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More skills and higher grades: E-learning skills platform continues to be a success

After a promising start, also the second pilot of the digital Brightspace skills platform is a success. Third-year bachelor students had thirty new skill modules at their disposal to support them with their research assignment. Despite the additional challenges posed by COVID-19, students that used the new skill modules actively obtained high grades and felt more skilled

Help with skills

Last academic year, 295  first-year bachelor Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences students tested the e-learning skills platform during their course on research skills. This time, 178 third year students were invited to use the platform for their twelve-week final practical research assignment. In order to support the students, the skills team developed thirty new skill modules focusing on amongst others; using sources correctly, writing a research proposal, and pitching your research idea digitally. ‘To be able to design your own research (proposal) you need a wide variety of skills,’ says Marjo de Graauw, assistant professor of educational innovation at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) and project leader of the Brightspace e-learning skills platform. When using the platform, students can train or refresh these skills without too much extra workload for the researchers that supervise them.’

Change of plans

One month prior to the start of the final research assignment, the educational team of Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences was set to go and ready to inform all eligible 178 students in which division their research assignment would take place. And came COVID-19…

In four weeks-time the team had to transform a twelve-week practical research assignment (BOO for insiders) into a remote version, because students and staff could not come to the University. Lots of students were worried that their BOO would not take place and that they would be unable to graduate in time. But luckily, educational innovation at maximum speed resulted in a fully remote BOO. Students could either design a complete research proposal or perform a computational research project. Besides the regular support from PhD’s, researchers and skill teachers, this time the students also had the online e-learning skills platform at their disposal.

More skilled and higher grades

The evaluative research that took place throughout the course, showed that 98 percent of the 178 third-year students used the e-learning skills platform during their final research project. 90 percent of them used the recommended modules actively. These students felt that the platform was a good addition to the course (95 percent). More importantly, 91 percent felt more skilled after using the platform and 75 percent would recommend it to other students as well.

After the initiation phase of the course, students had to hand in a research plan for the research they would like to perform. Students that actively used the recommended skill modules obtained a higher grade for this written research plan than students that did not. This increase was significant for students that performed (below) average prior to the start of their research project.

De Graauw: ‘Although community building was more difficult because of the adapted remote nature of the course, and higher stress levels amongst students and supervisors seemed inevitable, most students and supervisors agreed that this remote BOO was of academic quality and very suitable as a COVID-19 replacement of the original course.’

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