Interview: Student Deborah created a field trip for her peer students

Student Deborah has faced the effects of COVID-19 on education in 2020. Her study programme would contain a lot of excursions and field work, but all of a sudden, most courses were fully online. How to get her peers outside? She and a few other students developed two excursions around Wageningen in which the whole study year could get outside and learn about Soil and Water Management in the area at the same time.

Since education started to be given in online or hybrid form, students at Wageningen University & Research have had to say goodbye to most of their practicals and (inter)national excursions. Deborah understood that such choices had to be made due to Covid-19, but it left her and many other students feeling less motivated and worried about the quality of their education. Therefore, Deborah decided to be creative and find Covid-proof alternatives for the interactive and practical experiences that she missed.

An overview of one of the two trips created by students Deborah, Serag, Carlo, Floortje, Aukje and Lan. Her class mates were sent to the area around the Wageningse Berg to learn about Land and Water management.

Land and Water engineering in the Peek app

“Together we developed two field trips near Wageningen for our course on Land and Water engineering”, Deborah tells. “Through the Peek app students answered questions about the weir complex near Amerongen and erosion at the Wageningse Berg. Many different subject of the course came across. The tours challenged the students to read the landscape, analyze the design and effects of current land and water management structures, consider different stakeholders and do hands-on calculations as a real Land and Water engineer.”

In this way, Deborah and her fellow students Serag, Carlo, Floortje, Aukje and Lan combined the theoretical contents of the course with the practical skills that are only required in the field. To provide the students with background information about the areas, they also created a short podcast for both locations. “We had several meetings with the course coordinators to make sure the tours added to the course. To gather all information we did literature research and met with experts who could tell us more about the areas and current issues.”

Bonus points on the exams

“Every student was free, so not obligated, to follow the tour. As the course was already rather intense, we did not want to put extra pressure on our fellow students: the tour had to stay fun as well as educational.” To motivate them to do the tour anyways Deborah collaborated with the course coordinators: for every tour a student completed, a 0.5 bonus point would be given on the exams. “To enable the students to do the tour whenever it fit their schedule, we gave them a full week to complete the tours for the bonus. This approach turned out to be really successful! Many students decided to follow the tour and enjoyed it.”

At the end of the tour the students were asked to hand in a selfie:

Deborah and her peers enjoying the self-made excursions using Peek.

Flexibility is key in Corona times

“The great advantage of Peek is its flexibility”, Deborah tells. “As we all know: in Corona-times flexibility is key! The app enables students to complete the fieldtrips under most circumstances, as they can be done individually or in small groups. Furthermore, the immediate feedback enables effective as well as independent learning without need of a lecturer without need of a lecturer.”

Excursion tips for teachers

Deborah also has some recommendations for teachers or lecturers at Universities to implement in their courses to make them attractive and instructive for her as student.

Deborah: “To make the tours attractive and instructive for students my most important tip is: make it fun! Add photographs, short podcasts, vlogs or videos and encourage students to apply and discuss the contents by means of cases or challenges. Let them experience what it means to be an expert in the subject of their study! Try not to give information from books only, but talk to experts from the area to find information that really adds to the location. For example, one of the experts we spoke to told us that a check dam on the Wageningse Berg was too old and needed replacement. The municipality is still discussing about how to fix this. We handed this issue to the students: ‘As an expert in land and water engineering, what would be your advice to the municipality?’”

Try the field trip of Deborah yourself

Are you curious about the field trip Deborah created? All you have to do is download the Peek app and fill in the codes. The code for the tour near Amerongen is: 2896. For the tour at Wageningse Berg the code is: 5831. The map in the app will show you where to start.

Beware that the tour is made for second-year students of the Bsc programme International Land and Water Management. For those who are first-year students of this programme or are not educated on these subjects some questions may be hard to answer. For those who are experts the questions will be a nice way to test and freshen up their knowledge.