It was fall 1998. The world had never heard of Covid-19, the Pavilion building hadn’t been demolished yet, and there I was one afternoon, sitting in an unventilated lecture hall with a group of fellow students, like sardines in a can, taking my very first interim test Logic and Set theory. I didn’t get a passing grade, unfortunately, in fact, my score turned out to be half of what I had expected. But it was an eyeopener. Apparently, I had difficulty assessing how well I had prepared for the test. Luckily, I still had the remainder of the trimester to prepare for the final exam.
In the following years, trimesters became semesters, study points became credits, and over the course of another few years we went from semesters to quartiles and all courses became 5 credits courses, equal to 140 hours of study per course. An enormous task for the university’s personnel, but after some finetuning here and there all existing courses were adapted to make room for every single program subject.
It’s the year 2021 now, and we read in Strategy 2030 that it’s time for yet another complete overhaul. The newest thing is ‘microcredits.’ When you take that literally that comes down to units of 28 x 10-6 hours, or a tenth of a second. I suspect, however, that this is not how it was meant. Microcredits do however go with small, short modules. Something like YouTube videos with a multiple-choice exam in the comments.
They use this at my daughter’s primary school. She once showed me. She opened a lesson on signal words, which she hadn’t seen before. She skipped the explanation and started with the multiple-choice questions. After she had randomly answered a few questions and saw the right answers, I heard her say: “Oh, that’s how the trick works.” She then continued to give all the right answers and got a 75 precent score. When you guessed the right answers for more than 75 percent of the questions, you can continue to the next video, a 100 percent score earns you a sticker. She was allowed to continue with the next lesson, but she still couldn’t explain signal words to me.
I eventually passed my Logic and Set theory test at the end of my first trimester at TU/e. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass all my courses. I miserably failed several times for my probability and statistics exam in particular, but once the penny dropped, I passed the exam. How will that work precisely with those microcredits? Will it be necessary to understand the course content, or will it be possible to earn enough microcredits for a sticker just by trying over and over? And how many stickers do you need for a diploma?