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‘That’s how I teach my students to communicate effectively online’

Effective communication is one of the most important ‘skills of the 21st century’. People often think that these skills can only be taught face-to-face. However, recent technological developments now make it possible to teach these skills online, for example using the DialogueTrainer tool for conversational scenarios. I’ve been involved in the development of this tool from the very beginning as part of two university-wide projects: Communicate I and II, from 2013 to 2018. I was one of the first to use the tool for teaching in a centralised and large-scale manner in the ‘Professional Conversations’ course within the Psychology study programme. In order to improve the effectiveness of the group conversation scenarios, I embedded the tool in the e-learning modules where students can learn to enhance their communications knowledge and competency by means of a diverse and coherent package of online work formats. In addition to online scenarios, the package includes knowledge clips, good and bad examples of conversations, assignments, questionnaires, quizzes, discussions, polls, assessment questions, etcetera. In so doing, they can learn how difficult communication can be, understand (mis)communication, obtain insight into their own communication habits, and become more effective in holding conversations themselves. This integrated, digital approach is a powerful tool for learning how to communicate, and reinforces the face-to-face education in communication skills. The course is structured as follows: each week, the students prepare for the lab seminar by completing the e-learning modules on topics like listening, giving feedback or collecting information. They don’t have to do the work at a fixed place or time, however; they can complete the assignments at their own pace at a convenient moment, and can do so as often as they like. Each lab seminar deals with the contents of the e-learning module. Course evaluations have shown that students prefer the e-learning modules to lectures. Seminar lecturers have also noticed the difference: students come better prepared to class, which leaves more time for practice and in-depth discussion. Finally, another benefit is that I can also easily give fellow lecturers access to my own e-learning modules. That makes it easier to collaborate, and facilitates active sharing of knowledge across study programmes, faculties, and even universities. Want to find out more? Then take a look at the showcase I’ve created for the course ‘Professional Conversations’ by registering via this link (SolisID): https://lll-platform-uu.nl/enrol/signup/?l=t9233arzGyWI. If you’re interested in what DialogueTrainer has to offer for your curriculum, then visit the Educate-it site or contact Educate-it to ask for practical or didactic support.

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Educational innovation is helping laboratory animals - Benedikte Sam

As the faculty contact for Educate-it at Veterinary Medicine, I get to work with a colleague from the Chair of Quality Promotion at my faculty to organise an Education Sandwich meeting each month. We aim to inform and inspire teachers with recent developments in the fields of education and educational science. These meetings draw a crowd. Three recently developed e-modules were presented at the most recent meeting, whose common thread was that they each contributed to a reduction in animal testing (a priority at our faculty). All three also enabled our students to prepare thoroughly for their practicals: an essential element of becoming a vet. The first module was developed by colleagues involved with the 3R-center, a group dedicated to Replacing, Reducing and Refining testing on animals. The module is available to externals as well as our own students and is directed at improving awareness and knowledge of humane termination in people who work with laboratory animals professionally. The end of this presentation transitioned smoothly into a discussion of the ‘Behaviour and Handling’ self-study module, which helps students prepare for practicals on various species of animals. Students get to see ahead of time what kinds of behaviours they should expect, what procedure they will learn and how to perform that procedure properly. This frees up time in the practical for students to actually practice. A module that ties into that nicely is ‘Clinical Diagnostics, Cat’. The behaviour of cats makes using them as (educational) laboratory animals fairly complex, not least because they are especially susceptible to stress. To allow students to still practice what they need while using as few cats as possible, three measures were implemented: Students can prepare for clinical teaching sessions involving cats at home, using the new e-learning module on clinical diagnostics. That module contains theory, practice, and many videos and exercises. During practicals, the more distressing procedures will no longer be performed on live cats, but on dummy animals (called ‘fluffy cats’), so that students can practice basic procedures under the auspices of the teacher. These fluffy cats are also used for the so-called station exams in the bachelor’s degree programme. Students can prove they possess the required skills and expertise to pass their exam using the dummy. It is inspiring to see how actively teachers are innovating their teaching. And our students share that excitement, since the modules allow them to review and practice as often as they like. I make myself useful to teachers by helping them procure funds and whatever (educational, technical or practical) support they require. I also connect teachers interested in starting similar projects. Obviously, my ‘Education Sandwich’ meetings also provide teachers a platform for sharing their educational accomplishments and developments. Future editions have already been scheduled and will address very different subjects: January 22nd: Chantal Duijn will talk about her doctoral research into EPA’s in veterinary education. February 5th: Ruurd Jorritsma will address sideways entry into the Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health master’s degree programme. In closing, I would like to share that our students are also developing courses, such as our didactics elective. A teacher had asked them for help: How do I get students to show up for practicals properly prepared? Here’s what they came up with: https://educate-it.uu.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/voorbereiding-praktica-leerlijn-DHV.mp4 Enjoy!

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5 February 2021


Utrecht University offers several MOOCs: Massive Online Open Courses. These allow you to explore scientific subjects from the comfort of your own home. As the name implies, these courses are free and open to everyone. On 10 February Utrecht University launches a new MOOC: The Exposome - cracking the science about what makes us sick. Exposome research requires transdisciplinary approaches. Therefore, this MOOC will be of interest to current and prospective students and researchers in the fields of public health, environmental health, life sciences, clinical medicine, geosciences, humanities, and social and behavioural sciences. Join us and sign up!  The exposome: a wild ideaWhat are the causes of disease? We know that most diseases result from a combination of genes and environment (nature and nurture). Our genes alone do not determine our fate. For most complex diseases, externalities - environmental factors in the broad sense - are more important. This includes our living and working environments, diet, social support and stress, pollution, and exposure to infectious agents. Exposome research is about discovering the non-genetic drivers of health and disease. Derived from the term exposure, the Exposome represents the totality of exposures we face throughout our lifetime. It also represents the biological responses that arise from external exposures. Join our experts in this 6-week courseIn this MOOC researchers from Utrecht University and/or the NWO Gravitation programme Exposome-NL will offer their expertise. Amongst others Roel Vermeulen, Virissa Lenters and Daniel Oberski will introduce you to the exposome concept; why it’s important; how we measure the exposome; and the data sciences steps needed to establish associations with health outcomes. This course will conclude with reflections on what is needed to advance this nascent and transformative field of research. Each course week contains at least one lecture or interview video, some reading, a discussion assignment and a short quiz to test your own knowledge. In the last course week you will make a final assignment where you apply all the knowledge you’ve obtained in this course. Also, you will provide at least one of your fellow learners with feedback on their assignment. Can’t wait to get started? You might want to check out this story before the MOOC starts: https://www.uu.nl/en/organisation/in-depth/decoding-the-exposome-the-biggest-influencer-on-health 

29 January 2021

Follow open online courses (MOOCs) at Utrecht University!

Do you want to learn more about the importance of equality for democratic societies? Or are you interested in how recent societal and technological developments have changed the work of professionals? Then sign up for the upcoming sessions of the MOOCs Inequality and Democracy and Professionalism in an era of change at Utrecht University! The MOOCs will start on February 10, 2021. Sign up for free now! Next to these two MOOCs you can register for one of the five other MOOCs of Utrecht University.

18 December 2020

Sign up for the Strengthen-Your-Education-Week (online): 1 February - 5 February 2021

It's time for another edition of the Strengthen-Your-Education-Week! The programme is finalised and offers UU teachers a wide range of online sessions develop and strengthen their education: there are webinars, inspiration sessions with students and teachers and workshops. The Strengthen-Your-Education-Week is organised by the partners in the Centre for Academic Teaching. Are you looking for ways to develop and strengthen your education? Are you struggling with online and distance learning issues and would you like advice from experts, fellow teachers and students? Then sign up for one or more sessions in the Strengthen-Your-Education-Week from 1 February until 5 February 2021! Click here for the programme and sign up: https://www.uu.nl/en/events/strengthen-your-education-week-online-1-february-5-february-2021

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