The Ins and Outs of PBL and UCM

Before I begin telling you all about PBL and UCM, I’d like to congratulate everyone who was accepted to study abroad next fall!  For the future UCM students, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful experience in The Netherlands.  With that being said, I thought this blog might be a good crash course so you know what to expect from the academic environment while you’re studying at UCM.

First thing’s first — UCM’s campus is noticeably smaller than UR.  The following picture helps prove my point:

This is a picture of the one and only building for UCM students.  Although there is a library which can be used by anyone who is a student in any of the faculties of University of Maastricht, this is the main building specifically for UCM students.

This is a picture of the common room.  It is the main place of socialization in the UCM building.  People meet up with each other in this area, wait between classes, have a snack, do homework, have meetings or receptions; it’s basically an all-purpose room.

Now that you have a general idea about the size of UCM, I’ll go into some detail, without overwhelming you, about PBL.  PBL, Problem Based Learning, is exactly what it says it is.  Before classes start, you receive a course manual/handbook for each course you are registered to take.  This manual includes the syllabus, compulsory reading, deadlines, and contact information for your tutor.  Each course generally has one lecture and two tutorials per week.  Both the lectures and the tutorials are two hours each.  Classes are longer at UCM compared to UR, because the semester is divided into two periods followed by a project period.  Each period, you are expected to take two courses and a skills course for Richmond to consider you a full-time student.   A few examples of skills courses are Research Methods, Presentations Skills, or Strategy and Negotiation.

Now that you have an overview of the logistics of how course work at UCM, I’ll tell give you some details about PBL itself.  You begin a lecture with a pre-discussion.  The discussion leader (a student in your tutorial group) will give everyone a few minutes to read a brief synopsis and thought-provoking piece on a topic that’s relevant to your course.  The students discuss it and come up with learning goals.  These learning goals are then used to guide the students’ at-home study session.  The next time the students meet again, they have a post-discussion about the reading and help each other answer the previous learning goals.  Everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion, and the tutorial groups are generally no more than about 8-10 students.

 All of the classrooms are colorful, but I think this is my favorite one.

It may take some getting used to, but overall, I think PBL is an interesting system, especially if you like to do self-study and speak in class.  Once again, I’d like to congratulate those of you going to UCM next semester.  I hope you have a wonderful time!

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