The Defensie Vaarschool (Defence sailing school) is part of the Dutch Navy and organises all nautical trainings within the different organisations of the Dutch Ministry of Defence. The courses include, among others, boating licenses, bridge simulations, and restocking a navy ship.

“This is truly vocational education, because students can practice the needed skills on their own.”

– John Wennink

The Challenge

The courses of the Defensie Vaarschool are generally very practically oriented. Which is only appropriate for this line of work; It involves a lot of hands-on action.

However, due to COVID-19 a lot of the practical courses were cancelled and students had to stay at home. It was important for students to be able to quickly continue their education independently and without the direct explanation of the teacher, who was often there to demonstrate certain acts, such as making knots.

The school quite successfully established an online education module in a short period of time. However, clear instructional videos, in which the practical aspect of the study material could easily be demonstrated, were missing. These were seen as vital for motivating students to practice at home. Having the videos made by the audiovisual department would take up a lot of time and it would be difficult to adjust once they were made. Teachers quickly took the initiative to make instructional videos themselves, using GPAL to easily upload and share the videos with the students.

The challenge is clear: Creating a practical online course with the use of clear and simple instructional videos, available to all students in the GPAL app, during COVID-19.

The Approach

After receiving a short instruction on how to use GPAL, a team of colleagues started to film important instructional videos. Within a few weeks dozens instructional videos and assignments were made available in the GPAL app for all students. These videos were immediately available for remote learning, so students were able to practice the study material at home.

Examination could also partly be done from home. Students were asked to make videos of them carrying out assignments and to upload them in the GPAL app. This way the teacher can evaluate the student’s work more individually. Within only two weeks, practical education could be resumed by remote learning.

“We received full assistance from Defensie when it came to resources and time.”

– John Wennink

The Results

Improved and flexible education

GPAL contributes to the flexibilisation of education. Videos in the app can be used in numerous different ways. For learning, testing, and refreshing of knowledge as well. It also allows students to use their time more efficiently and assignments can be done and evaluated remotely. The time invested in making the videos already saves a lot of time now. For example, the videos are easily adaptable when something changes in the online courses. It is very easy to make changes to an online course. The teacher also has more time to give individual feedback, because the basic knowledge and assignments are done independently. This creates a more efficient course programme with better results, as students scored 10-15 points higher on average than before

Vocational education with GPAL at Defensie Vaarschool

Meanwhile schools are open again and GPAL is still actively used at DVS. This new form of education is perfectly aligned with the objective of vocational education. Previously, the Defensie Vaarschool focused on traditional forms of education. Now, students receive basic information in the classroom and then independently watch instructional videos. Next, they can practice with the material themselves and make a short video showing their newly learned skills. In the GPAL app the videos can be uploaded and the creator can receive feedback from their peers and teachers.


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