What does the education sector look like in a Danish context?

DigiDemo asked Torben Momme from the University College of Northern Denmark to give his perspectives on this matter.

Education is a central part of a democratic society, according to Torben Momme: I see education as a life-long process. Perhaps even more nowadays than in the past. Because society develops so quickly, educating yourself is an ongoing process.

Most students are motivated and proactive. However, there is a “small” group of approximately 25 % with need of extra guidance and support during their study time. Some of the youth often don’t realize the purpose of being educated. Furthermore, these students need more structure once they have started their studies. We, therefore, need to find a good recipe to guide them.

In DigiDemo, we are developing a number of demonstrators aiming at different topics within mechatronics and sustainability. We hope that implementing and using “hands-on” demonstrators in our teaching activities will help the students to better and more easily learn. Especially the students in need of more structure and guidance. The demonstrators represent a very clear task to the students, supporting them to seek out knowledge by themselves: One of the problems is getting students to study long enough and stay on enough hours to get the knowledge to be on the front edge. With DigiDemo, we hope to change that. 

However, Torben Momme also emphasizes that the majority of students are very motivated to learn, and they strive to be at the forefront of developments – and that’s in an education system in a good condition: Some parts of the education system are moving ahead, and that’s really good. We have a general understanding among most young people that they need to get an education. That’s really nice.

Where a small group of students needs structure and guidance, the majority of students are proactive in their search for knowledge: The young people who are moving forward are perhaps more industrious than we were, and they may have an even better framework than we had. They can quickly find additional things themselves that fit into what they are now researching. In comparison, the rest of us had to read a long series of books – and didn’t always finish.

Torben Momme is looking forward to a future, where even more students are at the forefront of developments: All in all, I think the education sector is doing well and that many of the programs are moving forward, he concludes.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Evaluation is important in every approach, even more so in education

Interview with Conf. univ. dr. ing. Cristian Paul CHIONCEL of the Engineering Faculty at UNIVERSITATEA “BABEŞ-BOLYAI”

The DigiDemo project aims at improving engineering education on smart products through demonstrators. What kind of demonstrators have you developed?

The demonstrators developed have been focused to improve the students’ competencies through interdisciplinarity knowledge and understanding between the areas of electronics, mechanics and IoT. To place the growth of technical education on solid foundations, the until now,  developed demonstrators in the Faculty of Engineering of the Babes-Bolyai University, CNC machine, Robot and Structural Health Monitoring, seeks to contribute to an easier and more practical understanding of the phenomena used and controlled, in the engineering applications.

Centrul Universitar UBB Reşiţa is the responsible partner for evaluation. Why is evaluation important?

Evaluation is important in every approach, even more so in education. Students’ knowledge is evaluated, but, also, the tools that support the learning process are also subject of evaluation. The role of the developed demonstrators is to improve the understanding in the classes where they are implemented, but, also, awareness related to present and future challenges, as sustainability. It is important, for each partner institution, to know where they are with the proposed targets! Each evaluation process is also tied to a continuous process of improvement, such the identified minuses can be remedied.

How do you practically do evaluation?

The evaluation process is based on formal and informal feedback from students who use demonstrators in activities with application character. The formal evaluation is based on an online survey completed anonymously by the students. The questionnaire was developed based on the feedback from all partners obtained in the online and on-site project meetings. Important, as well, is the informal feedback obtained on the spot from the students while they use the demonstrator.

Do you already have feed-back from students? How do they evaluate the use of demonstrators in their study programme?

Based on the feedback from the students, the use of the demonstrators developed and implemented in the project is positive! The main tracked directions sought to be achieved are widely perceived to have been attained.

4th Transnational Meeting in Reşita, Romania

On 1st and 2nd February, all DigiDemo partners have been welcomed and hosted by Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai in Reşita.

The meeting mainly focused on evaluation aspects: The peer-review evaluation of the partners’ 3rd and 4th demonstrators as well as the discovery of the students’ evaluations of the first demonstrators, with very encouraging results. Partners also discussed the first video of the training concept that will explain how to replicate and use the demonstrators.

Project partners discover the first demonstrator from Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai, a three axis system used to teach engineering students

Partners also discovered different ambitious projects from the Municipality of Reşita during the visit from Mrs Ildikó Pataki, Advisor for educational politics of the Mayor of Reşita, as well as the very interesting Muzeul Cineastului Amator located in the facilities of the university. This is a private museum with historical film cameras and cinema equipment, often still working, and the owner Andrei Balbarau shared his passion with the group.

Mrs Ildikó Pataki, Advisor for educational politics of the Mayor of Reşita, presenting the different educational and economic projects of the municipality
A small part of the collection of Andrei Balbarau’s Muzeul Cineastului Amator

This was also the opportunity to prepare the final conference on 14th and 15th June 2023 in Belfort France, with an exciting programme to come.

For most of the partners, this meeting has been the first time in Romania, and discovering Reşita, and Timisoara as stopover, was a great experience.

Thank you very much again to our partner Cristian Chioncel from the Engineering Department of the Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai for his kindness and warm welcome.

Study programmes must continuously adapt to market evolutions

Interview with Thomas Röhr, International Director and DigiDemo coordinator at ESTA Belfort, France

In 1986, some big companies around Belfort/France established ESTA Belfort, – a private school, which main purpose was – and still is – to educate sales engineers, or to graduate students with both technical as well as commercial skills.

The companies were looking for employees who were able to sell their highly technological products on international markets. As they couldn’t find the right profiles in French higher education institutions, they decided to create their own school and to build up a sales engineering degree including technology, sales marketing & marketing, and management elements with a strong focus on internationalisation, and all in one study program. And the ease with which students find a job after graduation, in France and abroad, is the best proof of this still unique study programme, Thomas Röhr explains.

Study programmes must continuously adapt to market evolutions. The DigiDemo project is a mean to develop new interactive technological teaching content to catalyse the education of the companies’ future employees.

With the DigiDemo demonstrators we evolve our technical teaching and teach skills that are similar to those, students need when they are selling connected products and need to understand all of its technological aspects in their negotiation with the customer.

Thomas Röhr precises: We discovered that only few local companies were working on connected products that could be used for teaching. And he continues: It was difficult to get companies involved in DigiDemo as direct project partners. The local industry’s focus still lays on high tech products in the transport and energy sectors, and connected products in these domains are not what we were looking for as demonstrators.

However, these suppliers of energy and transportation companies are well aware of the importance of developing connected products, as well as of integrating connected products in a connected production. In consequence, they are very keen on recruiting students who dispose of necessary skills and are able to understand functioning and added-value of such products .

In that transition towards Industry 4.0, Thomas Röhr explains the students’ hands on-experiences in the companies:

DigiDemo demonstrators have been used with our third- and fourth-year students. Sutdents worked in groups and had to develop the demonstrators under supervision of ESTA teachers. They had to apply and combine different skills learned in the previous study years, and to acquire additional ones. This was also an opportunity to bring students from the Industry 4.0 and the Digital Transformation specialisations together in one mission. So, they mutually learned from each other and enhanced their understanding of the “other” specialisation.

To further create a close-to-reality situation, working on the DigiDemo demonstrators had been combined with the Project Management lecture; students had to develop and apply, e.g., planning, risk management, team organisation, kick-off- and progress meetings…

While some of the students take their new skills abroad, others will join regional companies as employees and let them benefit from these enhanced skills about connected products. Mission from the founders accomplished.

“The aim is to provide the students with essential competencies with a high degree of generality”

In this interview, Cristian-Paul Chioncel, Associate professor, from “Babeş-Bolyai” University Faculty of Engineering, gives his reflections on the conditions and the prospects of the educational system in Romania.

Muzeul Banatului Montan în Reșița (© Ap bullet/wikicommons)

In general, Cristian-Paul Chioncel notes an educational system with a potential for further development: In Romania, there is a potential for further developing the educational system, supporting the companies and the economic changes. One aspect could be to focus even more on developing long-term national economic and education strategies.

He continues that another area with potential for development is a strengthened collaboration between academia and companies. In this process, demonstrators can play an active role in providing students with real-life cases and, hence, supporting the development of competencies demanded by SMEs. The demonstrators developed in DigiDemo are integrated into the teaching process as well as the applied laboratory work. Due to their cross-disciplinary nature, they help to develop additional competencies related to the disciplines covered. The use of demonstrators gives students the possibility to have a more direct perspective on the industrial environment. According to Cristian-Paul Chioncel, the DigiDemo project facilitates digitization at two levels: It strives towards using more of these demonstrators in the teaching process. Moreover, it aims to apply digital tools in companies.

Finally, he considers the future of education in a Romanian context: In general, the aim is to provide the students with essential competencies with a high degree of generality. We encourage students to be able to understand principles and different phenomena. In addition, the students should be supported in personal development.

TechTalk on Circular Economy is online

Industry needs to become much more sustainable in developing and producing products that use less resources and energy, base on recycled or renewable materials, produce less waste, and can be used for long time.

DigiDemo partner Esben Laursen from UCN presents the concept of circular economy, one of the pillars of a sustainable industry.

The video targets students and interested people that want to discover the concept. See the video here.

“As educational providers, we experience that dual studies are getting increasingly popular”

Interview with Horatiu Pilsan, Professor for Electronic and Computer Engineering at FH Vorarlberg

<a href="">Image by lcd2020</a> on Freepik
Electric radio elements printed on old vintage paper as background for education, electricity industries, repair footage etc. Selective focus with depth of field (Image by lcd2020 on Freepik)

In this interview, Horatiu Pilsan considers and discusses how the DigiDemo project supports the development of educational programs that meet the current needs of students and companies.

According to Horatiu, educational institutions must facilitate up-to-date programs for students aimed at a context with ever-changing needs. He states: As educational providers, we experience that dual studies are getting increasingly popular.

However, the pre-knowlegde and skills of the young people leaving high school has changed over time. Horatiu explains: The young people leaving high school are not used to reading long texts: They are more used to watching short video clips. Moreover, they often only have little or no vocational skills.

A core area in the DigiDemo project is to develop demonstrators to be used in teaching. Using the demonstrators will create an opportunity for the students to improve their vocational and professional skills. Moreover, it will simultaneously make it possible for the students to relate their field of study to other domains, improving their cross-disciplinary understanding.

Besides the requirement for a dynamic approach when planning educational programs, the partners behind the DigiDemo project have discovered a need for an alignment in expectations. Namely, a discrepancy occurs when companies articulate their wishes for their future employees; Horatiu explains: Companies want us to concentrate on technical skills rather than soft skills. However, they want to hire people with good social skills and cross-disciplinary competencies.

Participating in a project like DigiDemo makes it possible for us to address these challenges, developing our educational programs. Overall, the DigiDemo project aims to develop a framework that enables the students to develop skills that match the everyday requirements of the companies.