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Graduation notifications at VAVO Rijnmond College

For Dutch college students, the end to the year was somewhat different than in previous years. Normally, the national exams are the grand finale, determining whether students will graduate. This year, however, it would be the colleges own assessments that would determine solely whether or not a student would graduate, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On June 4th, all students would be notified whether or not they had graduated. While students at Dutch secondary schools would receive a call with their results, at colleges such as VAVO Rijnmond College, this was not possible.

We spoke with Karin Lentz, Vice Principal at VAVO Rijnmond College, who gave us insight into this unprecedented end to an academic year. After March 15th, the first day of lockdown in The Netherlands, things changed significantly. “Luckily for us, the normal classes had already finished, but we still had to start with the third period of the school exams”, says Lentz, who had to act quickly when colleges closed. “We started with one and a half week of online training and tutoring, preparing for the exams. After that, we started with the exams in-person, according to the guidelines of the RIVM (Dutch government body for Health and Safety).”

Logistical challenges

Karin Lentz, Vice Principal at VAVO Rijnmond College

Whilst students were preparing online, VAVO Rijnmond College was dealing with logistical challenges. With the exception of oral exams, all exams were able to take place in person. “Besides our own classrooms, we have used rooms from InHolland Rotterdam, Zadkine (Jan Ligthartstraat) and Albeda (Rosestraat). The students of those institutions were studying from home, allowing us to use the space we needed for everyone to keep a safe distance. We were able to host around 8 students per room. With additional invigilators and the help from our colleagues at Zadkine and Albeda, we were able to continue with our exams”, Lentz states thankfully.

The students were happy the exams could take place in-person. “We have only received positive feedback. Students said it was well organised and they were able to take their exams in peace”, says Lentz. As graduation would only depend on these assessments, students could already see if they would graduate by looking at their grades. “But that would not have been enough.”

Graduation notifications

On June 4th, all students were notified if they had graduated or not. Whilst secondary schools have the capacity to call their final year students, this was not possible at VAVO Rijnmond College. “We have had to call almost 700 students, which is simply too much. A while back, we would have invited all students on campus or show the results online so they could look it up with their student number. This year, we did something different.”

This year, however, the joy of finding out if you had graduated would come via a push notification from the StuCommApp. “On June 4th, those who graduated, over 600, received a push notification on their smartphone: ‘You graduated!’ I am glad that we were able to notify and congratulate all graduates this way”, says Lentz, who had another surprise in store as well. In The Netherlands, secondary school graduates typically hang the national flag on their backpack, to show everyone that they graduated. “Because everything depended on the college assessments instead of the national exams, we already knew which students would graduate. That allowed us to mail out a flag which they could use on June 4th.” To share their joy, they could also participate in a competition by posting a photo of themselves with the flag on Facebook or Instagram.

Asmae, winner of the photo competition!

A fitting ending

Through the push notifications, all graduates have been congratulated and have since received their complimentary national flag. However, for those at VAVO Rijnmond College, the year is not quite over just yet. “As we do every year, we want to celebrate graduation with our graduates. We are working hard to find a way to have a proper graduation for all our graduates”, Lentz concludes.