CuriousU: more focus on content, less on festival vibe

| Rense Kuipers

The first fully online edition of the UT’s summer school CuriousU starts next week. The crisis situation forced the organisation to rethink and strip down the programme, with less focus on the festival vibe and more on the courses. Project leader Elena Tsigki expects about eighty participants.

Project leader Elena Tsigki in the studio (in the Spiegel building).

This sixth edition of CuriousU was supposed to take place in blended fashion: one week online and one on campus. Already at the beginning of June, the organisation decided to go fully online, says Tsigki. ‘It was a very difficult decision to make, especially because measures were easing by then. But the travel situation was still uncertain, with the risk of governments changing their policy at the last moment. Having a fully online summer school was therefore the more inclusive choice. Now everyone who wants to, can attend CuriousU.’

Seven courses

The switch to fully online was ‘not ideal’, says Tsigki. ‘It’s the best we can offer at this point. And we were already prepared for a week fully online, now it’s two weeks. But it does make organising more challenging. Because of the distance, we’re less in control of how everyone’s doing. And we’re also more dependent on technology. We host the summer school on campus, so we’re sure we have a stable internet connection. But we can only hope it’s the same for the participants.’

The decision had a major effect on the scope of the programme. Originally, this CuriousU edition would have offered eighteen different courses, now it’s stripped down to seven. ‘This was a mutual and collaborative decision we made together with the course leaders,’ explains Tsigki. ‘We wanted them to choose whether they preferred to offer a fully online course or back out. Several courses were more suitable as physical courses, so it wasn’t possible to offer these online. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable with whatever choice they made. In the end, it’s about quality over quantity.’

Shift in mindset

Having the event fully online did not have a negative effect on the expected number of participants, which remained about eighty. ‘Some people decided to drop out, while others joined. Now we were able to offer a tailor-made course for a group of Chinese students, for instance. What we do notice is a shift in the mindset of the crowd, with less focus on socializing and networking and more focus on the content of the courses,’ according to the project leader.

Tsigki says the organisation still tries to maintain a summer school vibe. ‘We’re trying to avoid the Zoom fatigue that a lot of people have become familiar with over the last one and a half years. The courses will be offered in the morning to facilitate the different time zones. And we’ve reserved the afternoons for all kinds of activities like an online escape room and pubquiz, games, inspirational talks, meetups, a CV workshop and much more. We also try to encourage participants to not stick to their screens too much and go outside. It’s holiday time after all. On our side, we hope we can offer the best experience possible.’

curiousu pro

This year, CuriousU expands its offering with a summer school for (young) professionals: CuriousU PRO. This event will go on as planned, at the end of August at the U Parkhotel. In collaboration with the Professional Learning & Development centre of the UT, five courses will be offered: Entrepreneurial Leadership & Group Dynamics, Dealing with Dutch Culture, Effective Negotiators, Data Science and Risk Leadership.

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