Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is one of Europe’s top technology institutes with a reputation for world-class research and high-quality education programs. As it looks for new ways to educate and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers, the 175-year-old university is now focused on modernising its learning spaces and exploring new technology tools. The goal is to help students build the strong collaboration skills they’ll need to tackle society’s most complex problems.
TRAINING FUTURE PROBLEM SOLVERS TO THINK BIG
As the university’s Education Expert AV-IT in Learning Spaces, Piet van der Zanden is at the forefront of TU Delft’s technology transformation, guiding the university’s search for new technology tools and teaching practices that will help prepare its 24,000 students to be successful in their future careers.
Students are being trained to be problem solvers in an ever-changing world where technical solutions must also be socially sustainable, providing both economic and social value. “We educate young people to problem solve using technology but also to look at the consequences it will have when you apply it,” says Piet.
This big-picture thinking requires a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving for students. Learners with diverse perspectives and different skill sets use design thinking and other problem-solving strategies to help them communicate and work together effectively. Piet is looking to technology tools like Nureva visual collaboration solutions to enhance those collaborative activities and give students more opportunities to get actively involved in their own learning.
FINDING TECHNOLOGY THAT FITS IS KEY TO SUCCESS
When Piet saw the Nureva™ Wall and Span™ software, he knew they were a natural fit for TU Delft. They take many of the activities and processes professors and students already do and make them better. “We see great potential because the system really fits within the processes as we practice them,” he says. “It takes our natural way of working and facilitates it in a digital way.”
Bringing existing processes into the digital world will make them more efficient and productive. For instance, now when students work on group projects, they often use paper sticky notes and flip charts to generate ideas or track progress. But some complex projects can take 20 to 40 sessions to complete, and Piet says paper-based processes can make it challenging to work with large amounts of information over long periods of time.
Span software can make the students’ collaboration experience more fluid and dynamic by enabling them to capture information from each session in a digital format so everyone on the team can continue to work on it at any time. “I think it supports the students enormously with problem solving, design-thinking challenges and assignments,” says Piet.
EXPLORING NEW WAYS TO ENERGISE LEARNING
This past fall, the university installed dual and single Nureva Wall systems in its new Teaching Lab, a space for professors to experiment with new teaching techniques and technology products. The two systems have transformed two walls into shared interactive workspaces.
Piet says professors seem to intuitively know how to use the Nureva Wall and Span software and can see right away how they fit into the way they work. “They just understand it as their daily practice, only now they have a new medium for it." He says the biggest benefit many of them see is the ability to put information on the digital canvas from a smartphone or tablet and then save it so it can be edited later. Over the coming months, professors will be looking at ways to incorporate Nureva solutions into their courses and student projects to make their work more efficient and bring an interactive element to learning.
SHARING A MINDSET GETS BETTER RESULTS
TU Delft students are trained to solve complex problems that require deep thinking and detailed analysis. Many of those problems are ill structured, so students don’t even have any obvious starting points for discussions. With Nureva, everyone can easily contribute their ideas and all of that information is displayed together on a large interactive workspace. This makes ideas tangible and provides an important focal point for collaboration.
“The shared digital wall really forces participants into a shared mindset,” says Piet, adding finding common ground is essential to build and evolve ideas and avoid mistakes that come from miscommunication. “Talking about the same thing and understanding the same thing is crucial to communicate, cooperate and collaborate with each other.”
HELPING DREAMTEAMS AIM HIGH
This month, a new Nureva Wall was installed in a meeting room in the university’s D:DREAM Hall, a design building where student teams, known as Dreamteams, work together on projects for international competitions. Students will use the system to design and build their projects and explore ways to make it easier for them to work together and communicate.
Dreamteams are made up of students from many different academic programs, which makes communicating with each other especially challenging. For instance, the solar car Dreamteam, which won the world solar car racing championships last year for the seventh time, is often praised for its strong teamwork. But Piet says team members spend 70 percent of their time trying to understand each other and build consensus. He expects using the Nureva Wall and Span software over the next few months will make their communication process much more efficient, as they work on building a new solar car for this year’s competition.
When they collaborate, students use the scrum system, an agile framework used to manage complex projects. Their collaboration sessions often end with a whiteboard or wall covered with paper sticky notes. Someone then has to take a photo of the work before removing the notes so another team can use the meeting room. Span software's digital sticky notes make that process more efficient because all the information can be saved and worked on later. And because the software is cloud-based, students will be able to contribute ideas from any location and from different devices.
LEADING THE WAY IN COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
Piet says it’s natural that higher education is evolving to become more focused on providing collaborative and active learning, and TU Delft plans to be at the forefront of this transformation. The Nureva Wall and Span software are part of this forward-thinking strategy. In the coming months, Piet and his team will be evaluating how students and professors use them, so they can see how and where they can be used most effectively to enhance existing practices and open new paths for student collaboration.