Maastricht Academy: Learning by Sharing

by Sofiya Gaydardzhieva

Maastricht Academy’s website: http://maastrichtacademy.com/

The ink on your high school diploma has hardly dried out yet and you are already facing the harsh reality of pending deadlines, mountains of reading material and pushing crowds in the library. As the exams are coming closer and closer, your eyes are bloodshot and the level of the stress-causing hormone cortisol on the rise. Yet the worst of all is the feeling of self-culpability, a.k.a. ‘I should have started this revision earlier’ that is robbing you sleep at night. If you are experiencing at least two of the above-mentioned symptoms, you are probably a first-year Maastricht University student in need of some peer-assistance. Unfortunately, throughout our university, peer-assistance translates into a group complaining on how unfair the professors are, what kind of stupid questions they ask at the exams, how unprepared you are for tomorrow’s tutorial and not understanding what the course is generally about. After the group complaining is over, each student retreats to his study cell and shuts the door, with nothing productive that would come out of the recently finished conversation.  If you realize that this is not the right of collective studying, maybe Ivan and his team can help you out.

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Ivan is a student of Econometrics and Operation Research at the Maastricht School of Business and Economics and he seems to have figured out an interactive way of learning by sharing. I remember talking to him 2 years ago in the one of our beloved library’s common rooms. This was the first time he had told me about his idea to reform the tutoring system in a way that will help students top their results and  bring them together at the same time. Online tutorials, accessible free of charge, open contributions from student to student- I was impressed by how visionary his project was but all the same wondering how he plans to develop it into reality.

Two years later, Maastricht Academy is a fully-fledged online resource center for learning materials provided by students for students. The contributors, all 3rd year students of Econometrics, European Law and European Studies provide expertise of not only academic but personal value based on their own experiences as a newbie at UM. Tutorial summaries written in student-friendly language, useful guides on academic skills and face-to-face tutorials are tailored to the needs of particularly 1st and 2nd year students and offered free of charge.  Furthermore, PhD researchers and cum laude Master graduates have jumped on board to enhance the quality of the services provided.  On Wednesday, 28th May 2014, Maastricht Academy brought its expertise to the stage with the  first workshop on personal statement- the art of writing an enticing letter of motivation.  What else has the ambitious group planned for the future? Ivan told me about their project  to take it to online video platforms such as YouTube in order to reach more students despite their limited labor force and shared more first-hand ideas on what lies behind Maastricht Academy. Here is what he said:

Need

One of the biggest trends among our generation is sharing. That’s one reason why I came up with the idea of a platform that provides study materials and tutoring when I was in my first year of education in Maastricht. I personally felt the need of a person to show me small tricks and learning techniques, because back then I was inexperienced. I came from a different social and education environment. Furthermore, in a lot of cases the teaching method of the tutors is foreign to a newcomer. In addition, students lack the courage to ask questions. I believe that a lot of students struggle in the same way since the UM is highly international.

Solution

 At the beginning of this academic year my friends and I realized that we have the potential and skills to develop such a platform in order to empower other students. We launched MaastrichtAcademy.com. What distinguishes us from the rest is that we work on a voluntary basis and everything that is provided is free of charge. We work in collaboration with professors, PhD and cum laude students who help us develop further and assure quality. It is a place where students can find study materials as well as private tutoring and videos in case they cannot understand some of the concepts. In addition, we organize workshops on different hot topics. Our target groups at the moment are SBE, Law and FASoS students, but we would like to expand. We mainly use the Social Media and our online platform to communicate with our target groups.

Let me now focus on the mechanism – how MaastrichtAcademy works. First, no registration is necessary, the study materials are easily accessible for anyone who is willing to study. However, if one experiences a problem, he can go to the tab “Tutorials”, fill in his name, email, field of study and simply send us a request. As soon as we see it, we arrange a meeting and help. We don’t go against other student associations, because our initiative is of a different kind. We aim to bring the UM community together by stimulating them to share knowledge.

Future

We have the idea to expand the project into a new dimension. In the future we would like to update the student materials, create videos that explain in-depth easy-to-understand concepts, organize workshops and collaborate with other student associations. Our first workshop on May 28 and dealt with the guidelines on how to write a personal statement. The goal is to show how to shine even if your transcript is not flawless. Additionally, we would start to create videos, because that is more effective way to reach a higher number of students. There are many students that are interested, but unfortunately our labor force is limited. We live in a digital era and most of the students spend a great deal of time watching videos on YouTube, which would be another communication channel. Of course, if they have questions, they can always turn to us for face-to-face tutoring. 

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