For years Enschede has been functioning as a rich learning environment for students from the University of Twente, Saxion, ArtEZ/AKI, and ROC Twente. In the past years they have collaborated with EnschedeLAB among others. This rich learning environment should be embedded in the educational programmes from the learning institutions and amplified. The brand-new project coordinator of ‘Kennismaken met de stad Enschede’ (Getting to know the city of Enschede), Stephanie Ankone is working on a plan to implement this.
A month ago, Ankone picked up where Wiro Kuipers left off. Here students from the different educational institutes work together in Nano-Challenges on a societal dilemma from the city or region. After a period of time, the format of the challenge, that used to take a whole month, did not seem to fit well into the different educational structures. Kuipers transformed it into the Nano-Challenges, challenges taking 4 to 6 partial days, where students from different educational institutes work together on the dilemmas of the city.
This more flexible format is better suited to the existing educational structures and can be offered as part of the regular curriculum or extra-curricular. Recently, Hengelo has also joined in and latched onto the activities of EnschedeLAB.
So in this project you will look at how this rich learning environment can get a secure spot in the educational institutions?
Yes, we are entering the implementation phase and are going to look at how EnschedeLAB can be deployed in and between these institutions, with the ambition to let as many students as possible familiarize themselves with working on the dilemmas of the city. Nano-challenges are a format for this, but this can also be done in different ways. This is something we will also be exploring in the coming time.
For this reason, it is important to know what initiatives already exist, that’s why the first step is doing inventory of these initiatives. At many places students are already working on societal issues within their studies. For example, at Saxion you have the Smart Solutions Semester, where students from all sorts of study backgrounds work together on an issue. At the ROC you have the Hub where questions from practice are gathered and connected to students from different studies. At ArtEz-AKI there’s a similar initiative and the UT has Challenge Based-Learning (CBL), among other things. With Challenge Based-Learning, students work under the supervision of an experienced coach and with others from different backgrounds, together with external parties on an issue.
I am now tasked with exploring where we can strengthen each other, but also to see where our blind spots are. Every student should be able to work on a societal issue during their studies. Even with all the initiatives, there are still many students who do not encounter this. How can we help them, with, for example, a Nano-Challenge?
Is it then your goal to have all students in Enschede and Hengelo work with a societal issue at least once within their studies?
Yes, ideally every student from each of the four educational institutes gets to encounter a societal issue at one point. In any case, we strive for students to at least have the choice to work on an issue within the city, and that while doing that they work together with students from another institute. That’s what makes EnschedeLAB unique. It goes beyond the institutions. Personally, I find it very valuable to have these different students communicate with each other. A student from the ROC working together with a UT-student for example. All these different backgrounds coming together. Whichever way you look they will encounter each other in the work field, and they need each other. That’s not always how students have seen or experienced it.”
“I precisely find it beautiful to take them into that collaboration, so that they see themselves that every student looks at an issue from their own, different perspective. Apart from the Nano-Challenges we are also going to explore different formats that can foster this collaboration between the different students. Where possible within the curriculum, and where not providing it as extra-curricular. Especially the students who are not (able to be) very active in a study association or student association but would like to work on their soft skills, find it very interesting to take part in these types of educational activities. They learn a lot from it and additionally looks good on their CV.
Do you also talk to the students themselves in this inventory period?
Yes, I find that very important, because they are the target audience in the end. Soon, I will be talking to students who have participated in the Challenges previously. How did they experience it and what tips and advice can they give us so that we can get even more students excited? Apart from that I will be talking to the student officials from the municipality of Enschede. They get questions from both students and the municipality. The best would be for more challenges to come from the students themselves. That it would really be an interplay of what is happening in a region or city, but also what is driving the students. Based out of that you would want to design the Challenges, but also the offerings of EnschedeLAB.
What else does the implementation plan consist of?
There are a couple of action points. Inventorying what is already happening is the first. Where are the blind spots? The second is inventorying where we as EnschedeLAB can contribute. It can be that a project within an institution that’s being picked up could also work well in an interdisciplinary way, so beyond the institutions. In which way can we format that? We are also looking at the possibility of opening a physical location within the city, where citizens but also students and businesses can walk in to learn and hear about what is going on in the city and within the educational institutions.
We are also going to look at whether that is feasible, and what that location is supposed to look like. Do they for example need to become pop-up locations within neighbourhoods? There where these issues come better to their right? [AC(E5] Does there also need to be a permanent space? At the end of this year, we should know more about this. Apart from that we also have a ‘train the trainer’ program. Here we want to teach teachers who are not used to working in a format such as a Challenge. By the end of this year this program needs to be available. The implementation plan also does not mean that everything we are already doing will be put to a halt.
What else is going on?
This year we are also going to organize Nano-Challenges. In June a Challenge starts where students will be working on the social cohesion between local residents and student houses. After the Covid-period in particular, many students lost contact with the other residents. It’s of great importance that these groups can live together in harmony. In which creative way can you strengthen that cohabitation? A student that is in good contact with the neighbourhood might also be more inclined to stay and work in that region later. In the autumn we will be organizing a Challenge in digitalization. It’s of essence for the region, but also comes with risks. Think of privacy. How can you solve these digitalization challenges together? We are working closely with the municipality that is also working on that.
So you are also looking at expansion and how you can embed that rich learning environment in the curriculum?
Yes, we are exploring where EnschedeLAB can be coupled to other initiatives and where possible ec’s can be coupled. With expansion we are also looking to see whether we can organize more Nano-Challenges and which other formats we can offer, so that in the end we can offer a sort of menu to the students. We are still looking for more connection with the stakeholders, municipality, educational institutes, but also other organizations that are busy with issues. By training more teachers to work with Challenges and to offer them the tools for that we want to make this expansion possible. We also involve students with this. We have good experiences with Saxion-students that have guided ROC-students for example.
What can the network of City Deal learn from your findings?
I hope we can be an example for institutions that also want to work with the mbo (Secondary vocational education), that these collaborations also between institutes is guaranteed. That’s also the challenge because you are working with different educational structures. They are real challenges, but I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of energy. The value comes from the collaboration between different institutes.
This article first appeared on agendastad.nl, written by Pieter Verbeek.
English Translation by Dominique Jansen, Student at University of Twente.