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

Project introduction and background information

The Living Lab course is rooted in the learning by doing approach. Experiencing the challenges of bringing science and engineering to society in order to tackle urban problems, is at the core of the learning process.

Students can decide if they work on a challenge in the themes of urban energy, circularity, food systems, climate resilience or digitization. This is one of the ways that they can take control of their own learning pathway during the course.

Students work on location, at the organisation where they collaborate with. Once a month, however, they return at AMS Institute*  for reflection in peer groups. During these reflection sessions, personal learning goals and challenges in the team process are discussed with peers across the teams.

Because of the authenticity of the course, the commitment of the students to the cases and the case-owners is high. The long run of the course, offers the case-owners and the students the opportunity to build a strong relationship with each other and truly learn collaboratively.

The results of the living lab challenges are real products or solutions to urban problems that are presented at the annual Living Lab Exhibition at AMS Institute. This way, the results are shared with the citizens of the city of Amsterdam and inspire not only the directly involved case-owners and their partners, but also a wider audience.

Through this kind of transdisciplinary education, students get a chance to make an impact on the city. The students learn to adopt a socio-technical perspective in facing the city's challenges by looking not only at science but also at the social environment, governance, and the economy. This way they can become true urban engineers.

Results and learnings

  • Students learn to engage with complex challenges in a real-life setting.  
  • Students experience a co-creative process of developing innovation in the challenging urban context.
  • Students are in control of their learning pathway.  
  • The learning objectives are related to the process.
  • Most results are implemented locally which makes it very rewarding for the students, the partners and the city of Amsterdam.
  • The course develops a new form of transdisciplinary education in practice.

Recommendations

In the Living Lab course, students are much more in the lead of their own learning pathway than in traditional education forms. This is new students, as well as teachers. The teacher is the academic coach and teaches through the rather than on the content. This is a change in teaching approach that needs extra attention. 

The case-owners are practitioners from the field that do not necessarily have experience with teaching in higher education, however, they are involved in the learning process of the student. Therefore, they must receive some training on e.g. giving feedback to the students. It is important to pay attention to this in the case selection process. Case-owners should be people that are not only able to offer an interesting real-life case environment, but who are also serious about the learning process of the students. For this reason, it is recommended to build a longer term relationship with the case owners.

The case itself should be selected with great care as by completing the case, the students must be able to achieve the learning objectives of the course. The learning objectives can only be achieved if the case allows for it! 

*AMS Institute offers a unique education ecosystem for students in the living lab course. Through the AMS network, the course brings unique, topical challenges from NGO’s, the city of Amsterdam, knowledge institutions or other partners in the wider metropolitan region to the students. The course also collaborates with the Onderwijsloket in Wageningen to connect students to urban challenges. This course has developed an active approach towards transdisciplinary education.

Additional information

Find the latest living lab results here: https://www.madelivinglabs2020.com/ 

Learn more about the MSc MADE here: https://www.ams-institute.org/education/msc-made-program/