“Students nowadays stop focusing on the lecture after the first 20 minutes. They are not interested into sitting and listening to their teacher, they want to take action”, said Martin Velasquez, Director of Academic Affairs at Monterrey Technological University, Mexico while visiting Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) earlier this spring. According to him, cooperation and communication skills, information literacy, creativity, citizenship and problem solving are essential competences in the 21st Century’s education.
While introducing Tec21 study model, which is based on challenge solving, he emphasised that the majority of contemporary university education is not attractive to the students – the studies are not personalised enough and not efficient. Therefore, educational institutions have to change in order to adapt to the needs of contemporary students.
“We are living in the moment of history when education encompasses all the areas of life. All the world is closely connected, that’s why we need to develop comprehensive, global competences”, said Velasquez.
The Tec21 model at Monterrey was created after hearing out the needs of alumni, students, business and university representatives. The main objective of Tec21 is developing and strengthening of interdisciplinary competences.
Lithuanian Universities Adapt to Changes
In order to respond the needs of contemporary students, and to assure study competitiveness and quality, Lithuanian universities also change their teaching and learning practices. From 2018, KTU is starting to renew bachelor’s and master’s study models and from 2019 the unique for Lithuania 3+2 studies will be implemented in all KTU study programme. In 3+2 study model 3 (years) stands for bachelor’s and 2 – for master’s studies. It is common practice in the most advanced European universities.
“KTU initiates changes starting from itself. We ask ourselves: who are contemporary students? What expectations do they have? The answers help us to design the main elements of studies”, said Jurgita Vizgirdaitė, Studies Quality Assurance and Development Director.
According to her, the innovative study models, such as Tec21 and 3+2 aim at introducing real life to the students, and to show the meaning of theoretical knowledge and skills, their usability in certain practical situations. That’s why the curriculum of these models is based on project learning and problem solving in interdisciplinary teams.
Challenge-Based Studies Are Efficient Preparation for Job and Life
Tec21, implemented in Monterrey, is one of the good practices that KTU is learning from while renewing its study curriculum.
According to professor Martin Velasquez, who explained challenge-based Tec21, to solve the challenge the students consult not only with teachers and professors of their major, but they need to work together with representatives of other faculties, to collaborate closely on interdisciplinary level. During their studies, the students solve many challenges of different level and complexity.
Challenge-based learning is one of the efficient contemporary ways to strengthen student competences. During lectures students are solving real problems really existing in the market, are working with representatives of different areas, and with businesses.
“This model is entirely different from what they have experienced, but the students like it. While working in a team and solving real issues they understand how they will implement the knowledge obtained in the university in real life”, said Dr Velasquez.
From Idea to Product Launch
Project development course is one of the innovative modules, characteristic to the more intensive 3+2 studies, being implemented at KTU.
“During the project development course students are developing innovative products, they are learning to initiate creative responses to the market needs, and at the same time are growing their entrepreneurship competences, learning business know-how. Partners from research and business actively participate in the process, which is being taken in comprehensively – it can be anything from new materials to healthy products”, said Dr Vizgirdaitė.
According to her, in order to be flexible and agile KTU is implementing contemporary teaching methods, which make the studies more intensive, is encouraging the students to work individually. Depending on the programme, probem-based learning, case study, design thinking and other methods are being implemented.
While renewing study curriculum, carrying out the study process reorganisation and implementing the 3+2 study model KTU is collaborating with experts from Aalborg University (Denmark). KTU is learning from good practice: from University of Twente (Netherlands), which has recently implemented Twente educational model based on project activities and from Monterrey Technological University (Mexico), which has implemented challenge solving based study model Tec21.
The collaborations and sharing good practices with Monterrey Technological University and other partners is being enabled by European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) uniting more than 20 universities in Europe and Mexico. ECIU member since 2016, KTU is the only Lithuanian university belonging to the global network of innovative universities.