Transferable skills – an important part of our training network

Two weeks full of interaction, knowledge exchange, and networking were planned mid July in Utrecht. Within these two weeks we wanted to develop e-learning modules and to follow our first P-TRAP school, with an imbedded 2-days workshop organised by the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP). In the end, so to speak, to top it all off our Project Officer from the Research Executive Agency (REA) was invited to a Progress Review Meeting to get an overview about the general outcomes and activities of P-TRAP so far.

We were really looking forward to July, one of the sunniest months in the Netherlands, meeting not only for work but also informal, not only as a project consortium but to get to know each other better as we will work together for quite a long time. All this is going to happen, but in another way we have planned.

Due to the Corona pandemic we are not able to welcome our collegues in Utrecht, which is a pity as Utrecht is such a great city. So, we meet remotely, visit each other online at home, in our living rooms, kitchens or on balconies, depending on where we have working space and sufficient internet connections.

Our ESRs Lordina, Rouven, and Melanie working from home.

Although it is different from what was initially planned and – honestly – not a fully adequate substitute, it is nevertheless interactive, helps networking, and we all learn a lot in and from this situation.

But this blog is not about the pandemic, it is about how we developed our e-learning modules remotely. Everything started with the first contact between Thilo (as the scientific coordinator of P-TRAP), Stefan (our training coordinator), and Anja Hager and Frank Meyer from the Center for Learning and Teaching in HigherEducation at the University of Bayreuth (FBZHL, sorry, only in German).

The FBZHL offers an e-learning platform for the development of our modules, and Anja provided us not only with access to the platform but also gave a very useful introduction how to use it and is our contact in case of questions (Many thanks for this!).

After getting the conceptual ideas and technical basics, the ESRs started enthusiastically developing their P-TRAP e-modules for selected audiences in the educational, industrial, and agricultural sector. Developing an e-module is not trivial and needs lots of considerations. What do I want to show, and to whom? What has already been done? What is needed and wished? Can I use material which is already available or do I want to prepare something on my own? What type of presentation do I want to use? What is the take home message? How should the content be conveyed?

During the meetings many ideas came up, and it would be pretty easy to spend the next months with preparing lots and lots of these creative challenges. In this context, one of the greatest challenges scientists are facing is their own enthusiasm about their subject, the wish to show “everything”. The magic words here are Didactical Reduction. You can try it speak out loud with a wand and the right pronunciation, but mostly it is hard work and means to think in advance about the above mentioned considerations.

The preparation of scripts, selection of contents and collection of materials were the main tasks during the last weeks. After the introduction given by Anja and Frank, the ESRs had some time to organise themselves. During a first update meeting 2 weeks later they presented their progress and discussed ideas and obstacles with Thilo and Stefan. It was interesting and impressive how far the modules have been developed in such a short period. Over a few weeks we will have the next update meeting with hopefully the first prototypes.

To be continued….