For a few years now, students who, for various reasons, cannot come to Wageningen University, have had the option of doing a Master’s online. They follow most of their lectures on their computers, but once a year they come to the campus. The distance-learning students of Plant Breeding were in town at the end of March. Resource asked them about their experiences.
Redouan Adamanaia, lecturer Guusje Bonnema, Piet Lautenbag and Aubry Moret (from right to left) in the Unifarm greenhouse. ©Margriet van Vianen
At first there were ten of them, but three of the student on the online Master’s in Plant Breeding have fallen behind and haven’t come to the Netherlands. The seven remaining students from countries including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and India have been doing a practical for the past week in the Unifarm greenhouse behind Radix.
Some of the students already work in plant breeding, but want to deepen their knowledge or increase their career chances. They are doing the online Master’s alongside their jobs. Others are doing the online Master’s as a second string to their bow alongside a regular Master’s. For this reason, the workload has been reduced to 20 hours a week. ‘But in practice it can be a lot more sometimes,’ says Redouan Adamanaia. He is doing the fulltime Master’s in Molecular Life sciences in Nijmegen, and has been looking forward to this practical. ‘I think it’s quite special to actually meet and get to know each other now. At the start of the course we had to make a little introduction film about ourselves, but the contact has become much more personal now.’
Piet Lautenbag confirms this. He works as a junior breeder at the seed-breeding company Bejo Zaden in Warmenhuizen. ‘And it is nice that I can now discuss things with my teachers and ask questions in person, which goes a lot faster than through an online environment. Lautenbag says he sometimes sits down to study in the evening after a day’s work, and has questions about the material. ‘Usually I only see the teacher’s reply the next evening. So a whole day goes by between the question and the answer.’ But Lautenbag emphasizes that the teachers are very accessible. ‘I got study leave from my boss for this period in Wageningen, so I don’t give up any holiday for it. I pay for my B&B myself. It’s only seven nights so it doesn’t cost a fortune.’ Studying part-time alongside his job has not affected his social life much, he says. ‘Although I shouldn’t push the boat out with friends at the weekend if I have to do an online exam the next day.’
Aubry Moret works in Plant Breeding too. He studied Biochemistry near Paris, and ended up a few moves later at a hemp company, Hempflax, in Nijmegen. There, he runs the laboratory and analyses medicinal plant extracts. He is very happy to be in Wageningen. ‘Sometimes I feel the need to discuss something with a teacher, and then I miss the face-to-face contact. It’s nice to be able to kick ideas around with a teacher now.’
Moret is satisfied with the online Master’s programme, although he does have a wishlist. ‘I would like to have more preparation for exams and more feedback on exams. I can learn from that,’ says Moret, who would also like it if you could see other people’s exams online. ‘Then we can discuss the exam material among ourselves on Blackboard.’