Part of the
Centre for
Engineering Education
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Centre for
Engineering Education


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Project introduction and background information

TU/e is innovating education by implementing Challenge Based Learning (CBL) on a large scale throughout the university. Therefore, it is important to find ways to involve the whole university in the development and implementation of the new educational concept. Teacher involvement and close interaction between management and teaching staff is important for the further development of the concept and shared know-how, and for its successful implementation. TU/e faces the challenge to involve more and more faculty and jointly explore and develop the new teaching concept, and to support the teaching staff in practically shaping CBL education for the future.

In this project, a educational design support tool is developed that supports teachers in a reflective way to design CBL for their courses.  Being online, it draws a picuture of teachers' views as expressed in their design choices.

Objective and expected outcomes

At the start of the project, a 'design your CBL' prototype was developed and tested (Taconis et al., (submitted)). Briefly, participating teachers design the outline of a CBL teaching unit while discussing ideas and receiving reflective feedback on their design choices. In doing so, the design is built using 5 - 7 critical design components (e.g., 'challenge -type', 'educational purpose', 'engineering method', 'assessment'), over which participants must make informed choices. These elements are derived from a literature review such as that in the project: 'Challenge based tasks for fundamental knowledge'.

The goal of the project is to further develop this prototype by aligning it with the evolving ideas about CBL in the university and the (evolving) needs of TU/e faculty and instructors to be supported in designing CBL instruction. And to use the tool for training and support activities.

Methodologically, the projects is a design research project yielding both theoretical results (better understanding an development of the concept of CBL) and practical results (design of the tool, and use of the tool for training and teacher support).

Results and learnings

The first prototype was used by AP and EE departments (with paper cards) on the occasion of their 'education day', and within the E3 design group (online mode).  The evaluation of these use cases revealed weaknesses and strengths of the prototype. In addition, expert and advanced CBL designers were interviewed and observed while using the tool, to gather information on a) their views on the critical design components of CBL, and b) their best practices and the 'design rules' employed while creating CBL education. Information from other projects was gathered to get a clearer picture of: the current characteristics of CBL at TU/e, possible subtypes of CBL, and the exact support needs of teachers in creating CBL teaching in their practice according to TU/e expectations. All this led to improvement and a partial redesign of the original prototype.

The new version of the online tool, dyCBL-II, includes several levels of increasing complexity. The basic levels are highly structured and provide a step-by-step design strategy. This structure gradually becomes looser in the higher levels. The scenarios presented in the levels all focus on topics known to be important for teachers designing CBL. Some concern CBL in general, other focus on sub-types of CBL specifically tailored to specific engineering domains or departments.

In the dyCBL-II tool, you can playfully experiment with different design options, and see what they would mean for your students' learning. The projected learning outcome and the comments provided by the tool are based on established theories of learning/teaching, and are presented in an open and inviting way. The main goal is to encourage users to think on the CBL they need or want.

Going forward, we plan to further develop the tool along three lines. First, by implementing more scenarios and refining the current ones. Second, by collecting use cases to further improve the user experience. And last but not least, by further developing the playfulness of the tool.

Practical outcomes

The project has led:

  • A model describing CBL and its design components
  • Design rules for designing CBL targeted to specific learning objectives.
  • A tool to support teachers in designing CBL reflectively
  • Publications: education day meetings (3) , teacher reflection sessions, two conference papers

As the project is a design research project, and CBL development within TU/e is an ongoing process, these results are "current" and subject to continuous improvements through ongoing design research and interactions with other projects and activities within TU/e.

  • Online tool (design your CBL v1.7) – prototype tested for Firefox and Edge
  • Taconis, R., Hobbelen, H., & Bekker, M. M. (2020). Design and use of a tool to support teachers in designing Challenge Based Learning. Educon,  IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference. (cancelled)
  • Taconis, R., Hobbelen, H. & Bekker, T. (2021).  A model-based online tool supporting the design of Challenge Based Learning. Proceeding of the 49th SEFI Annual Conference 2021 (13 – 16 September 2021).