13. July 2022 | Magazine:

Valuable impulses through intensive exchange Positive conclusion of the first ProDiGI funding round

In April of this year, an internal funding line of Technische Universität Braunschweig was started as part of the project “Promoting Digital education through Global Interconnection” (ProDiGI) to support teaching staff in (further) developing a forward-thinking, digital as well as international range of courses.

Building networks for digital international teaching at TU Braunschweig is of great use in many ways say the participants of the first ProDiGI funding round. Whether it is challenges in cooperation with international partners, the activation of students in different settings of teaching and learning, or the exchange about which digital tools work best in which contexts: For the funded teaching projects there are still many questions and discussion points ahead when it comes to digital, international teaching. For that exact reason, the project teams exchange ideas on the implementation of their projects once a month.

Laboratory work from a distance

“It is exciting to see how ideas and approaches within the other ProDiGI projects are put into practice. A few challenges that have come up are already familiar to us, of course, such as coordination with partners being quite complex, specifically due to time differences. A regular exchange is certainly very helpful”, says Dr. Nicolas Schlüter of the project “MoonLight”. MoonLight is linked to the pre-existing MoonRide project. It works out solutions for the digitalisation of practical laboratory experiments in the area of electrochemical storage systems. The developed digital courses have reached a milestone already, much to the delight of the project team: For the first time, students of TU Braunschweig and students of University of Rhode Island in the USA have conducted remote-laboratory experiments together. The next steps in this project include embedding the developed course programme in the curricula and acquiring potential further partners from the international research- and teaching-periphery.

Another project about planning and conducting remote experiments is called “Metabolism in a box”. This project is for a new module for postgraduate students of biology, precisely on the topic of metabolisms. “We are devising a workflow which is supposed to mirror how scientific research works”, explains Kristian Roth from the team of project leader Prof. Thekla Cordes. Important components of this project are the integration of students into the planning of course contents, the work with digital tools, and the constant exchange with international partners. The students thus have the opportunity to get into contact with (junior) researchers from the USA, for example.

Digital infrastructures as a challenge

The meeting of international partners constitutes a highlight for the project “Digital Hub: International Perspectives in Environmental Humanities”, too. In this project, an international course is being developed as part of the Master’s program Culture of the Techno-scientific World: “We are particularly excited for the first session, when, after months of planning and organising, our students from Braunschweig and from the participating partner universities are meeting for the first time in our digital seminar”, says Robin Auer, research associate at the Institute for English and American Studies. To him, the biggest obstacle so far is the search for a suitable digital platform to carry out the project. The reason behind this: Every participating country has different guidelines, he reports.

Similar topics are being investigated by Sebastian Rothe of the project “Engineering Acoustics”. This project is dedicated to the conception of an international and hybrid Master’s programme for acoustics. “We are concerned with how to best place the new digital teaching formats, while simultaneously integrating all of our team members”, he explains. Furthermore, they are focussed on the development of an effective mixture of online and in-person teaching. The exchange with other ProDiGI-projects regarding such topics is very helpful when it comes to avoiding potential sources of error in advance, Rothe expounds.

From theory to practice

For Maike Krips of the project “Machine Learning Challenge”, which is developing a challenge in medical informatics with project partners in India as a practical addition to theoretical teaching-studying-materials, the interconnectedness was an essential reason to apply for funding through ProDiGI: “We can profit a lot from the experiences that are collected in similar projects regarding, for example, long-term incorporation into teaching or international communication. Additionally, we want to make our own experiences available to others.” The input of other participants is interesting especially for the design of teaching materials and the implementation of digital tools. A milestone that Krips is looking forward to is the transition from theory to practice: The moment in which the data and teaching materials for the Machine Learning Challenge are shared with the partners in India and the procedure can be coordinated.

The project team of “Quantum VR Master” is already looking forward to the application of their devised concepts, too. They have developed an English Virtual Reality Game for the interaction with quantum logic gates on a Master’s level. The basis for this is an already existing Escape Game for pupils. This game is currently being adapted to the difficulty level and the learning objectives relevant to postgraduate students. Moreover, the team is working on the didactic design of the multiplayer mode. “When, for the very first time, we can try out the multiplayer mode with another person who is at a different location, perhaps even in a different country, and we can interact with this person practically in real-time inside the game, that will surely be a fantastic feeling.”, Alina Syring and Barbara Szafranski of the Quantum-VR-Master-team report.

Support through the outside perspective

Franz Konieczny of the project “Internationale Online-Mathematikaufgaben” can already look back on the first successful implementations: “We have already completed and utilised the first part-course Analysis 1, completely in two languages. Now, we are trying to find a good balance between the translation of remaining materials and the further development of the course.” As a supplement to the lecture series Engineering Mathematics, digital bilingual services were designed as part of this project to close the gap between lecture and exercise course, and to move up the active learning phase of the students. The outside perspective, which the ProDiGI-exchange meetings offer, provides good assistance. It always generates new impulses and suggestions, explains Konieczny.

Transition to the second funding round in September

In September, the first switch of the ProDiGI-funding line is up: While the projects of the first funding round will be completed within a short duration, the projects of the second funding round are starting. This second call for proposals has once more found a lot of interest. Out of thirteen submitted proposals, the project band has chosen six teaching projects to fund. These chosen projects will also have different funding durations. Together with the remaining projects of the first funding round, they will form the core of the funding line for the coming months.