Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe

Content for Teaching and Learning

Content for Teaching and Learning refers to the content, comprising of the syllabus & other materials, practice examples and working methods. The core criterion for it in PHE, is that the learning content is productively integrating theory and practice as the basis for complex problem-solving in real work situations. The content is informed by the latest research, trends and references from both the world of work and academia.

The following are best practice examples of implementation of this criterion:

Simulations, case studies and design-based professional learning in Flanders (Belgium)

Author: Marc Vanderwalle, Secretary General of the Flemish Council of University Colleges

Professional bachelor programmes in Flanders combine theory and practice through simulation, or work situations (for example real machinery to repair, real assignments for translators or event organisers, real samples to analyse, etc.) and case studies.

Many programmes combine theory and practice and offer different types of simulation labs. Some work with students in birth simulation labs, ship steering simulators etc., others and its activities for example a travel agency or accounting company. Depending on the phase in the curriculum, some student work results in usable material in a contract relation with companies or other ‘customers’. This is particularly the case for event organising, design, graphic design, translation and interpreting.

Engaging staff and students in collaborative research and design projects helps to keep learning materials and curricula up-to-date. In many cases the combination of gaining theoretical knowledge and practical development generates real and usable products such as movies, solar powered cars, educational games, or new fashion and design products.

All of the above complement the obligatory work placement / internships in companies, government and non-profit organisations (schools, hospitals, etc.). Simulations, case studies and design-based learning make sure that students enter their internships well prepared and enrich learning in a ‘controlled environment’.

Ship simulation lab in Flanders

Ship simulation lab in Flanders

Active and collaborative learning methods at ZSEM in Croatia

Staff at ZSEM understands that learning is more effective through authenticity and interaction between students.  All master programmes and courses are delivered through a combination of the traditional lecture and practical work (cases discussions, problem based learning, labs, etc.) in a format that combines theory and practice. Small course sizes of 10 to 30 student each make it possible to give students hands-on learning experiences and feedback on their individual work.

Some undergraduate courses and most graduate courses include group assignments facilitated by the PHE educators. Furthermore study trips and visits to companies are organised during which students spend time with faculty members and learn in a less formal atmosphere, outside the School’s premises. ZSEM also invites students to join associations such as the Journalism Club, IT Club, Management Club, Financial and Investment Club, and the Marketing Club.

Full review and new solutions for local business in a 48 hour camp

Author: Anne-Christin Tannhäuser, International project manager & consultant for innovation in education

p1Each year Lillebaelt Academy in Denmark gives students the opportunity to test their skills in real situations in a company. Over a period of 48 hours students from different disciplines – such as data science, finances, nutrition technology, marketing, and installation technology – review a business and develop different measures for improvement.

Students can apply to participate in this extra curriculum activity. The big challenge for them is to turn ideas into concrete implementable proposals in just two days. One company is selected each year and consultants at Lillebaelt Academy coordinate cooperation with the companies.

Thursday – We get a guided tours in small groups through the company.  We then discuss and analyse variousIn April 2010, the camp was held with staff and owners of “BF-OKS a/s Hesselagergård”, a company which refines many different types of meat products since 1983. The company had grown a lot in the last few years and the work processes were not optimal. The PHE students received wish lists (for different groups) and set out to prepare proposals for a new framework of enterprise administration. The following notes were taken by students participating in the project.

options. Later in the afternoon we have a short meeting with the owners. We receive green light for further work with three out of the many prepared suggestions. Around 9:30pm, there is a need for a meeting with the owners. “It’s only about economics” is their message and two options need to be dropped. Panic spreads in our group, because almost 12 hours were spent without significant results.

Friday – What can we do? One suggestion is: “Let’s get in contact with a trainee in another company who took part in the previous 48-hour project and knows about the conditions.” Her reply came promptly: “Send me the material immediately, and I’ll see what I can do!” Now we get support of a top draughtsman. Delegating a task gives more time for other activities and our mood increases, again.

We lead in-depth interviews with the employees and have long meetings with the owners. The meetings have an agenda and we take minutes. We come up with constructive suggestions for changes in workflow and physical location of some of the company buildings. We organize our proposal in different stages, so that the daily production will be affected as little as possible during reconstruction.

Later in the afternoon we present the preliminary work to a mixed panel of the company’s staff. All five people take time to comment on our proposals. We get positive feedback and can continue to further develop all ideas. It takes much time and concentrated work.

Saturday–Only few hours left to deliver all project proposals to the owners.  We finish up the material for our presentations. At 10:30am we start to present.  It was obvious that the owners were amazed by the amount of concrete proposals that could be used to improve the company’s daily operations: Proposal for economic and inventory management systems, recipes for new liver pâté, hygienic studies, an analysis of mortgage proposals for savings on electricity and water consumption, and many more.

At the end of the 48 hour camp the participating students and company staff said the following:

It’s great fun to be part of it here, because you are constantly in touch with the owners of the company, who tell you whether a proposal is useful or not. (Construction Architecture Student) You are forced to find out what real skills I have developed (Financial Management Students). 

48 hours are over, but we are still overwhelmed by the amazing experience it was to have 32 students around us. The results of the project are sound and impressive. We are now in the process of reviewing them in detail. (Company staff).

As a business man, it is always exciting to be challenged on the “usual” – and when our business is seen with “brand new eyes” of 32 talented students who have the up-to-date knowledge in their respective fields, you can only get something good out of it. We certainly expect to revise both existing workflows and implement new projects in the future. (Company staff).

The camp gives students an exciting opportunity to test their skills and work in a multidisciplinary team of students. It offers an authentic insight into practices and challenges of a company. The business, on the other hand, gets a comprehensive review from a team with a fresh perspective, hence, a result that might otherwise be very costly.

Lillebaelt Academy of Professional Higher Education (Erhvervsakademiet Lillebælt), Denmark

The business academy in the Region of Southern Denmark offers 30 higher educational programmes at EQF level 5 and 6, both full-time and part-time. The Academy has 3,200 students, 300 employees and collaborates with 2,300 companies. The institution is relatively new (established 2009) and has been set up by the merging of HE branches of 4 colleges.

Service for PHE educators – A dedicated centre helps to integrate simulation-based learning

DHBW in Germany emphasizes methods of active, collaborative and self-organised learning. For that reason the dual university runs a centre for management simulation with 4 staff members that engages more than 1000 students in real life business problems every year. Lecturer and professor can chose from a range of modules for their classes and the centre provides from one out of 30 management games up to an “all-in-service”. A typical simulation lasts two to three days during which students work in groups to also develop collaborative skills and social competences.

The learning methodology of the DHBW comprises methods of active, collaborative and self-organised learning and includes simulation based learning (SBL), scenario based learning (SceBL), problem based learning (PBL). One example is that within the DHBW there is a centre for management simulation, working with more than 1000 students per year. In the usual two to three days simulation based learning episodes students simulate real life business problems and work in groups to solve these challenges and find approaches to deal with them.

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