyenrode University created an online learning environment
Like many other educational institutes, Nyenrode Business University faced significant challenges in transitioning from offering in-person classes to online courses. Moreover, the university wanted not only to offer online courses but also to build an entire learning environment online.
A trial course in Howspace developed by program manager Natasja Derwort turned out to be a blueprint for other online courses. “When the pandemic hit, that course became the blueprint for existing in-person courses. We kept enriching and implementing new features, and now Howspace is simply a part of our offering,” Natasja explains. Going forward, Howspace will remain the hub where students meet. Howspace is also now the foundation of Nyenrode’s blended classes, where students combine online learning and a few physical meetings to make their education more efficient.
Nyenrode Business University is the only private business university in the Netherlands. Founded in 1946 by captains of industry, the university offers both full-time and part-time academic programs, as well as executive education programs.
Natasja Derwort is working as a Program Manager in Nyenrode. She is responsible for the content and quality of many of Nyenrode’s Management Programs. These executive education programs are part of the ongoing education for managers and other professionals.
As with many other educational institutes, a couple of years ago, Nyenrode University faced significant challenges with the landscape and the rules around offering in-person classes. As a result, Natasja turned to Howspace, a tool the university had previously used to share documents and presentations for different courses.
From organizing documents to educational blueprint
Natasja had worked with Howspace before to create a trial six-module course with a colleague. Previously Nyenrode faculty had used Howspace as a sustainable replacement for printing presentation slides and other lesson notes. However, with a need for an online learning environment, the trial course Natasja created turned into a blueprint for a new way of offering courses.
“When we moved from physical to online education, Howspace helped tremendously to transition and offered a true online learning experience,” Natasja explains. “We didn’t just offer online courses, but an entire learning environment through Howspace. That really made it a valuable experience for our students, I think,” she continues.
A small team took the course Natasja had created and turned it into a blueprint for other courses. By adding several components and continually improving the model, others were able to implement it in their own way. Now, Howspace is the standard in how Nyenrode students remotely interact with their course.
According to Natasja, one of the main advantages of Howspace was just how user-friendly the platform was, both for admins and end users. “Many of our students tell us that they appreciate the visual side of their online learning environment, also because we use a lot of pictures and videos.”
To create a better experience, the Howspace workspace for students includes some embedded tools. Interacting with other students happens through Padlet, while video lectures are facilitated with Microsoft Teams. In the future, Natasja expects to use the native video functions in Howspace to offer online lectures.
Aiding innovation with Howspace
It wasn’t just the pandemic that propelled a new way of thinking within Nyenrode. “In the last two years, I’ve been really focused on innovating the way education works for us and finding ways to bring the things we have into a new era,” Natasja shares.
Following the positive experiences with remote learning, Nyenrode University now offers blended classes. These courses combine two physical meetings with four online classes. “That came about really organically. We started with one program, added another, and kept growing the concept. When you’ve got a format that works, it’s easier to implement it in other programs and courses, too,” Natasja explains.
In the future, Nyenrode will keep expanding the possibilities within Howspace and integrate the program into its courses. Using the different features within Howspace, Natasja sees opportunities for students to work together more and incorporate ways of having contact in real-time.
Implementing a new program can be challenging, but faculty members are optimistic about working with Howspace.
“Howspace is a very pleasant platform that makes it very easy to support the online side of education. I really see Howspace as a part of what we offer. It’s especially easy for people who don’t have much experience working with online tools and a great way to get familiar with this way of working. You don’t really need a manual; it’s such an intuitive way of working.”
Extending the network for Nyenrode and its students
The experience with online learning showed the faculty at Nyenrode that education doesn’t require a physical presence every step of the way. This blended approach widens the geographical scope of the school since students have to travel less. It has even extended its reach beyond the Dutch border.
“It’s very efficient. You don’t have to get to Nyenrode’s campus for every little thing when online suffices. That’s something we keep working towards; flipped classrooms.”
The built-in networking and collaboration opportunities have always been an essential advantage of a business university such as Nyenrode. With Howspace, those aspects of their courses now have an online component, too.
Before a course starts, students have an online kick-off. Then, after beginning the actual course, students can connect, send each other messages, and find each other in Howspace. But, of course, that extends beyond just what is required in the class. Students will sometimes share more personal information, too.
A course can be more efficient by using the unique advantages of both the online environment and meeting in person. The online environment is excellent for gaining knowledge and preparing, which makes in-person meetings more valuable as students work on their case studies and projects. To Nyenrode, Howspcace has been an extremely helpful platform in bringing the education they offer into the new era.
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