I hope you’re all safe! The world around us is changing at an unprecedented pace. What was standard a week ago is not done today. If transformation is about behavioral change, this is the most significant real-life test we will see, certainly in my lifetime. Change in behavior that has to go together with a shift in mindset. Assume you’re infected, so behave to avoid infecting others. Take care of the elderly around you. Stay indoors. He who only looks after himself will die tomorrow, he who takes care of others will live on. Some interesting lessons to be learned for parents with spoiled brads. Where we mostly ignore politics, the shouting across the aisle is annoying and a waste of time really, we now realize we all live in the middle, in the middle of that very aisle. Dear politicians, there is no point in blaming a virus. What are you going to do to keep us safe? That is what you were hired to do. Here in the Netherlands, there was a 7-hour debate where some politicians still showed pre Corona behavior. You know we’re all watching and see you’re useless in this crisis? Publicly tell us not to worry and secretly offload your stock portfolio, really?
For my wife and me, it is closing in. Ans works in the local hospital, her direct coworkers are infected. So we stay indoors, work from home, avoid all contacts. The front door locked shut. I’ll do the shopping as fast as possible and make sure my mom has food. For the rest: voluntary lockdown. We told our kids to stay away, changed our parenting style. We used to live by the mantra: if we hear nothing from the kids everything must be ok. Now we asked them to check in regularly to tell us they are ok. I reach out to friends, just checking how they are doing. My Italian friends are in a wasteland, they can do with some support. Be remote but not distant.
Work continues, just the setting is different. With tools like Slack and Teams we have good alternatives for f2f office work. For me, the most significant change was the university deciding to close shop. All locations closed, no more traditional classroom lectures. No more exams. No more visiting students writing their final thesis from their internship locations. After the initial shock, and to be honest, relieve not have to sit in a room with 35 students, one starts thinking about how to continue. How to move forward. This is not about a 2-week delay, this is about university starting again in September at the earliest. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. And we might be running for a long, long time. If we want to keep our students on track, allow them to learn, practice, and do exams in this new world: what do we have to change?
The education world is not really good at change. The education system is fundamentally the same for decades. Früher war alles besser. Classroom, teacher, content, and exams. We send, you receive. So now this has to change and change fast. We had about 3 days to come up with the new approach. Making 180 degrees changes in education in 3 days? The classroom will be remote. We will be using Microsoft teams. I have used it before, most in bilateral meetings. Now I will have 35 students in one Teams meeting. Stephanie pointed me to the free support Microsoft offers to educators, so I was able to spend 30 mins getting to learn the ins and outs of teams from Serge and Jan-Dirk. Just sharing knowledge, share experience, no direct commercial goals. Brilliant, appreciated! We discussed the technical aspects, things you can do, like blur the background of the video. How to mute students with pets and kids. The more exciting part was sharing learnings about how to keep students engaged remotely. Useful pointers there as well. The online lecture will work. It will be different but also functional. As long as it gets the end result needed, it is ok. The most flexible wins!
Exams are the other problem. Exams have not really changed, as well. Put them in a room and have them respond to multiple-choice questions for 2 hours. So how do we change that? The goal of the exam is to check if they memorized some knowledge, and more importantly, can use it. Do they get it? We’re changing the exam setup to students adding some extra elements to their thesis. Apply the theory. More work for them, certainly more work for me, but the net end result will be: they will finish my BPM track in time, maintain momentum, finish the year as planned. The world is changing, but no need to stop living and put everything on hold. The most exciting thing for me is the possibility of lasting change. 10 weeks from now, when we start to see the new normal: can we keep some of the new elements in education and keep using them? No point in letting a crisis go to waste.