Mapping Education Innovation Initiatives across the Netherlands

Like an archipelago, the innovation of higher education is spread out over many little islands, loosely connected or in isolation from each other. In the Netherlands, each University has their own approach to designing and innovating their education, and to this end they each provide academic and support staff with various facilities and imbue them with their own vision of what the education of the future should look like. In the past few years almost every University has created a Centre or Lab for Teaching, Learning and Innovation, each with its own events and activities to support academic staff and to encourage them to innovate the way they teach.

Some small scale communities and networks exist, and in some cases alliances between institutions are being formed around a particular theme or topic, the goal being to bring those pioneering in their field together to share and learn from each other’s knowledge and experience. Currently, there is no all-encompassing overview or platform for all these little kingdoms to come together.

In January of 2020, Caitlin Utama, CEL’s LDE Trainee, helped our PhD candidate Martine Schophuizen to collect and analyse data for her research project, which asked the question:"What is the vision and strategy of universities on educational innovations and how is this strategy implemented within these institutions to successfully embed educational innovations in the institution?"

The interviews and focus group that they conducted as part of this research revealed how scattered the field of educational innovation actually was, and that among those supporting educational innovations from within the Centres and Labs, there was a willingness to connect with fellow pioneers in education innovation outside of their University institutions.

This, in retrospect, became the start of Caitlin’s own research project to map out all the educational innovation initiatives and initiators in one complete network overview.

Now, Caitlin is researching and collecting information on each University’s Education Innovation initiatives, starting with institutionalized Hubs or Centres for teaching, learning and innovation; what topics or themes these hubs are working on, who is working on them and what publications they have to their name, and how these innovative projects are embedded or shared. As the spreadsheet is growing, it has become clear that this information is useful and that it would be beneficial to share this overview outside of CEL.

Two ideas have sprung from this:

  1. To create a website which serves as a cohesive platform for all these initiatives, and shows clearly what projects are ongoing, who is working on these projects and at which University or hub. This website will contain a directory, and will serve as a database for all the research that is being done in this field.
  2. To organize a meeting and invite all of the parties involved with Education Innovation from within the Universities, to get to know each other and learn about their peers’ work.

The goal of these initiatives is to create a community of educational innovators which includes all the innovators and transcends institutions, in order to share knowledge, learn from each other’s experience and strengthen initiatives to innovate education.

At the present day, both of these are carried out: we are designing the website as Caitlin continues to collect more data on the hubs and their activities. Although the initial plan was to conduct site visits and interview the hub members during these visits, due to the situation with the corona virus, these meetings have been moved online.

As for the event, CEL has invited education innovation Hubs from each University in the Netherlands to CEL’s 2020 Annual Meeting on December 7th to showcase their work and to get to know each other during the sessions and presentations.[1] As the NRO has also employed a project lead to create a similar overview of education innovation initiatives nationwide, CEL is currently collaborating with them and will have the NRO as a partner for the December Annual Meeting event.

Although the visualization of this map of education initiatives is still under construction, there is already a document of all the information compiled from the education innovation hubs based on desk research as well as a graphic of what the platform will look like, which you can find attached to this article.
If you have any questions or would like to contribute to this project, please contact Caitlin at .

[1] The exact content and format of that day’s program will be shared soon, as we are still working on it at the moment.
Edulab CVs - LDE CEL (002).pdf (1.94 MB)