Wageningen Weeks – Student experience
by Christina Kothes – In September 2015, I started with the online distance learning MSc programme Plant Breeding’ of the Wageningen University. Together with 20 other students from around the world, I weekly follow all my theoretical courses online. However, to obtain the necessary practical skills that cannot be taught with online videos and literature, all the students meet twice in Wageningen to obtain all the essential practicals during the “Wageningen Weeks”. The first Wageningen Weeks took place in March 2016. During this visit to the Wageningen campus, all the online master students of the Plant Breeding programme came together to attend a two-week practical training.
From online to on face to face
On the first day of the practical weeks, I had the opportunity to meet my fellow students for the first time in real life. Though we constantly interact online through the discussion forum, and occasionally through Skype, during the ‘Wageningen Weeks’, I got to know all the persons behind the computer screen and truly connect with them.
The ‘Wageningen Weeks’ consisted of a mix of practical courses related to much of the theory we addressed during the online lectures. Instead of studying behind the computer, we had some essential practical courses in the laboratory and greenhouses of the Wageningen University in which we worked with real plants and seeds. Next to lectures, two excursions were planned to different plant breeding companies. This allowed us to get an insight into the practical work of breeding companies and what our future work could be like.
We also had the chance to improve our general academic skills that each university student should acquire. Though we engage in group discussions and give presentations in the online programme, some elements are just much easier to do in a live setting. During the Wageningen Weeks, we therefore, gave presentations to the class and engaged in real-time group debates. Group work assignments were also part of the practical weeks in which we had the chance to improve our team working skills and learn to work with people from different cultures.
Because the entire Plant Breeding group consists of persons from so many different backgrounds, the real-time interaction and engagement with the peer students was particularly nice. Most of the evenings after our practical courses we spent time together in which we could share our experiences, stories and motivation for attending this online programme. Interacting with my fellow students through the online discussion forum or Skype is now much easier and more fun as I know each one of them after the Wageningen Weeks much better.
Despite a fully planned schedule, which was rather different from the online programme, where we can plan our own time and schedule, it was a fun and meaningful experience. The ‘Wageningen Weeks’, gave me the opportunity to learn the practice behind the theory addressed in the online lectures and to get to know all my fellow students in real life.
This blogpost is written by Christina Kothes. she is a student in the Online Master programme Plant Breeding. If you would you like to know more about why she decided to choose this programme, please visit the programme website.