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Blog by Birgit Pepin, 4TU.CEE leader TU/e

“To navigate through such uncertainty, students will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience and self-regulation; they will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives and values of others; and they will need to cope with failure and rejection, and to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job and a high income; they will also need to care about the well-being of their friends and families, their communities and the planet.”

Position paper OECD and engineering education
If you think that this quote comes from our recent university documents, you are mistaken. It is from the OECD document “The future of education and skills- education 2030- the future we want” – a position paper by the OECD (based on first investigations of their project). If you think that this paper relates to higher education, you are mistaken – it is meant for education from pre-school to higher education!

In this blog I summarize the document (which I recently read) by highlighting some of the thoughts that I found most valuable for us in engineering education, and with the view to the “engineer of the future” and engineering education 2030.

In the foreword the director of the ‘The Future of Education and Skills 2030’ project, Andreas Schleicher, outlines the underpinning questions of the project:

  • What knowledge, skills, attitudes and values will today’s students need to thrive and shape their world?
  • How can instructional systems develop these knowledge, skills, attitudes and values effectively?

How to deal with future challenges
The background to the project is that, so he claims, we are facing “unprecedented challenges” -social, economic and environmental – and problems and uncertainties that we cannot anticipate, “it will be a shared responsibility to seize opportunities and find solutions”. He predicts that in order to “navigate through such uncertainty, students will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience and self- regulation; they will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives and values of others; and they will need to cope with failure and rejection, and to move forward in the face of adversity. “ Moreover, he is certain that their motivation (for education) will be “more than getting a good job and a high income”, but they will also need to think about, and care for “the well-being of their friends and families, their communities and the planet”. In order to reach these aims, he states, “education can equip learners with agency and a sense of purpose, and the competencies they need, to shape their own lives and contribute to the lives of others”. In short, and translating these aims to engineering education, we (as engineering educators) have to help our students to become “active, responsible, and engaged citizens” as engineers.

Learner agency and co-agency
Attending in more detail to his vision, key features are (1) “learner agency”, and (2) “co-agency”. With reference to (2) he explains “co-agency” as “the interactive, mutually supportive relationships that help learners to progress towards their valued goals”. In such a context there are no instructors on the one hand, and learners on the other, but everyone should be considered a learner: students, teachers, school managers, parents and communities. Concerning (1) learner agency, in his opinion there are two factors in particular that help learners enable agency: (a) a “personalised learning environment that supports and motivates each student to nurture his or her passions, make connections between different learning experiences and opportunities, and design their own learning projects and processes in collaboration with others”; and (b) a solid knowledge foundation where “literacy and numeracy remain crucial”. In terms of literacies he emphasizes that “digital literacy” and “data literacy” are becoming increasingly essential.

Innovation through co-operation and collaboration
However, what caught my attention most were his elaborations on knowledge and competence development. He predicts that “disciplinary knowledge will continue to be important, as the raw material from which new knowledge is developed, together with the capacity to think across the boundaries of disciplines and “connect the dots”. Interestingly, he divides knowledge into (a) epistemic knowledge (knowledge about the disciplines), e.g. knowing how to think like a mathematician, historian or scientist, will enable students to extend their disciplinary knowledge; and (b) procedural knowledge, which he assumes to be through “practical problem-solving, such as through design thinking and systems thinking”. Of course, students will be expected to apply their knowledge in “unknown and evolving circumstances”, for which “they will need a broad range of skills, including cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (e.g. critical thinking, creative thinking, learning to learn and self-regulation); social and emotional skills (e.g. empathy, self-efficacy and collaboration); and practical and physical skills (e.g. using new information and communication technology devices)”.  In terms of innovation, he presumes that “innovation springs not from individuals thinking and working alone, but through co-operation and collaboration with others to draw on existing knowledge to create new knowledge. The constructs that underpin the competency include adaptability, creativity, curiosity and open-mindedness”.

System thinking
He sums up that in order to be prepared for the future, “individuals have to learn to think and act in a more integrated way, taking into account the interconnections and inter-relations between contradictory or incompatible ideas, logics and positions, from both short- and long-term perspectives. In other words, they have to learn to be systems thinkers”.

This speaks to all of us in STEM education, definitely to me (as a mathematics educator), as I have always thought of ‘developing an understanding of a concept’ means ‘making connections’ (or as he put it earlier “connecting the dots”). And it is through the richness (or paucity) of connections that we can evaluate whether we have deeply understood, or developed a surface understanding of the concept. Which kinds of connections to make, which ones are likely to be most helpful, and how to support the making/scaffolding of connections, is surely the task of the teacher. ‘Making connections’ (as a teacher) also includes connecting to our students, their thinking, their experiences, and their interests, to name but a few.

Making dreams come true
Coming back to the initial quote, this outline is for the whole of education, and it emphasizes a broad personal development, which in addition to connected knowledge are also ideals in our engineering education. At the same time we know how difficult this is to make dreams come true, also in education. If we want to make a contribution in higher education, do we subscribe to these ideals, and how can we (start to) operationalize them?


  By Jan van der Veen, University of Twente

Visiting Moscow in the wintertime (17-20 January 2018) is special: few tourists, a snow covered city and a very warm welcome. The CDIO community of Technical Universities applying project based learning met at Skoltech University. This newly established English language university has started a couple of years ago with masters and PhD programmes. The main building is still under construction but was open for us. Some architects of the Beijing Olympic Stadium were hired and together with the founding team a special building was created. A rare occasion when you can align your educational design with the building and learning spaces from scratch! The building is huge, walking around the circular building will make a nice exercise of 880 meters.


Developing economies

Within this circle there are smaller units for separate research and education settings while offering many opportunities to meet and collaborate. Students are engaged in these settings from the start. The founding team was composed of both Russian engineers as well as engineering education specialists from around the world. One of the Skoltech inspirators was Edward Crawley (MIT) who delivered a keynote on how research and education can feed into innovation processes. Next to the university the first spin-offs are set up and more to come. This reminds us that technical universities are supposed to play a role in the development of our economies. The keynote and discussion covered how the educational programme could play a role in this regard via entrepreneurial skills, creativity, risk taking and  making interdisciplinary connections.

TU Eindhoven presentation


New CDIO members presented themselves. TU Eindhoven was introduced by Lex Lemmens. His presentation showed that Eindhoven is eager to have innovation as a focal point, well connected with small and larger companies in the Eindhoven region.






University career frameworks

Tretyakov Gallery

Together with Birgit Pepin(TU Eindhoven) and Clement Fortin(Skoltech) 4TU.CEE ran a workshop on university career frameworks that balance teaching and research achievements. This relates to international efforts coordinated by the Royal Academy of Engineering project supervised by Ruth Graham. In many universities both management and staff wish this balance to be enforced but few see how this can be achieved. After three introductory case studies participants formulated their recommendations group-wise. Clearly not only a framework and measuring tools are required but also a culture shift. Parallel to this career approach a professional development programme beyond basic teacher training workshops is needed, see for example the pilot at the University of Twente. Aiming at scholarship of teaching and learning fits naturally in an academic context, connecting nicely to what 4TU.CEE stands for. Besides an inspiring engineering education meeting there was some time left to visit a few Moscow highlights. The Tretyakov Gallery is definitely on my shortlist with many paintings from Repin and other great Russian painters.





 Blog of the TU/e’s visit to Paris by Birgit Pepin, 4TU.CEE leader TU/e

On the 2nd November 2017 a delegation of five colleagues (and two students) from different TU/e departments and disciplines, all belonging or interested in the Innovation Space at TU/e, visited two tertiary institutions/schools/universities in Paris, which are known to be “different” in terms of their teaching and learning practices. And indeed the two schools could not be more different from each other!

In the morning of the 2nd November we visited, situated at the Universite Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallee. This school initially started when the Ministry of Education and Research brought out a call for projects under the IDEFI (Excellence Initiatives for Innovative Education) framework.


The French school system

On a side note, you probably know that France has this system of Grandes Ecoles and Polytechniques: these are elite schools that are very difficult to get into. For example, to get into the elite schools for engineering, students prepare for two years in special courses (cours preparatoires) after which they have to pass the concours (entrance examination) to get accepted in one of these Grandes Ecoles. During these two years of preparation for the concours, students typically work 60-80 hours per week, on high level mathematics and science topic areas. They sometimes call these students ‘moles’ (mollen in Dutch), to illustrate that they only occasionally come up to the surface (from their intense studies) to gasp some air! Once they have passed the entrance examination/concours successfully, they are admitted to the elite school where they study engineering for another three years (which is said to be ‘easy’ after the two years of extremely hard work). The students from these elite schools have no problem to find jobs; they belong to the elite of the country – “la haute couture” as our guide put it.


In the case of, several partners (École des Ponts ParisTech, ENSAVT, UPEMLV, ESIEE Paris and EIVP) joined forces to establish the French, equal to (or above?) international standards and sharing an outlook with Europe’s Living Labs. The goal of is to act as a role model for innovative and future educational approaches, with the aim of inspiring a new generation of training programs in breakthrough innovation, through new methods drawing on design thinking, like those established at Stanford University (USA).

For Stanford was the example, as the Mecca of innovators, as the source of inspiration par excellence. And it was also the place where the was born, after its founder (Hasso Plattner) became convinced of the importance of making design thinking an official academic subject. There are two other ‘sister’ schools to one at Stanford University, the other in Potsdam (both set up in 2005). Their ambitions are the following:

– to train future innovators to be “thinkers” and “makers” of breakthroughs
– to use design thinking to inspire multidisciplinary teams
– to foster radical alliances between students, teachers and industry
– to tackle big projects and use prototyping to discover new solutions.

On their website we can read:

“, situated within the Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, aims to discover the richness of innovation through the culture of design thinking. Engineers, architects, designers, urban planners, or students of any other discipline, if you want to learn innovation by practicing it, this school is for you!  (our translation)

Student project presentations

During our visit we could participate in several of the students’ project presentations. These were presented, and students typically also worked, in particular design spaces (housed at the École des Ponts), also called ‘studios’ (linking to the industrial design tradition inherited from the Arts & Crafts movement). In comparison, the Silicon Valley/Stanford tradition has the myth of the “garage” space, where the designer/inventor typically develops his prototype and runs the first technical feasibility tests on his idea. In the d.schools context, our guide also spoke of “loft” spaces: an open space with a very high ceiling, housing as many as a dozen teams. now has 300 m² with access to a 400 m² prototyping room, eight classrooms and a lecture hall in a new, highly innovative positive energy building. It is said that this layout is to create a changed mindset compared with conventional workspaces; a mindset that fosters innovation, exploration, experimentation.


presentation of student projec

Talking to a group of students (working on a project of finding new ways of mobility/wheelchairs) at, it was clear that these students not only had the cognitive skills (probably acquired during their 4-5 years of rigorous Grandes Ecoles studies), but could also combine this with their social and entrepreneurial skills: they had to find financial funding and support for their project, and had to disseminate and sell the final product too. Indeed, the capacity to mobilize the key players must be triggered from the start by communication initiatives, termed “dissemination”. The students we talked to wanted to do something different than the traditional engineering studies, and they wanted to be given the space to develop their skills and potential – “Innovation- the fruit of passion” as a slogan of one of their conferences (in Bretagne in this case).


«Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.»

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, HBR, 2009


Ecole 42

In the afternoon of the 2nd November, our group went to visit another very different school: a school/university that admits everybody – no examination results needed to get in! After ‘la haute couture’ at, we met students who had not passed a single school examination. Moreover, this university has no teachers, syllabus or fees – they say that Paris’s École 42 is reinventing education for the future! And more than that: this free, teacher-less university is (apparently) schooling thousands of “future-proof programmers”, who have no problems to find jobs in France’s high tech industry- something that they have in common with their ‘colleagues’ from

When we walked in, we had to wait some time at the reception. There is tight entry restrictions (not everybody can walk in from the street). The hall looks like a modern art hall: from colourful provocative street art, to a window that shows the main “computer/number crunching” machine, the hardware that feeds the computers in the school.

When our guide came, we could visit the whole place. It was like a village, where students live: places to rest, or sleep, bathrooms and showers, eating places, and … two huge floors full of big screens – iMacs as far as the eye can see! And students buzzing around the place: working, chatting, eating, resting, … working and helping each other: alone, with headphones, in pairs and groups—hovering around iMacs. No graffiti, no vandalism, no theft, although the school is open 24/7.


iMac room at Ecole 42

The guide told us that (unlike other school/universities where students have to provide degree certificates or skills tests to get in) here at Ecole 42 students have four weeks to prove that they can earn a place at the school: they have a four-week course, ‘la piscine’ (the swimming pool), which teaches and tests students on games-like tests. Once they have been accepted, they can study for three to five years, to come out as programming specialists: apparently, 80% of students get jobs before they finish the course; and 100% are employed by the end!


Early each morning students get digital assignments/projects to complete, and they have a certain time to complete them. This means that students are juggling projects all the time. Since there are no teachers, it is up to students to figure things out. Everything is graded by peers (and using the software). Students manage their own time (within limits of assessment, of course); they have to be self-organized. So, learning at École 42 is both project-based and peer-to-peer based.

The school is 100% merit based. Typically, we were told, approximately one third pass a basic online logic test to qualify for entry, but the school can only take a certain number per year, so only the top students are admitted to the ‘la piscine’. Approximately 3,000 then compete in pools of 1,000 for a month to see who best completes the digital projects (of ‘la piscine’); the top third of performers are then admitted. Of those, only 5-15% drop out during the course.

The curriculum is gamified and students work on digital projects; there are modules (e.g. tech integration, algorithms) and languages (e.g. Python, C, Java). Our guide also talked about the peer marking: if students want their projects corrected, they must spend “correction points” – these they earn by correcting someone else’s project.

Whilst schools and universities around the world are eager to find out what knowledge and skills students need to succeed and thrive in their lives future (in the Netherlands we discuss and often disagree about which knowledge and skills should be prioritized, and how they should be taught), here notions of problem-based learning, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and initiative (or agency) seem to be at work. Not as a result, but this school seems to be set up with them in mind from the start.

The school is the brainchild of Xavier Niel, a French billionaire and serial entrepreneur. In 2013, he declared that France’s education system was broken and set out to “fix (one part of) it”. He wanted to address two problems: the lack of coding talent in France; and the perceived inequality surrounding the Grandes Ecoles, the elite universities and engineering schools. What he cares about, so they say, is logic and motivation. He thinks that programming is more art than science. The result of his vision, Ecole 42, is something unlike any other school in France, or elsewhere. Apparently, students are not taught, but they create “what they need”.

The two schools could not be more different! It is indeed difficult to bring to paper all the impressions and thoughts that one has on such an eye-opening tour.


By Emiel van Puffelen, WUR

A sustainable world
SEFI 2017 was an inspiring conference and the sessions showed a consensus that our engineers are needed to make the world sustainable. They will have to make smart designs to reach the 17 United Nation goals as shown below. To reach these goals engineering disciplines will have to contribute to solutions. Life science engineers have a role to play in almost all goals.

UN sustainable development goals

Sustainability in education
Universities are busy integrating sustainability in the curriculum and courses and are fitting in sustainability courses. They are often intrinsically motivated to do so. A comparison between the Danish and French situation shows that adding push factors for sustainability in education within the accreditation process helps as well. The Technische Universität Berlin even showed that you can integrate sustainability in the curricula while doing the regular work needed for the BA/MA  structure.

A literature review (2009-2017) by Hull and Carlo Cattaneo of University-LIUC, shows a change in the interests in Teaching Sustainability. At first there was a need to present a systemic and holistic vision of sustainability. The next phase focussed on the development of instruments to construct a curriculum. And the final shift was geared towards the development of measures to quantify the Sustainability content or learning outcomes.

Mount PICO pilot geothermal power plant

If you like to know more about sustainable electricity production the Mount PICO pilot geothermal power plant is worth a mouse click. It has been operational for 3 months and is already supplying 12% of the electric power of Terceira island. The output will considerably increase in the near future. The SEFI visit to the plant cured me from a narrow minded focus on wind and solar energy.

Design of active Learning
Lewas Lab offers a combination of active education and research by measuring water quality and quantity data on the Virginia Tech campus. This option and many others can be part of course design. Wageningen University is successful in designing blended courses for active learning; and my SEFI article describes the steps to be made.

The changing work field
Another consensus at the conference: our students will have jobs that do not exists yet or differ significantly from those in the present world. The skills and competency for future engineers (our students!) are listed in a literature review from Aalborg University and Itasca Community College (USA). On the list are skills such as multi- and interdisciplinary teamwork and systems thinking. This also asks for learning environments in which students are able and challenged to play an active role, as is the case in problem based, project organised learning.

The proceedings offer this and many other inspiring articles. The 4TU.CEE contributions can be found on the 4TU.CEE website.


By Jan van der Veen and Lisa Gommer, University of Twente

Here are some highlights of this year’s world conference of CDIO, the organisation that connects Technical Universities that apply project based learning in their curriculum. The conference brings together a nice combination of teaching staff, educational experts and programme managers.


Edward Crawley

Maker projects

Edward Crawley (MIT) discussed the latest plans of MIT’s engineering school now opting for modules that they call ‘project centric’. In their New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) approach foundational content is provided in segments that feed the student teams in their work on the projects. For these segments they will use both digital formats as well as traditional lecturing. Throughout the curriculum the emphasis will be on ‘maker projects’ in which the engineering students together produce all sorts of ‘machines’ while staff are coaching them on interpersonal and professional skills in the process.


Open source simulations

Kathy Perkins

Kathy Perkins (Boulder, Colorado) used her keynote to show how PhET simulations are best used in secondary schools and undergraduate programmes. As these open source simulations can easily be linked to separate languages, the worldwide use has increased to 100 million times per year, quite amazing. Simplification of complex experiments and visualisation of phenomena that are invisible to the human eye are among the success factors. Simulations can be used in self-study mode, pairwise as in many lab experiments or as an active component embedded in lectures. Tasks are preferably open so as not to end with a recipe. In follow-up discussions with Kathy Perkins we concluded that Twente students in teacher training programmes can contribute to the development and testing of new simulations with feedback from the PhET team.


Student motivation

In a workshop Alan Ryan and his colleagues from the University of Limerick discussed sources of motivation for both students and teachers. They asked teachers what aspects of  a course they thought would motivate students to learn and what would demotivate them. The same questions were asked to students. Both teachers and students indicated ‘interest and relevance of the subject’ and ‘receiving a high grade or credit’ as the two most motivating factors. For students however, the enthusiasm of the teacher (3rdplace) and his or her positive attitude to the students were also important for motivation (6th place), whereas teachers expected clear objectives and course design to be more important. Looking at demotivating factors, the differences are even bigger. Students indicate that ‘negative feedback or lack of encouragement from the teacher’ and ‘lack of enthusiasm’ were the two main factors for causing demotivation. Teachers expect ‘dislike of the subject area and unclear objectives’ to be the most important factors. Apparently the teacher plays a more important role in student motivation than we tend to think. The way we approach students, the feedback we give and the way we show passion for the subject matter greatly affect the way our students are engaged in learning.

Calgary Campus


Another highlight relates to the venue of the conference, the campus of the University of Calgary which together with an excellent organisation made the occasion a very pleasant one. Apart from the Olympic Oval with skaters training for next winters competition, in particular the engineering education buildings stands out with respect to their education facilities. The newest engineering building is fully dedicated to the bachelor engineering education courses, projects and labs. Next to these buildings, the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning has all facilities for supporting staff development.


Aldert Kamp


In the closing session Aldert Kamp (TUD / 4TU.CEE Delft chair) was chosen as co-director CDIO. Congratulations Aldert! The University of Twente presented itself as a new CDIO member receiving great interest on the Twente Educational model.









By Emiel van Puffelen, WUR

Earlier Jan van der Veen presented education highlights of two Swiss technical universities: EPFL at Lausanne and ETH at Zürich that the 4TU.CEE staff visited this spring. There was so much inspiration that we need a second blog to inform you of all that we learned. We hope to inspire you too! Click on the links in the text for more information.

Discovery Learning Laboratories
I particularly want to mention the Discovery Learning Laboratories (DLL) at EPFL. The DLLs are thematic spaces for lab sessions that can be integrated into the curriculum of all studies. These spaces are adapted for teaching large groups, generally at BSc level. The DLLs were started up 4 years ago to bring students from different fields together in cross-disciplinary teaching labs. It was also a way to cope with the growing number of students, since hands-on courses could not be offered to them at the same time. Students can sign in for a lab session on the website which shows availability. All 4TU have similar projects and it is nice to evaluate and make new plans while looking at the EPFL approach!

MOOC research and innovation programme
EPFL also has an extensive MOOC research and innovation programme, which is not being used as a promotion tool, but set up to transform online education. EPFL knows how students watch their video clips and which type of teachers are doing well with MOOCS. Research and innovation includes: Tracking behaviour for plagiarism detection; an environment which enables 4 to 5 individuals to watch MOOCs and solve exercises together; social media and multimedia research to characterize (non)verbal behaviour of social video users, to build tools for interaction with online video.

MOOC production with front and ceiling camera, Wacom and displays for the teacher.

MOOC clips are easily made with a 30 seconds intro with the teacher in frame; after that her/his hands are shown in the interaction with a Wacom tablet. The teachers produce clips without assistants using a front and ceiling camera. The Wacom eliminates the need for animations. This works fine for EPFL!


Speak up logo

An interesting interaction tool that EPFL developed with the University of Lausanne and that is frequently used in lectures is SpeakUp. This free app increases participation in the classroom by providing an open chatroom for anonymous questions with no need to create an account. Students can vote on the questions they like to see answered and discuss their opinions. After 24 hours the ‘virtual room’ disappears again. Interesting fact is that twice as many questions are asked with SpeakUp than without.


Education at ETH

The compact education vision of ETH has inspiring focuses on interdisciplinary, system-oriented & critical thinking. It also defines quality criteria for teaching for curricula and courses and the university’s expectations of all those engaged in teaching processes, from students to lecturers to administrative and technical staff.

Lunch at ETH Zürich

The ETH department Educational Development and Technology couples teachers with their education developers for a few days. This department promotes innovation in education by the Innovedum fund. They support 20 projects per year of approximately 100.000 francs per project. Projects last 2-3 years and support of education developers is available. Furthermore ETH has an innovative programme for educational staff development including a programme for every level of teaching experience  and nice refresh teaching lunchtime events.

EPFL and ETH are both top universities offering exciting innovations in education and they are very willing to share their education vision, programmes and practical approach, which is highly appreciated! Their inspiration is right under your mouse button!


Blog by Perry den Brok, Eindhoven University of Technology

Universities of Technology are currently facing a range of developments with respect to their education. For example, interdisciplinary engineering research and education are gaining momentum. Yet, teachers and researchers are struggling with the boundaries that are created by departments and faculties, and current metrics for performance do not appraise interdisciplinary work. Also, universities are being confronted with large increases in their student population, both in terms of numbers as well as variety, cultural, motivational or other. Technology is picked up for the support and deliverance of courses and assesment; blended approaches or MOOCs are common phenomena.

Deans of engineering faculties accross Europe discussed these themes during their annual ECED (European Convention of Engineering Deans) meeting in Munich on April 3 and 4, 2017. The meeting was hosted by the Technische Universitӓt München and co-convened by CESAER (the Conference of European Schools for Advanced engineering Education and Research) and SEFI (the European Society for Engineering Education).

During the convention, the deans discussed three major topics, namely research, education and governance. The first topic mainly dealt with how to support and appraise research that engages in interdisciplinary engineering research in a reality in which metrics and other rewards are mainly gained via disciplinary systems. The last topic dealt with the type of leadership that is needed in universities to support new streams of research and innovations in education, especially in an age of uncertainty. Although important and interesting, given the nature of 4TU.CEE to focus on innovations in engineering education, most attention will be directed here to the topic of education. Interesting youtube contributions from participating deans about research and education can be found at the ECED 2017 website.

Participants of ECED 2017 (Aldert Kamp and Perry den Brok from 4TU.CEE are on the left and front of the picture – see the red arrow).


A question that comes to mind is what topics or themes emerge accross universities of technology in Europe. What developments are occuring and what type of initiatives are universities taking? From the various speakers and contributions to ECED, the following topics came to the fore:

  1. More and more interdiciplinary courses or curricula are being developed, often preceded by interdisciplinary research projects or groups. Interesting challenges that teachers in such contexts face are how to integrate different topics or domains, how to motivate students from different domains, and how to assess interdisciplinary tasks with teachers that are often experts in one domain. This topic is also being recognised by 4TU.CEE as an important theme and much research effort is being invested in it.
  2. There is more and more emphasis on the fact that a variety of engineers is being educated, with different types of profiles, such as the technological oriented engineer, the societal oriented engineer, or the entrepeneurial engineer.
  3. Many universities are struggling with how to integrate skills into their curricula. Such skills include more general 21st century skills such as intercultural communication or collaboration, but also more engineering specific skills, such as problem solving or creative and design thinking.
  4. Many universities are experimenting with so-called maker-spaces, in which students can work on real-life, complex and interdisciplinary projects that interweave learning, research and innovation. More in general, a trend can be seen towards more student oriented education, with more emphasis on deep learning, opportunities for choice for students, and student-centred teaching methods. Examples of maker spaces can be found at Aalborg and other Scandinavian universities. But 4TU.CEE also encountered a nice example at EPFL during their last study trip.
  5. Universities are more and more concerned about providing students during their curricula with experiences in which they collaborate with companies or in which they learn from alumni. Such experiences may involve outreach, but also deal with guest visits or lectures, internships, or even specific professional development programmes.

Finally, some interesting observations were made by the two 4TU.CEE members that participated in the meeting (den Brok and Kamp). First, the question was raised as to whether universities would still exist in 2040, if they continue with their current education and rate of change. More and more examples are visible in which students obtain certificates and degrees via alternative programmes and are being accepted by companies. Universities thus have to think seriously about their added value, in particular in terms of the on-campus experiences they are able to provide. Second, it was mentioned that students are often a driver for change, and should be acknowledged as such. Much can be learned from their input on education.

A taskforce will be created by CESAER in order to formulate a vision on Engineering Education for the future, that will also be shared with the European Union. 4TU.CEE will participate actively in this taskforce. This will materialise in a first meeting of the taskforce, to be held in Eindhoven on May 12, 2017. To be continued!



Blog by Jan van der Veen, University of Twente

Representatives of the four Dutch universities of technology involved in 4TU.CEE investigated what could be learned from the two Swiss technical universities at Lausanne (EPFL) and Zürich (ETH) during a two-day visit this March. Both rank among the top technical universities worldwide, and we were very curious to hear more about their innovations in engineering education. The grass is always greener on the other side, and yes, we did find many inspiring examples, here are some ‘snapshots’.

Learning spaces

The Rolex Learning Center

At the border of Lake Geneva the EPFL Rolex Learning Center is a meandering building made out of concrete and glass. Light is coming from unexpected angles. Students and staff meet at their own convenience. Besides the library and study places there are numerous meeting spots. The welcoming nature of the building invites students to get together and jointly work on projects. Both at EPFL and ETH new facilities are planned for student groups that can design and build their own creative solutions while promoting a multi-disciplinary approach. Clearly new learning environments and new learning scenarios go hand in hand.

Interactive teaching

‘MOOC’ studio at EPFL
An interesting side-effect of MOOC productions at EPFL is that the MOOC resources are now widely used within regular courses. This fits within a trend moving away from large audience lecturing to dedicated online material in combination with quality time when staff and well-prepared students meet in smaller groups. At ETH a special app enables students to find their way in the myriad of buildings in the city center. At the same time teachers use this Edu-app to interact with those attending lectures, for example by posing questions that students first discuss before responding via the app. This activates learners while giving lecturers direct feedback with respect to what is understood. New tools such as Go-Lab, shown at EPFL, allow teachers to combine their own educational scenario with existing simulations.

Online examinations
Digital testing at ETH allows for the integration into the test of programming tools or other software enabling authentic tests of competencies. Also in the online world one searches for a fit between the learning scenarios and virtual spaces and tools.

Want to know more?
For us it was an interesting trip, exchanging many ideas and discussing how we can support the uptake of new opportunities. Would you like to receive more information about how innovation projects at EPFL and ETH Zürich might be beneficial to your educational innovations? Contact your 4TU.CEE representative to find out, or send an e-mail to:



Blog by Emiel van Puffelen (WUR)

Duikvaker 2017, a large Dutch diving exhibition held in February, featured a proud team of TU Delft students, who showcased their human-powered submarine (WASUB, 2017). Their design required a lot of courage to make, and even more to pilot. I noticed that these students were highly motivated. And they succeeded in making a complex and world record breaking design. Their success is not an exception. Other student teams from technical universities in Delft, Twente and Eindhoven won the last world solar challenge (first- and second prizes in Challenger Class, and first prize in Cruiser Class, respectively). These student teams created state-of-the-art designs. So, it would appear that their teachers has helped them by creating well designed engineering courses. But what is a well-designed course?

Figure 1: Four levels of ILO (CDIO 2014)

CDIO_ILOFirstly, course design should be based on a well-constructed curriculum and properly formulated intended learning outcomes (ILOs). This is not easily attained. An option is to use the CDIO Approach (Crawley, Malmqvist, Östlund, Brodeur, & Edström, 2014), which should yield the four levels of ILOs shown in Figure 1.

There are many other approaches that usually yield ILOs on different levels, such as knowledge, skills and integration.
The ILOs are the starting point in creating Teaching and Learning Activity’s (TLAs), as well as Assessment. ILOs, TLAs and Assessment should be aligned (Biggs & Tang, 2011), as shown in this clip (Grob & Kotkamp, 2014).

The core of course design is selecting TLAs. That requires an open mind on how students learn and considering the use of each available type of TLA. Laurillard (2012, 2016) synthesised a list of TLAs from theories of learning:

Acquisition: reading, watching, listening.
Inquiry: using resources to develop an evidence-based output.
Discussion: debating, questioning, answering, negotiating ideas.
Practice: acting, in the light of feedback, to achieve a goal or output.
Collaboration: working with others to achieve a joint output.
Production: making something for others to evaluate against agreed criteria.

All types of TLAs can be seen in traditional campus education and they can also be supported online. In both cases, the processes shown in Figure 2 are supported.

Figure 2: TLAs and supported processes (based on Laurillard 2012, 2016)


Most Learning Management Systems (LMS) were developed to support the TLAs shown on the left side of Figure 2 (Acquiring, Inquiring, Producing and Practising) and sometimes they extend to those on the right side of Figure 2 (discussing and collaborating) in newer versions. However, a separate, specialised LMS might still be required for the best options with the TLAs on the right side.

Often, a large part of Figure 2 needs to be included in a course. One ILO might require different types of TLAs and the course set of ILOs might require more. In addition, a workflow of TLAs (such as reading, developing evidence-based output, debating) might be needed to reach an ILO, especially for engineering. Differences in learning styles and learning theories also point in the direction of combining different TLAs. Last, but not least, combining TLAs is necessary to engage students and keep them surprised!


A smart design of a combination of (many) types of TLAs is needed to create top-quality university courses.

Part of a smart design is the choice between on-campus and online versions of each TLA. Practical reasons (group size, available time, facilities, and curriculum standards) might dictate that choice. However, for engineering education there are limits in replacing on campus TLAs by online work. In general, the TLAs on the left side of the Figure 2 can be achieved with media resources (online, books etc). Most universities have a long tradition in this, and new developments, such as knowledge clips and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), are creating more options. However, higher level engineering ILOs (above 1 CDIO) require rich on-campus collaboration work that cannot be completely offered online. Meet the TU Delft submarine students to find out why.


Biggs, J. B., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th Revised edition ed.). Milton Keynes, United Kingdom: Open university press.
Crawley, E. F., Malmqvist, J., Östlund, S., Brodeur, D. R., & Edström, K. (2014). Rethinking Engineering Education; The CDIO Approach (2 ed.): Springer International Publishing.
Grob, M. A. G., & Kotkamp, E. (Writers). (2014). Constructive Alignment, TU Delft Beeldbank: Delft University of Technology.
Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Laurillard, D. (2016). Learning in the context of education; The conversational Framework. Presentation at the Online Educa Berlin 2016, Berlin.
WASUB. (2017). WASUB VII ​TU Delft Dream Team.   Retrieved 7 februari 2017, from



4TU.CEE has started a monthly weblog. The 4TU.CEE leaders of our four universities of technology will alternately post a blog. The weblog informs interested followers of developments in education and society that are of importance to the future of engineering education.

The first weblog is written by Aldert Kamp of TU Delft and is entitled: Educating engineers for a resource constrained future: do we understand what we are doing? Which was the theme of the CDIO Regional Meeting that took place on 12 and 13 January 2017 in Dublin.