Involving international partners online using Virtual Classroom and MS Teams
This article will show an example of how to involve external partners in a course using MS Teams and Virtual Classroom.
Course: WRM51806 Environmental Justice in Practice
Period: Period 2
Short Introduction and background
Introduction and story behind the emergence of this learning activity. What was the need, what issue/problem was the teacher facing and wanted to resolve?
Environmental Justice in Practice is a course that deals with justice issues in natural resources conflicts and environmental management. Students from different study programs work on assignments from NGOs in the Netherlands. Normally, we plan to have excursions. Due to travel restrictions, that did not work this year and instead, we organised so-called engagements. These were online meetings with people from the international field dealing with environmental justice issues.
During the course, we had people from India, the Philippines and a guest lecturer from Germany to give live lectures and lead discussions. This would in normal condition only occur when someone happened to be on campus. Now, they were scheduled and really part of the course design.
This kind of involvement of international partners in education, may not be a revolutionary idea. It is actually quite logical, but something we never did before. Now we did it because we are working a lot more online and online education is now the default.
Relevant tools / apps (software) or hardware used
What has been learned after this lesson/activity has been executed ?
The engagements with people from the field and other countries were intended to stimulate the students to think about these practices and encountered issues in their own cases.
Lesson idea / Learning activity
Specific description and demonstration of the lesson idea/learning activity.
Students work in groups on a case provided by a Dutch NGO, such as Solidaridad, Both Ends or SOMO. For example, one case was the development of an information campaign for indigenous people and another group was working on a case about mining in Mongolia. During the course, a few engagements were organised with international organisations; NGO activist from India and people from a grassroots movement in the Philippines. During these engagements, they talked about cases they were working on and the issues they encountered. Students could ask questions and discuss.
These engagements were held in Virtual Classrooms, to which external guests (from the outside WUR) can easily be invited by sending them the public URL of the meeting. The guests do not need to have a WUR guest account or access to Brightspace. Another tool that was used is MS Team Meeting that was linked to the course. MS Teams was used to organise group work as well.
The course was concluded with a webinar organised by students in which they shared their results, experiences and learning points. The four case owners, the Dutch NGOs, also attended.
Besides the fact that it was easier to involve international partners and make them part of the course design, it seems that the threshold for participation was also lower for Dutch NGOs. As it was less time consuming and easier to fit in.
Figure 1: International speaker in the Virtual Classroom
Lessons learned / Tips
Mentions tips lecturer has for colleagues based on their experience.
We will for sure keep the stronger involvement of international partners and actually see if we can expand this, with other universities and partners. It would be nice to investigate what we can do more together. The fact that you cannot just get on a plane actually democratises relationships between partners. One idea is to work on a case in the Philippines together with a university in Manilla. It allows students to work together more without our students have to fly all over the world.
One thing we want to improve in the next run is how we, in this online context, can supervise the group work on the external assignment somewhat better. How can we better monitor how it is going, both in the process and content? Eventually, you will see the end result, but it is interesting to see what happens along the way as well.
Teacher(s): Bert Bruins
Educational supporters/ESC contact: Barbara van Mossevelde
Author (interviewer): Barbara van Mossevelde
- Tools for synchronous (live) online meetings: What's up, What's new in Brightspace
- Manuals for adding and using Virtual Classroom in Brightspace: Brightspace Help for Lecturers
- Manuals for adding and using MS Teams within Brightspace: Brightspace Help for Lecturers
- Microsoft tutorials on how to set-up your MS Teams page: Microsoft Support
Interested in learning more about Showcases of learning activities?