FAQ TOM (Last update: 19-12-2016)
1. Why TOM?
The reason the University of Twente chose to develop a distinctive approach to learning 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 sub-divisions.
The focus of the UT 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 have specialized knowledge, but 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 with which the University of Twente decided to match its vision and goals for undergraduate education to insights from the study of higher education. 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, 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. A project is at the centre of each module. 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 full-time education is that students can focus when they only have to worry about one module, and that full-time 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 can still 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 in that they get to see the bigger picture.
4. Student-driven Learning?
Flexibility and an entrepreneurial attitude are not developed in a lecture hall. 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 a 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 students 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 to add new knowledge. According to the UT’s vision on teaching, students must learn to function in three roles to achieve this: being a researcher, a designer, and an 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 assuming 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 phase.
6. What is the advantage of TOM for new students?
The advantage of TOM for new students is that they are not graduating with only 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 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. The chance of making a wrong choice is reduced and even if this does occur, then the consequences are restricted to a minimum.
7. Isn’t TOM just an economy measure?
The Twente Education Model aims to improve the quality of the education and thus also its effectiveness. Above all, the Twente Education Model must enable students to study more effectively. An increased effectiveness is achieved by:
- Learning together and from one another;
- Active modes of instruction that ensure greater retention (of knowledge) and understanding is tested;
- A distributed instead of a peak workload;
- The various teaching methods and options in the programmes, which allow for different learning styles and interests;
- Regular and fast feedback;
- Close collaboration with fellow students and staff producing intrinsic motivation.
Offering this kind of education at the UT creates a Unique Selling Point. Apart from the campus and High Tech Human Touch, yet another reason for students to opt for the UT.
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 their later dropping out.
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 such as Advanced Technology has a broad profile, as 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, and each will have one module. A module lasts 10 weeks and stands for 15 ECs (course 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 UT.
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 is jointly concluded with a final conference. Cohort 2015 it is decided in the UCO that there will no shared theme and there will not be organized a final conference. By contrast, this year students and teachers are searching for another way to create community and stimulate a multidisciplinary approach.
12. How will the tutoring take place in the TOM?
Students will receive intense tutoring during their studies. No different from now, the study adviser offers students guidance with their educational career. With projects students are also supervised by tutors, with attention being paid to questions such as: How is the project coming along? Are you making progress? How is each student functioning? As students and lecturers/tutors speak to one another on a regular basis, it becomes easier to keep track of the student’s progress and his/her wellbeing. The UT is known for its small-scaleness, approachability of lecturers and an open/informal culture. This will become even more apparent with the Twente Education Model.
12. 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 thus 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.
13. Is it still possible for a student to excel?
The UT offers possibilities for talent to be additionally challenged on top of or within the regular curriculum (broadening or intensifying instruction). One way is with the honours tracks. Talented students with a broad orientation can opt for a fulltime programme at University College.
14. How is dealt with the danger of someone tagging along?
Students are trained to work in projects, including learning how to discuss one another’s behaviour and commitment to the group. All project groups are supervised in this by a tutor. When students have a problem within the project group which they cannot solve, they can seek a solution with their tutor. Also, in most cases testing is carried out individually. These aspects have proven to be good instruments to counter the risk of free riding.
15. Are there examination weeks scheduled at the end of the module?
Tests and assessments can be scheduled during the whole module. There won’t be any formal examination weeks. Check also the Academic Timetable.
16. How does testing in TOM look like?
Testing from a didactical perspective, a module is one coherent unit of study. This manner of testing leads to an evenly distributed workload over the quartile, which has several advantages. For example, it will be less easy 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 in that case there will also have to be some form of individual assessment. Each module has an exam schedule which 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.
17. Do modules have requirements regarding pre-knowledge?
Due to the common Mathetmatics 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 advisor.
18. What about the Binding Recommendation (BR)?
As from 1 September 2013 all programmes follow a BR of 45 ECs. More information: Regulation Binding Recommendation.
19. Can students with a disability, illness or top sportmen and -women also follow the bachelors programme according to TOM?
As in the past, it will also be possible within the TOM to adapt the programme if there is good cause. How this will be done depends largely on the student’s situation and the programme/module concerned.
More information about studying with an disability can be found here.
20. 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 planned fully with obligatory meetings, so there is some flexibility in how one allocates his 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 ‘large’ board or administrative positions there are funds available.
The way the instruction is now organized means it will be 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).
21. 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 educational scientist? Check https://blog.utwente.nl/citadel
Is your question not answered? Please contact us by sending an email to: