While I was still a candidate-board member, we (myself and the rest of the then candidate-board) thought of the idea to increase the presence of study support from our association to our members. We came up with the idea to organize study evenings, where students could study in a supportive environment. With this idea we started and after gathering information about such evenings from other study associations we setup our first study evening in the eighth week of the first quartile. Up till now we organized three of these evenings, each giving lots of feedback.
After we came up with the idea and brainstormed a bit about it, I found out that Scintilla was one of the few associations that did not organized study evenings. Instead of reinventing the wheel ourselves, I visited some of my educational affairs colleagues to acquire the do’s and don’ts about these evenings. Eventually I talked with Proto, Stress and Communiqué and visited a study evening of Arago. It surprised me that each association had a different approach in the organization. Maybe they did reinvent the wheel themselves?
Proto organizes study evenings already for a couple of years. Currently they have two to four study evenings in one module. Most of their study evenings are for specific subjects, where they managed to get support from the study and have regularly teachers and student assistants present at these evenings.
Stress started about two years ago with their study evenings, in contrast to Proto they have less collaboration with their study. Now and then they get student assistances (SA’s) from their study. If not, they make sure to get one or two older year students for guidance. They organize the study evenings specifically for one subject.
Communiqué is again different, as they managed to get teachers to be there voluntary due to the lack of SA’s. They do have a ‘Study Buddy Committee’, which consists out of a number of students that have high grades and are willing to help others. Communiqué prefers to organize general study evenings, due to the low number of students in their study.
The fourth association I went to was Arago, it surprised me that they did not have any collaboration with their study. Even though they had a high number of attendees. Like Communiqué, Arago organizes general study evenings.
Setup of our study evening
Besides the differences of above, associations differed with strategies when to plan their evenings. With this knowledge, we made a setup for our own study evenings. Stress and Arago seemed to have the most overlap with our situation. Which was that we just started with the idea, where Stress and Arago were just organizing these evenings for about two years.
Our goal with the study evenings was to create a suitable environment which encourages students to study either alone or with their peers and where people can enter and leave whenever they want. You could see it as an enhancement of the university library, with fellow students and free coffee and tea. Hopefully, just like any other activity, people would convince one another to go to such an evening. Besides this goal we defined the format of a study evening and the support during a study evening.
For the format, the evening could be subject specific (like Proto and Stress) or general and thus open for everybody (like Communiqué and Arago). Since we had no idea what the popularity would be, we decided to start with general study evenings and with the possibility, if the evenings are very successful with a high number of attendees, to organize subject specific evenings.
For the support, we thought of printing exams for the relevant subjects. Though this proved to be difficult with certain subjects due to the very limited amount of exams on the database. Therefore mailings were send around to promote the exam database. Other materials, such as notebooks or pens would also be provided.
In addition to the support by providing materials, we had to look who would do the guidance. The options were, looking at other associations, to invite teachers, SA’s or older year students. We brought the idea of getting SA’s up by the study, unfortunately they were not too fond of it. There was a fear that it would replace tutorials (which seemed to be already not popular amongst students). The predicted effect of the study evenings seemed to be one big misunderstanding, as the other associations showed. The main difference with a tutorial is that students are free to attend and leave the evening as they please. Students decide themselves what they want to learn and how they want to learn, whereas a tutorial is often succeeding a lecture were people work on specific problems. We just provide an environment for people that wanted to study anyway that evening, hoping of course to convince others too. Nevertheless for the guidance we were up to ourselves, but as Arago showed this did not have to be a problem.
So prepared with our idea, after a bit of organization and the necessary promotion we (still the board) were sitting in the Westzaal, in the eighth week of the first quartile. A bit later than the planned 17:00, as there was still a lab going on of Create. We divided the Westzaal into two parts, one for working in silence and one for discussion. Chitchat was not allowed in the Westzaal, but if people wanted to they could do it at the table with coffee and tea outside. Exams of Digital Hardware, DiffDiff, Programming and module 1 Calculus were lying on the table, ready to be made.
The evening went well, some people showed up in the beginning and some more after dinner time. People seemed to like it (though the Westzaal was a bit cold). We made sure most of them filled in the small evaluation form. First to third years students showed up, most of them learning for module 1 or module 5 subjects. Though some of them used the evening to work on grading projects, labs or doing some committee work. Most were really happy with ‘the learning environment’. For the ‘provided exams’ and ‘guidance with questions’ the opinions differed a bit, though most of the attendees gave it either ‘okay’ or ‘good’, on a scale from ‘bad’, ‘okay’ and ‘good’. Everybody said that they would come again (if they needed to). Some also gave suggestions for next evenings, such as bringing cookies and more exams. About 20 people showed up (without older year students and board members).
Following evenings and the future
With the recommendations of previous time we organized another one during the last week of the first quartile, for the people that had to do a resit. This evening was quite similar to the previous one. On a third evening, in the second quartile, another evening was organized. Unlike the previous two, only a few students came to the evening. However the people that came were really dedicated to work and happy with it being organized. Some also mentioned that they used this evening to just get work done, as the environment is very motivating.
While writing we have another study evening planned, in the last week of the second quartile. We are still looking at different actions we can take in the future. These are for example whether we organize the evenings more frequently (possibly some without guidance from older years students), or if we want to organize study evenings with a more specific theme. One thing that is sure, is that we will continue with the study evenings.