1. Why TOM?
The reason the University of Twente chose to develop a distinctive learning approach is directly related to the specific profile and focus of the institution. Traditionally, the boundaries between disciplines are reflected in the organization of the university and, as a consequence, in the curriculum of its programmes. As the University of Twente seeks an interdisciplinary approach to its teaching and research, it is logical to avoid pre-structuring programmes by discipline or organizational subdivisions.
The focus of the University of Twente is to prepare students for a world that - technologically speaking - is developing increasingly faster. Tomorrow’s professions do not yet exist. That's why it is important that students possess specialized knowledge, and are also capable of applying their knowledge, insights and skills in other fields of study. Moreover, surveys show how employers increasingly demand organizational and communication skills, along with general academic, problem-solving and co-creation skills. We call these transferable skills.
2. What is TOM?
TOM is the model that the University of Twente uses to match its vision and goals for undergraduate education with insights from higher education studies. There are three core aspects of TOM:
1. Modules and project-based work
2. Student-driven learning
3. Three professional roles
TOM is a model that offers fulltime and thematic study units (i.e. modules), each lasting one quartile (4 x 10 weeks at 15 ECTS).
3. Modules and project-based work?
A TOM programme is characterised by the integration of Project Based Learning (PBL) and other teaching methods in thematic fulltime study units – i.e. modules. At the centre of each module is a project. By programming the other module components around these projects, an integrated whole is created. Project-led education has a number of advantages. It is a very active method that involves students in their learning. Projects ask students to choose a focus and a method, make a plan, appoint roles, etc. These are not mere skills to learn; they can also be ways to test and develop talents, and to follow specific interests. For example, explaining a problem or a solution to peers is a great way for students to learn and assess their understanding.
Other advantages of thematic fulltime education are that students can focus when they only have to worry about one module, and that fulltime availability of students allows for maximum flexibility in the schedule. This flexibility also makes it easier to offer diverse teaching methods. Research shows this variation is important for motivation and for the effectiveness of learning. Variation in teaching methods keeps students alert and increases the chance that students with different learning styles will succeed. It is important for a module to focus on a clearly defined theme or subject. Designing the educational activities around a theme ensures internal coherence. The individual activities become more meaningful to students because they get to see the bigger picture.
4. Student-driven Learning?
Flexibility and an entrepreneurial attitude are not developed in a classroom. To better prepare students for an uncertain future, the aim is to have them at the helm of their education as much as possible. This approach to learning is what we call Student-driven Learning (SDL). In its current form, TOM is made student-driven mostly by projects that not only help students test their understanding and develop skills, but also invite them to ask new questions and seek other learning. Of course, students' choices are made in close consultation with their teachers: we're strong believers in personal mentoring. Because of this, the role of the teacher changes as well. The teacher provides feedback on the result and the learning process of the student and encourages the student to gain new experience and explore unknown subjects. This approach to learning should lead to students with a flexible and entrepreneurial attitude, which prepares them for the current labour market.
5. Three professional roles?
The University of Twente wants to train highly skilled professionals who are able to critically assess, combine and apply scientific knowledge, and able to add new knowledge. According to the University of Twente’s vision on teaching, students must learn to function in three roles to achieve this: being a researcher, designer and organizer. During projects in the bachelor’s programme, students lay the academic foundations for each of these roles. Developing one or more roles is at the heart of each project. By following various modules and by taking on different roles in project groups, students can find out where their talents and preferences lie. Further specialization in one of these three roles is reserved for the master's phase.
6. What is the advantage of TOM for new students?
The advantage of TOM for new students is that they are not only graduating with very specialized knowledge, but also possess transferable skills. For example, they are flexible, have an entrepreneurial attitude and collaboration skills. In addition, the curriculum is more appealing and challenging owing to the thematic, project-led education in which the student independently acquires insights and can immediately apply what he/she has learned. Moreover, the programme offers a greater scope to develop personal interest and talents. Also, owing to the more intensive tutoring, students will end up in the right programme sooner than before TOM. The chance of making a wrong choice is reduced, and even if this does occur, the consequences are restricted to a minimum.
7. Isn’t TOM just an economic measure?
The Twente Education Model aims to improve the quality of the education and with that also its effectiveness. Above all, the Twente Education Model must enable students to study more effectively. Increased effectiveness is achieved by:
- Learning together and from each other;
- Active modes of instruction that ensure greater retention of knowledge (and testing the understanding);
- A distributed workload instead of a peak workload;
- The various teaching methods and options in the programmes, which allow for different learning styles and interests;
- Regular and quick feedback;
- Close collaboration with fellow students and staff, producing intrinsic motivation.
Offering this kind of education at the University of Twente creates a Unique Selling Point. In addition to the campus and High Tech, Human Touch mentality, this is another reason for students to opt for the University of Twente.
Besides growth (in the long term), the TOM must have the effect that students end up in the right place sooner, thus reducing the chance of dropping out later.
8. Are they broad bachelor’s programmes?
Only University College ATLAS is a broad bachelor in the formal (legal) sense. It is especially intended for the excellent, multi-talented students who are highly ambitious and highly motivated. For more information on University College ATLAS: www.utwente.nl/bachelor/atlas. However, also a programme like Advanced Technology has a broad profile, as do more programmes. Some programmes even offer modules conjointly.
9. So what will studying in the bachelor’s phase look like?
A year consists of 4 quartiles, each consisting of one module. A module lasts 10 weeks and consists of 15 ECs (European Credits).
A TOM curriculum can be divided in 5 consecutive phases:
1. opening semester (modules 1 and 2)
2. core program, including referral advice or BSA (modules 3 through 6)
3. specialization (modules 7 and 8)
4. minor (modules 9 and 10)
5. graduation semester (modules 11 and 12)
Apart from this organizational structure, the curricula share a number of educational activities. All science and technology programmes have a shared math programme in the first two semesters. Students are mixed for parts of this programme and do other parts with peers from their own program. A similar model is used for the training of research methods in social science programmes. The aim is to let students see and experience the universality of these parts of the curriculum. Furthermore, the efficiency of scale allows for extra investments in this part of the curriculum.
10. Is there an overview of all TOM modules?
The Module Map gives a clear overview of all bachelor modules at the University of Twente.
11. Is there still a shared theme?
Cohort 2013 and Cohort 2014 all programs were focused on the shared theme 'sport' in module 1. The module was jointly concluded with a final conference. Cohort 2015 it is decided in the UCO (University Committee Education) that there will not be a shared theme and final conference. So this year, students and teachers are searching for other ways to create community and stimulate a multidisciplinary approach.
12. How will tutoring take place in TOM?
Students will receive intense tutoring during their studies. Similar to the current situation, the study advisor offers students guidance in their educational careers. Within projects, students are also supervised by tutors, with attention being paid to questions such as: How is the project coming along? Are students making progress? How is each student functioning? As students and tutors speak with each other on a regular basis, it becomes easier to keep track of the student’s progress and his/her wellbeing. The University of Twente is known for its small scale, approachability of tutors and an open and informal culture. This will become even more apparent with the Twente Education Model.
13. What if a student wants to switch subjects or has made the wrong choice?
Within the TOM, the modules have been set up in such a way that the first six months of a programme will give the student a clear idea of the content of the programme and its academic level. It will also give an insight into the level of specific components. Students will therefore be able to discover if this meets their interests and if they will have a chance of success in this programme. In principle it is still possible to switch programmes after one or two modules, although it will demand extra work to catch up.
14. Is it still possible for a student to excel?
The University of Twente offers possibilities for talented students to be additionally challenged on top of or within the regular curriculum (by broadening or intensifying instruction). One possibility is the honours tracks. Talented students with a broad orientation can opt for a fulltime programme at University College.
15. How is dealt with the risk of someone tagging along?
Students are trained to work in projects, including learning how to discuss each other’s behavior and commitment to the group, supervised by a tutor. If students experience unsolvable problems within the project group, they can seek a solution with their tutor. Also, in most cases tests are carried out individually. These aspects have proven to be good instruments to counter the risk of free-riding.
16. Are there examination weeks scheduled at the end of the module?
Tests and assessments can be scheduled during the entire module. There won’t be any formal examination weeks. Check the Academic Timetable for more information.
17. What does testing look like in TOM?
Testing from a didactical perspective, a module is one coherent unit of study. This way of testing leads to an evenly distributed workload over the quartile, which has several advantages. For example, it will be more difficult for students to procrastinate.
Tests taken during the module, either formative (not part of the results on the transcript) or summative, can be used to give students feedback on how they are doing. Of course there are other means of feedback, like tutor sessions, midterm project presentations, etc. The summative tests result in one final grade for the module. This grade determines whether students pass the module and get the credits. Other demands may apply, like minimum scores for specific sets of tests in the module. A module with only one summative test – an end paper for example – is possible as well. This can be a group paper, but then there will also have to be an individual assessment. Each module has an exam schedule that specifies which partial/sub-tests there are, how these will be weighted in the final assessment, and which components need to be completed with a minimum score.
When circumstances have prevented a student from passing a module component, the programme and the exam committee will look for a possibility to repair this. For more information about testing and assessments in TOM, click here.
Information and support for testing (for teachers) can also be found on the website of CELT.
18. Do modules have requirements regarding pre-knowledge?
Due to the common Mathematics and Research Methods, some modules have to follow each other in a certain order. Strict requirements for pre-knowledge are avoided as much as possible. It might differ per bachelor programme what the requirements are, regarding pre-knowledge. For more information about this subject, students can contact their study adviser.
19. What about the Binding Recommendation (BR)?
As from 1 September 2013 all programmes follow a BR of 45 ECs. More information: Regulation Binding Recommendation.
20. Can students with a disability or illness, or top athletes also follow the bachelor programme according to TOM?
Just like before TOM, it is still possible to adapt the programme if there are valid reasons. How this will be arranged depends largely on the student’s situation and the programme/module concerned.
More information about studying with a disability can be found here.
21. What effect does TOM have on secondary activities?
The TOM expects an average student to dedicate himself fulltime (40 hours per week) to his studies. Talented students may well need less time. Secondary activities in a student life or a part-time job come on top of one’s study workload. Days are usually not completely planned with obligatory meetings, so there is some flexibility in how students distribute their time.
It is still being explored whether – within the elective space – a module can be developed especially for students with administrative duties. For a number of extensive board or administrative positions there are funds available.
The current organization of instruction makes it easier to succeed in your studies, even if you have taken a gap year. The view on students’ secondary activities can be found on the intranet site of Educational Innovations: visie over nevenactiviteiten van studenten (in Dutch).
22. Where can I find more information?
Are you a prospective student? Check https://www.utwente.nl/onderwijs/bachelor/
Are you a teacher at the University of Twente? Check https://www.utwente.nl/en/tem/
Are you an educational scientist? Check https://blog.utwente.nl/citadel
Is your question not answered? Please contact us by sending an email to: