VMO transformed into future-oriented education

Erasmus University Rotterdam - Alexander Santos Lima

"For many, Friday afternoon education (VMO) appears to stand for 'much in little'. You have to do a lot in very little teaching time," says Dr Nick Efthymiou. To reduce this pressure, Nick, together with mr Wouter Scherpenisse, completely transformed the VMO within Constitutional Law, Erasmus School of Law (ESL) in 2023. They did this together with a team consisting of Cleo van Gorkom, Chris Grimmius, Hanne Kok and George Kwekel. How this team transformed the course? By applying webcasts.

VMO as alternative education

VMO stands for vrijdagmiddagonderwijs or Friday afternoon education and targets the working student and the student who is doing two studies at the same time. For them, this is a pleasant way to study. Over four weeks, students will be taught four sessions of four hours each. It is intensive education that requires more self-study from students. VMO was originally created as a form of education for students who are working and have less time during the week to attend lectures on campus. Students are very enthusiastic about this form of education. Currently, between 300 and 350 students take part in VMO, representing almost half of all constitutional law students.

Foto van Nick Efthymiou

Transforming VMO

"Students had to do a lot in a very short time," explains Nick Efthymiou. "As a result, they didn't always get the more complicated material. Therefore, we chose to partly reshape the education. To address this, we recorded a total of about 20 webcasts that partially replace the lecture. A webcast is an online mini-lecture on a specific topic that serves to replace lecture time, allowing for interaction with students during lectures. This also allows time during the lecture to cover the complex subject matter and gives more room for in-depth study. Which ensures that students get a better grasp of the material and can apply it during class."

"Efficiency also played a role," explains Wouter Scherpenisse. Certain material is fixed. "To meet students' need to practise more collaboratively with the material, we had to make choices. Material that is almost set in stone lends itself well to reusable webcasts and therefore we were able to remove this material from the lectures."

Positive reactions from student and teacher

"The last evaluation was incredibly positive," says Wouter Scherpenisse. Many VMO students initially felt disadvantaged compared to full-time students. Both students' results, and students' assessment of courses, are higher after the use of webcasts in VMO. Students are very enthusiastic about it and no longer feel disadvantaged. We have caught up with that."

"We ourselves are also satisfied with the final result," says Nick Efthymiou. "It was hard work, but it made it easier that we had a certain end goal. However, it does remain an ongoing process. Sometimes we will have to replace webcasts because they no longer quite match the material, but we have now made sure that these webcasts can last at least 3-4 years."

Challenges during the process

"For Nick, this process was extra challenging because this was my first year as a teacher," Wouter Scherpenisse explains. "The process brought specific challenges, especially because choices often had to be made by Nick alone. All substantive documents had to go past him for a final check. This did not make the process easier for him because he could not always consult. In the future, it will be easier if you can go into such a process with several experienced teachers."

Film studio at Campus Woudestein.
Film studio at Campus Woudestein

Application of webcasts in other studies

This project was a collaboration between several parties. The Community for Learning & Innovation (CLI) helped shape the course. The studio on campus recorded the webcasts. The added value of the webcasts became clear, with significant improvements in teaching methods. These innovations are not limited to constitutional law: other courses have already made similar adjustments within this project. The introduction of these innovative teaching methods is proving more attractive to students; the innovations offer more depth and flexibility and encourage independence, while the university can also profit from the assessment and pass rates. "It's hard work, but it pays off," says Nick Efthymiou.

More information

As a teacher, do you also want to future-proof your profession? Contact CLI or check out the website.

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