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Via Materialia - a blended learning approach

Mr Jonas Bansemer | Technische Universitat Berlin (TU Berlin)

Via Materialia - a blended learning approach

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We offer an introductory course on the fundamentals of material sciences for the majority of engineering students at TU Berlin. Faced with a large heterogeneous group of about 600 students per year we struggle to both teach required contents and keep motivation high throughout the course. Furthermore, considering an environment of abundant information, traditional lecturing seemed outdated. The 'Via Materialia' (Virtual Application: Materials Engineering) is our blended learning approach to tackle the shortcomings of a traditional lecture, expected to start in 2018. Here we will promote self-directed learning, facilitate personal feedback and individual progress by turning around the input and "digestion" phases of the learning process. The four key features are the following: first, a computer-game environment where new topics are presented, including Web-Apps that allow the interactive examination of selected contents. Second, a digital organisational structure that allows the students to manage their personal progress and to compile a personalised library. Third, a weekly group session, where students revise and enhance their previously gained knowledge in a mixture of presentations, exercises, and discussions with the professor. Fourth, a lab course complementing the curriculum to directly experience material science in experiments. The knowledge needed to complete the missions of the game is provided not directly, but rather through references to a textbook and guides on how to research relevant literature. This way the autonomous acquisition of knowledge is promoted, allowing for individual paces and paths of learning. In this curriculum students acquire knowledge by guided self-instruction and enhance their knowledge in guided group sessions. The lab courses allow hands-on experience in dedicated experiments. Figuratively speaking, the students "eat" the information at home, and "digest" it in the guided group sessions - contrary to the traditional way of "being fed" knowledge in a lecture and "digesting" it at home alone.