Last Thursday Ludger Deitmer and I visited the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in the context of the Learning Layers (LL) project. For us this was a follow-up of the talks we had had during the Brunnenbauertage conference last year and a planning meeting for the forthcoming pilot activities. The representatives of Ostfalia had already at that time expressed their interest to learn more of the Learning Toolbox. Now that we had promising progress reports from the Alpüha Beta Camp in Aachen, it was high time to take further steps.
Our host organisation, the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences is a merged university colleges with four campuses in the Easten part of the federal state Lower Saxony (near the former border of the two German states). Our hosts from the faculty “Bau-Wasser-Boden”, professor Elfriede Ott (Geo-engineering) and Albrecht Meißner (Informatics, dean of the faculty) are working in the campus of Suderburg, the most rural campus of the four. As we experienced it in our talks, this university college cannot profile itself with the attractions of urban city life – therefore, it has to profile itself with a strong emphasis on practice-based learning, collaboration with enterprises and creative pedagogy.
Our hosts firstly informed us of their study programs for construction engineers with different areas of specialisation (in particular building the grounds, water supply solutions and tunneling). Here, as well as in other areas of specialisation, Ostfalia was actively developing the model of Dual Stdudies (combination of Higher Education degree with apprentice training that delivered initial vocational qualification). And, due to the regulations of the training in construction sector, the workplace training included several presence periods in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC. As we understood it, the cooperation between Ostfalia and Bau-ABC had already reached a relatively mature phase – they had learned to combine their strengths and developed a culture of mutual exchanges.
Concerning their pedagogic interests, our hosts told us of their experiences with stimulating collaborative group and self-organised learning. In this context they also noted the need to overcome some resistance and anxieties. Moreover, they informed us of their experiments with gamification – facilitating learning in geo-engineering by playing cards that make transparent the basic facts and the necessary measures – essentials on which you need to have an overview. Finally, they informed of their university-wide pedagogic support services and pilots with pedagogic counseling (Lerncoaching).
From the LL perspective the Ostfalia study programs – in particular the dual studies provide an interesting field for piloting with the Learning Toolbox. As we discussed it, the students are challenged to get awareness of the limits of desk engineering and to take into account the practical reality of construction work on the grounds. Our hosts could give us several examples of possible mismatches and how they are detected when the engineering students get insights into the work processes of skilled workers. From this perspective they were interested in becoming involved in the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, given the fact that their students gather experiences in multiple learning venues – college, training centre, enterprise – they were interested in getting the students reflect on their learning experiences and making the connections between theory and practice. This issue was also discussed in the context of a separate funding programme “Erfahrbares Lernen” that seeks to bring new innovation-oriented and experiential insights into studies in higher education.
Altogether, we covered a lot of topics and reached an agreement to continue our cooperation in the next phase when the recent results of the developers are prepared for field workshops. We are looking forward to the next steps.
More blogs to come …