Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

Rapid changes in society and student demographics pose major challenges for universities, who are responding by innovating education visions, learning goals, curricula, and courses. These education innovations are often reported in the literature and at conferences on a single-project basis, resulting in a large number of differently structured publications that make it difficult to find interesting examples or learn from a wide variety of education innovation projects. To counteract this, the four technical universities in the Netherlands (in Eindhoven, Wageningen, Twente, and Delft) offer standardized information about their education innovation projects on the innovation map website of their joint Centre For Engineering Education; 4TU.CEE.  The information is continuously updated. University staff around the world can use the innovation map to find interesting examples of education innovation.  This project offers an analysis of all projects contained within the innovation map. 

Objective and expected outcomes

The purpose of the innovation map and this project, is to offer input for further university education innovation projects and research by:

  1. Offering standardized information of the education innovations projects at the four Dutch technical universities.
  2. Analyses of that information to better align education innovation with education strategies, generating results that might also be useful for universities worldwide. 

Results and learnings

The reported education projects run by the four Dutch technical universities show a focus on course-level innovations and present-day challenges. Furthermore, these projects indicate a preference for innovation by optimizing education design and balancing blended learning. These changes may have been introduced in response to the strong growth in student numbers experienced at these institutions over the past years, particularly in the two universities with most reported projects, Wageningen and Eindhoven. Of course, strong student number growth is a very urgent challenge that must be tackled.  

Recommendations

Present-day education challenges should not be the only focus of innovation projects however, because the four Dutch universities of technology have longer-term strategic goals. These goals have been expressed in four topics within the 4TU.CEE strategic plan for 2019-2021:

  1. Educating Future Engineers
  2. Interdisciplinary Engineering Education
  3. Engineering Educational Ecosystems
  4. Teaching Excellence in University Engineering Education

To innovate more towards these goals, the focus of innovation projects will have to shift a bit to more meet them. This will also require an innovation shift from the course level to the curriculum level and beyond. 

The evaluation and dissemination of the projects has mainly occurred within the innovated courses themselves; however, it would be better to explicitly include evaluation and dissemination actions in the proposals, project activity, and reports going forward.

The innovation map serves its purpose at its present scale of four universities. For staff around the world, it offers a flexible way to learn from the results of university education innovation projects. The Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) is interested in using this approach on a national scale, and its use on an international level such as offered by the CDIO initiative is another option.

Practical outcomes

Paper (at the downloads on the right): "Learning from education innovation using the 4TU.CEE innovation map" by Emiel van Puffelen and Caroline Vonk.