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‘The new online teaching methods may also come in useful later’

Lecturers had a week to convert their courses to online teaching. An enormous challenge because remote teaching was definitely not commonplace at Leiden University. Professor of International Relations Madeleine Hosli’s students were just about to begin internships at international organisations in the Netherlands and abroad. ‘We suddenly had to come up with an alternative that would enable them to earn their credits after all.’

This is one in a series of articles in which our lecturers talk about how they have switched to online teaching.

Madeleine Hosli is Professor of International Relations, and this semester is teaching a course on the two-year International Relations and Diplomacy Master’s programme. The cancellation of face-to-face teaching and in particular the introduction of travel restrictions in the Netherlands and other countries has had a major impact on the students on this international master’s programme.

Madeleine Hosli at home recording instruction videos for her students. ‘Regardless where they are in the world, they will get the assignment anyway.’
Madeleine Hosli at home recording instruction videos for her students. ‘Regardless where they are in the world, they will get the assignment anyway.’

Alternative to international internships

‘The second-year students on the International Relations and Diplomacy Master’s programme are currently working on their theses. They are now being supervised online by their lecturers, via Skype or Microsoft Teams, for instance. But we had to make much more significant changes for the first-year students. These students were supposed to do an internship in block four, for example at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – at the Washington or Hanoi office – or at the UN in Geneva or New York. Obviously, none of the internships abroad could go ahead, but some internships at international organisations in The Hague were cancelled too. The odd student could do their internship remotely, but for many of the students, this wasn’t possible.  

‘To ensure that students can still earn their credits for the internship and thus not get into difficulty, we had to come up with an alternative course and fast. The course is aptly called “Alternative to the Internship.” In it, we are going to write a book together with all the students on the topic of “The Future of Multilateralism.” The course will be delivered as an online seminar. On a Blackboard page, I’m now adding the first films, which I’m recording at home on my laptop with Kaltura, an interactive programme that the University has just started using for its teaching. These are short instructional videos that the students can watch anytime and anywhere; we have a lot of international students, who are currently on different continents and in different time zones.’

Writing a book together

‘Once the students have watched the instructions, we will discuss how to divide the project into tasks. We will do that in Kaltura Live Room. The students will have to organise the practical side, such as contacting publishers about the book proposal, but there’s also the book’s content. For this, the students will interview online representatives of international organisations such as the United Nations, UNHCR and UNICEF, various NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to collect experiences and perspectives on “The Future of Multilateralism.” Each student will write a chapter of the book. We chose this structure because it will allow us to stick as closely as possible to the original learning objectives of the internship: finding out what it is like to work at an international organisation or non-governmental institution and developing skills that will come in useful in your future career.’

Madeleine’s tips for her colleagues

‘The main thing is to experiment with the different tools that the University offers. It’s quite fun to try out Kaltura Live Room, Microsoft Teams and other programmes. The crisis has had an enormous effect on everyday life, but perhaps we can transform the challenges into positive developments such as the ability to use online teaching tools that will also come in useful later. Let’s go!’

Experience of Kaltura

‘I already had some experience of online teaching, for the “The Changing Global Order” MOOC that we developed in 2014. We have now repeated this MOOC twice, and it now runs automatically. A few years later, we were given the opportunity to experiment with a trial version of Kaltura. I think Kaltura is a user-friendly programme that makes it easy for anyone to use their own laptop to record lectures as videos. I’ve once had an individual practice session with Kaltura and was given the tip of buying a small webcam and microphone. These improve the image and sound quality. Recording is now a piece of cake!’

Online breakout groups

‘In the online seminar in the Kaltura Live Room discussions with students, we also use breakout rooms. Here, smaller groups can discuss the different tasks. I’m also in the breakout rooms via Live Room and can share my screen with the students. Then the whole group comes back together online. Fantastic that these tools are already available!’

Text: Marieke Epping
Photos: Madeleine Hosli

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