Cultuurconnectie and Duppal get 4000 teachers to start ‘Zooming’
Within a few months, almost 4,000 teachers in the cultural education, participation and public university sector taught online via Zoom thanks to the branch organization Cultuurconnectie. With the help of funding from various foundations and a fast but effective adoption process via Duppal, Cultuurconnectie ensured that the branch could continue its activities online. 200,164 Zoom sessions later, commercial manager René de Kok looks back on a successful project that seems to have definitively made its mark on the future of the sector: “With this Zoom project, we’ve accomplished more than just moving on-site operations to an online environment. It turns out that much more is possible online for our members than initially thought.”
It is September 2020: The Netherlands is at the beginning of the second wave of corona and, like many others, the sector for cultural education is shutting down for a second time that year. Although physical meetings are not possible, many organizations still see an opportunity to continue activities such as courses, lectures and workshops online. In the months before, arts centers, ‘folk universities’ and music schools had already been busy working on short-term solutions. There has been plenty of experimentation with a wide range of tools: from Zoom and Google Meet to Jitsi and Microsoft Teams. When it appears that the impact of the pandemic will be present for some time, there will be an increasing need for a structural solution. For branch organization Cultuurconnectie, this was the start of a unique project which aimed to enable members to teach online in a good and safe way.
Zoom as a suitable solution for education
“We heard from our members last year that they were looking for a good solution for online classes. As a branch organization, we wanted to help these organizations and remove a number of obstacles for them, both technically and financially,” says René de Kok, commercial manager at Cultuurconnectie and architect of the Zoom project. “We set to work with three questions: which tool is most suitable for our members, how can this be purchased as cost-effectively as possible and how do we ensure proper implementation in the sector?” Based on own research, advice of several partners and experiences of teachers, Cultuurconnectie decided on Zoom. René: “cultural education obviously has a large educational aspect, and Zoom fits in very well with that.” He found support from Stichting tot Steun aan het Volksuniversiteitswerk and the OAK, because they too saw the importance of continuing the activities online. Together they started an initiative that allows all popular universities in The Netherlands and organizations for cultural education that are members of Cultuurconnectie to use Zoom for the course year 2020-2021 free of charge.
Looking for the right Zoom partner
With one standard in terms of the tool and funding the licenses, the next challenge came up: how do we ensure that organizations can use Zoom properly? “We quickly realized that with the large number of licenses, we needed the knowledge and skills of a specialized partner. We then started looking for a partner that knows their way around the world of Zoom and at the same time understands the challenges that our members face.” That search eventually led to Duppal. “In Duppal, we found a party that not only manages the licenses, but also provides substance. The trust was there from the start and only grew along the way. I saw the enthusiasm at Duppal and we really grew into the project together over the last few months.”
Zoom adoption process
In close cooperation, a Zoom adoption process was set up. Duppal assembled a project team and created a project plan and timeline, initially just for the folk universities. The adoption process included training for admins/administrators, basic and pro training for teachers, and the creation of 13 Quick Reference Cards. Not only was attention paid to finding the right buttons in Zoom, but also to setting up an exciting, interactive online class. The positive stories from the folk universities soon led to a similar project for cultural education. This included training admins, developing 16 Quick Reference Cards, and recently holding a webinar on organizing large online events.
René: “We went from idea to funding and implementation fairly quickly, partly thanks to the funders. Together with Duppal, we continued to scale up and as the project grew, we also started to fill in the teacher and administrator training. The flexibility and the short lines of communication with Duppal have ensured that together, we have grown quickly from a small idea to a large and successful project.”
Sector stays in motion
Even now, the sector is still in full (online) motion, partly due to the influence of government measures. “We are seeing increasing awareness among members that the current situation will continue for an extended period of time. The longer locations are closed, the more the number of Zoom sessions increases. Organizations and teachers who were a bit hesitant at first are now also switching to online classes,” René adds. This also means that requests for help are still coming in daily. The helpdesk of Cultuurconnectie handles the first-line questions and can contact the Meet Duppal team for more complex questions. “We’ve had almost daily contact with the Meet Duppal team during the first few months and we know who to turn to with both technical and user questions. With Duppal as a backup, we can answer 99.9% of users’ questions, and the rest is up to Zoom.”
A glance of the future
In order to exchange experiences, a Zoom user group has also been set up. This group not only exchanges best practices and lessons learned, but also takes a first look at the future. René: “This project has brought various developments to the surface that we can and must use in the future. A good example is a student who emigrated to Colombia and now can continue the classes from the other side of the world. Now that people are getting used to being able to follow classes online, they will want that option as well. Whether in a hybrid form or not.” But the Zoom project also has an impact outside of teaching. “We see, for example, that Zoom helps with integration and cooperation between different departments within (merged) organizations, and it can play a role in our goals for diversity and inclusiveness,” René says. Reason enough for Cultuurconnectie to see what else Zoom can do for the sector. Duppal also plays an active role in this.
Unexpected great success
All in all, René looks back on a very successful project and a successful collaboration with Duppal: “Together with Duppal, we never thought in advance that we would ultimately be helping almost 4,000 teachers on their way with online teaching, by means of an account and matching information. We stepped in at the right time and were able to create calm in the sector: organizations have a good tool at their disposal, they have the skills to use the tool and the lines of communication for questions and support are clear. A free Zoom account is nice, but you have to be able to use it. Under reasonable time pressure, we have grown together with Duppal toward a very nice project, which is far from finished. The impressive result of the 200,164 Zoom sessions of on average one to one and a half hours, speaks for itself if you ask me!”
Cultuurconnectie is the branch organization for cultural education, amateur art and folk university work. As of 1 January 2015, Kunstconnectie and the Dutch Association of Volksuniversiteiten (BNVU) joined forces under the name Cultuurconnectie. The approximately 145 members include centers for the arts, folk universities, music schools and provincial support organizations for art and culture.
For Cultuurconnectie, it is important to contribute to the future of cultural education. Cultuurconnectie takes a position on behalf of, for and with it’s members and formulates solicited and unsolicited opinions on current topics and themes. It motivates, advises and facilitates the member organizations in the development of their work. Cultuurconnectie builds up and makes agreements on employment conditions that benefit entrepreneurship in the sector. By combining forces and bringing parties together, it offers its members a wide range of benefits. Cultuurconnectie increases the awareness and quality of the work of the sector and makes sure the sector is a known and acknowledged partner in the (cultural) political debate, policy making and implementation.