What is TOM?

What is TOM?

All Bachelor programmes at the University of Twente work with TOM. What makes this particular way of learning and teaching special?

1. Modules and project-based work

All our programmes consist of modules. Each module of 15 ECTS has a theme with all sorts of subjects and learning activities, such as feedback sessions with students or workshops and lectures. In this module, the knowledge and skills offered are strongly connected with the project. One module covers one quartile (half a semester). The different aspects of a module are related to the study programme and often interconnected. Central to each module is a team project in which students address a real-world problem. This way, students put scientific theory into practice. Challenging and exciting! 

Modulestructure

A bachelorprogramme consists of 12 modules. The first eight modules represent the core of the programme. In module 9 and 10 the student have elective space to choose modules for broadening or deepening their knowledge, for example with a High Tech Human Touch module, a join in module or study abroad. More information about the possibilities can be found on the minorwebsite. In the last two modules (11 and 12) students work on their graduation assignment.

Mandatory contact hours
Students can be challenged to work on their study full-time by providing well thought-out and stimulating assignments. However, studying full-time is not the same as filling up the entire schedule with forty hours of mandatory presence on campus. We prefer having room for personal planning available, which is why weeks should not be scheduled full-time with contact hours. Starting in the 2015-2016 academic year, bachelor students in their first year need to be offered at least 20 contact hours with a teacher, tutor or student assistant per academic week. This is one of the performance agreements made with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Coherence and integration

One of the guiding principles of TOM is that we no longer have courses. An important TOM pillar is a strong coherence between the module-units mutually and with the project. The module is one unit. Knowledge and skills that are offered in the module units are integrated with each other and essential for completing the project.

Variation in teaching methods

Variation in teaching methods keeps students alert and increase the chance that students with different learning styles can still succeed. The different educational activities are all designed around one carefully defined theme, which ensures an internal coherence. The module becomes more meaningful because of it: students understand the bigger picture. Because all module units are required to achieve the learning objectives of the project, the module is an integrated whole and can be viewed as one large course in project setting.

Courses of learning

In all of the Twente bachelor programmes, academic reflection focuses on the relations between science, technology, and society, in order to stimulate a reflexive and responsible academic attitude. 10 EC of the total 15 EC academic Bildung in each programme consists of REflection on Science Technology and Society (RESTS). The programme management chooses in which module or modules this subject is incorporated.

The strength of the Twente approach is in the close connection between education in academic reflection and the discipline-specific content of the programmes. Rather than offering generic courses in history, sociology, philosophy or ethics, the University of Twente chooses to use the concrete content of the individual programmes as a starting point and a basis to build upon. For Twente academics, reflection on the relations between science, technology, and society belongs to their central competences. Raising reflexive questions ‘from within’, as a natural element of the work in a specific field is fully integrated in their academic training.

The technical degree programmes participate in a joint mathematics course of learning. The content and design of this can be found on Blackboard (EWI-TOMLEERLIJN-MATHABCD). Every year, the programme director of mathematics and the programme directors of the participating programmes ensure that the mathematics course of learning is attuned to the content of the programmes as much as possible. The same goes for the joint Methods and Technologies course of learning for the social sciences.

Shared Modules

Some programmes share module units or entire modules with each other. This can be because of efficiency reasons but it can also be interesting regarding the content. For example, Technische Bedrijfskunde (Industrial Engineering Management), Business & IT en Technische Informatica (Technical Computer Sciences) share the first introductory module (module 1) to give the students an impression of the scope of this cluster. Also in module 4 students from Technische Natuurkunde (Technical Physics) work together with students of Technische Wiskunde (Technical Mathematics) on reproducing historical experiments. They need each others expertise to complete the project.

The Module Map shows which modules are shared. 

Project

In order to encourage that students are involved in their own learning and that they study actively and nominally, it is of the utmost importance that the education offered is appealing. For that reason the core of a module is shaped by a project: an activity that challenges students to independently gain knowledge and skills. The size of a project is not predetermined. However, the University of Twente's aim is that TOM develops into a model in which students do not just apply knowledge and skills, but that they also gain them in the project.

The extent to which a project is structured depends on the particular programme, the location of the respective module in this programme and the learning objectives of the module. During a structured project all students are given the same assignments and the theory is offered in other module units that run parallel to the project. This knowledge is applied in the project. During an open project a lot of information is available within the context of the project, possibly preselected by teachers, and students can take on several activities that are required to successfully complete the project. Students can determine whether they want to employ the preselected sources and learning activities provided by the teachers to achieve the learning objectives, or select other sources or activities on their own. Proper tutoring is key here. During the project the students will receive feedback regarding the content from the teachers. The movie below is an example of a project. 



An important goal of TOM is that students become a 'T-shaped professional'. It is therefore recommended that students from different bachelor programmes work together in a project team several times. In Module 7 students from Industrial Engineering Management and students of Business & IT work together in setting up their own business. The knowledge of the TBK students is necessary to set up the company but the programming skills of the BIT students are needed to launch the business online. Read more about this module in My TOM. In Module 6 students from Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Design and Industrial Engineering Management student work together in developing a project for a real company. In the mixed teams the students from different disciplines work on the design and the presentation of the product. While the ID students focus on the esthetics and concept thinking, the ME students think about how to realize the product technically. The IEM students focus more on the efficiency aspects. In 2016 they worked for Ikea. 

2. Student driven learning

Student-driven Learning (SDL) means that students take a certain control over their own learning process. To better prepare students for an uncertain future, the aim is to have them at the helm of their education as much as possible. Therefore, our goal is to develop modules in which students can make their own choices, for example when it comes to planning and educational activities. This approach to learning should lead to students with a flexible and entrepreneurial attitude. 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. Such an entrepreneurial attitude better prepares students for the labour market.

In a Student-driven module students can determine for themselves whether they need the offered sources and learning activities in order to achieve the learning objectives - where proper tutoring is of the essence. Some people think that such open modules are better suited further along in the degree programme instead of during the first year. However, it is important that there's an upward trend in the programme, increasing the control the student is expected to take of his learning. Others think that the first module can already be this open. However, a proper safety net is important. The intensity of the tutoring decreases as the student progresses in the programme. In both cases coordination on this aspect between the various module teams within the programme is necessary.

With our Student-driven modules and open projects our students have the opportunity to take the reins themselves. Students are therefore expected to take on an active study and work attitude and reflect upon their work themselves. What do they have to pay more attention to and/or spend more time on? Which activities do they have to complete to attain the learning objectives? Which sources do they need, which role do they take on and in which setting do they perform their project assignment? Making these decisions and therefore being self-directed is something we want our students to learn. At the start of the programme the tutoring is intense while later on this gradually decreases.

3. The Three 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. The best way students can learn this, is by taking on these roles in the curriculum by working on projects as soon as possible. Throughout their studies, students can discover which roles suites them best. They become adept in a certain field of learning, but will also discover where their true strengths are lying - professionally and personally.  


The first TOM Graduates