Going Virtual

GoingVirtual, a column – Partir c’est mourir un peu

‘Partir c’est mourir un peu’, French for ‘To leave is to die a little’, meaning it’s very hard to say goodbye. Maybe not fully applicable for the end of the academic year, but I like a little drama and as we all have to say goodbye to some students and maybe even to some colleagues, it feels like saying goodbye to people we collaborated with intensely.

It’s nice to see students getting their degrees and moving on to start teaching at schools, become pedagogues or social workers, or start doing something completely different. It makes me feel proud to have supported and maybe even contributed to their personal and professional development, but it also means that I won’t see them anymore on a regular basis.


Fortunately, I have some graduation ceremonies to look forward to where I can personally say goodbye to the – now – young professionals I worked with the last few years.

GoingVirtual.eu is a platform set up for the Erasmus KA2 project ‘Mitigating Covid Together’. Having to start teaching online was an enjoyable, but also complicated, experience. A process that went by trial and error. We all learned a lot. Turning classroom instructions to short(er) online instructions, with videoclips for students to prepare lectures; deploy cooperative strategies in breakout rooms, and to experiment with peer feedback on recorded internship experiences.

We are in an exciting period now (June 2022). Unfortunately, there is a strong increase in Covid cases again. However, it is not expected that schools in the Netherlands will close as they had to in the last two years. Although we mainly teach physically again, we have more online activities than before Covid. Many meetings with colleagues as well as with students take place virtually. Students use more prerecorded instructions and knowledge clips than they did before. Both lecturers and students have seen the benefits of the use of (educational) technology. However, we also see students having difficulties getting motivated again to get to the university and even students with severe social-emotional problems.


As Deci and Ryan (1985; 2000) state in their self-degermation theory, the motivation of students (but also of people in general) will increase as three basic psychological needs are fulfilled: autonomy, competence, and relatedness:

  • Autonomy: Students can carry out activities at their discretion, and influence what they do themselves.
  • Sense of competence: The confidence that students must have in their abilities.
  • Relatedness/ social connection: The connection with the environment, or trust in others. Students need a positive pedagogical climate. They should feel free to ask questions and not be afraid to make mistakes.

The focus of online teaching was – at least for me – initially on the first two psychological needs: autonomy and competence. As I wrote: many colleagues encounter students with motivation problems. By the way: several colleagues also told me that they have become teachers because they want to work with students, not sit behind computers. It’s time to pay more attention to the aspect of relatedness as a psychological need. Of course, we/ I should have done this two years ago, but we all need time to learn. Maybe, I’m a slow learner. We all need a sense of belonging.

With this intention, I am going to close this academic year. I am already thinking of activities that I want to undertake next academic year with students and colleagues. Activities that support the sense of relatedness and belonging. Activities that will be physical, online, or as a form of blended learning. One of the nice things about working in education is that we get the chance to start all over again every academic year. It’s a process of life-long learning.

I wish you all a nice and well-deserved summer break!



Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American         Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

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