In the fictional student house Casa Loco, life is full of arguments, drama and love. The educational series, which focuses on the lives of the housemates, is not just a fun show to watch, ‘but it’s also very educational,’ says Houweling, who came up with the idea for the show. The professor uses brief clips from the show in his lectures to help his students understand theoretical subjects by turning them into situations they might actually encounter in daily life. For example: “In the first episode, Eva breaks her arm. She is worried that she won’t have any income for the next six weeks. But is it true that she won’t have an income? Those are the kinds of questions I’ll ask my students.”
In addition to specific knowledge on a particular topic, students get to learn more about more general student-life-related issues. “For instance, we’re not afraid to tackle subjects such as inclusiveness, loneliness and student loan debt. But while all that is being discussed, the main thing everyone wants to know, obviously, is whether Joyce and Sjoerd will end up together.” Students are not the only persons benefitting from the series. “The show provides information on a lot of things. It will tackle many different subjects. As a result, I’m collaborating more with colleagues representing other disciplines, such as economics.”
Houweling came up with the idea for the series quite a while ago, but the pandemic caused the plans to be set in motion more quickly. After all, it is high time online lectures became a little more exciting, says Houweling. “So exciting that I hope students lying in bed at night will think: you know what, I’ll watch another episode.” So far, only two episodes have been released, but according to Houweling, the first reactions to Casa Loco have been favourable. “Many students are already curious to see more, and they love the quality of the show.”
‘Students learn more from high-quality images’
Fair is fair, a lot of time, money and energy is being expended on the production of the show. So far, the Casa Loco episodes made have cost between €6,000 and €8,000 each. Is the show actually worth all that? Houweling thinks it is. “Absolutely. You’ll quickly lose your students’ attention if you ask them to listen to a pastor delivering a thirty-minute sermon.” Houweling also believes that students learn more from beautiful, high-quality images. “They’d rather watch a slick YouTube video than something recorded on a webcam.”
To make sure the show’s subject matter is up to scratch, two colleagues of Houweling’s who are also involved in the Master’s degree in Labour Law also work on the show. Furthermore, the project is supported by the Community for Learning & Innovation (CLI). CLI’s mission is to make the classes taught at EUR more innovative.
For now, the plan is to release at least three or four more full seasons. “Down the track I’d like to collaborate with students even more intensively.” For instance, Houweling would like to collaborate with Media Psychology students. “They might be able to determine, say, what impact the show is having on students.”
“And if I’m allowed to dream even bigger dreams, I’d like to make the show something that transcends Rotterdam. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students in Groningen were to watch it, as well? And then we’d be able to say: that show was shot in Rotterdam.”