The students spent an hour exploring the online chatroom with their avatar and talking to individual people. “This can be quite a dry subject, so it’s a good way to make it all more fun. It’s a bit like a video game from the past,” says Lisette Langedijk, study programme director of the bachelor of Law.

Increasingly difficult puzzles

The Erasmus X team, which assists faculties in developing educational innovations, designed the virtual world. During the lectures, students will be presented with increasingly difficult puzzles to solve in Gather Town. For example, they will be asked questions about the subject matter, and they will need to look up the answers in the right legal databases so that they can proceed to the next challenge.

On Friday, the first lecture starts with a speech by lecturer Koen Swinnen about the imaginary stage of the digital world. He explains the content of the lecture: today, students will be exploring the platform and can communicate with each other based on assignments. All the students gather on the stage, and it soon gets very crowded. Space on the stage is limited and not all the students can hear the explanation because the sound can’t be received by so many people at the same time. “We’ve never done this with so many people before, so there were some technical problems. When we start using this in lectures, the groups will be much smaller, so these problems won’t occur,” Swinnen assures.

Sunny beach

After the speech, students can proceed to the second part of the map, where they can chat to fellow students on a sunny beach and get to know each other better. It then immediately becomes clear that you can only talk to each other when you are close enough. When you walk away from your conversation partner, the connection is lost. This is slightly strange at first: “No one is actually talking, and no one has their camera on. But I don’t understand when you can hear each other,” says student Rick Almeloo. He doesn’t understand the added value of the platform either. “It’s obviously quite fun, but I don’t understand how this program improves the course. We could also be given the assignments on paper or in tutorials.”

Once the chatroom has quietened down, initiator Swinnen explains what he feels is the added value. “Lawyers need databases, all the research work is now done on the computer. So, it’s important to start early on and learn about digital technologies.”

Nice conversations

Student Jacquelien Couwenberg is very enthusiastic: “I’m not very computer literate, so this is really useful to help me explore the new digital platforms. I’m now expected to do more with the computer.” At the end of the session, there are many positive reactions from the students. “I enjoyed it, really funny too. I had some nice conversations because you can talk to each other one to one. In Zoom, that’s not so easy,” says part-time student Marit.

“The ultimate goal is to make things more enjoyable for students, and help them learn better,” explains Fenneke van der Grinten. She is part of the learning and innovation team at ESL and has seen more faculties trying to make studying more fun with such innovations. “In other study programmes, I’ve seen them organise a real-life escape room, for example. All these different teaching methods help students learn. Students are much more actively involved.”

Study programme director Langedijk adds: “By combining the Legal Tech course with exploring a new online platform, you’re not just learning the dry facts of this course – you can also immediately apply this knowledge by working online. So, it really contributes. We’re not doing this to be trendy.”