9 January 2020 • Dave Stikkolorum
HBO-ICT students and lecturers are innovating their future
Innovating education at school? How do you make it happen? Many degree programmes are trying to answer that question. Perhaps they can sneak a peek at their neighbours. In the Dutch Innovation Factory in Zoetermeer, where first-year students HBO-ICT can opt for the brand new differentiation Innovative Development after their first semester. Team leader Dave Stikkolorum is happy to tell us more.
HBO-ICT represents innovation within the university of applied sciences. The Dutch Innovation Factory is the number one digital playground in and around The Hague. The Factory brings together ICT education and research, government and businesses, all under a single roof. Many great things emerge from this interaction. Both students and lecturers are actively innovating. They are continuously working on ways to innovate their future.
A different programme
“We started the Dutch Innovation Factory five years ago,” explains Dave Stikkolorum. “Our education programme is very different from the classic programme. Those programmes have strict rules. Require us to test learning objectives at inconvenient moments. Imagine, a company proposes a great project and during the negotiation process you find yourself saying: ‘Oh, we can’t do this because it doesn’t fit in this year’s curriculum, but we can do it next year. And this has to be included now because we will test that at the end of the semester.’ It doesn’t work like that. At HBO-ICT we have chosen a very different approach.”
The degree programme had also realised that after students graduate and start working, they immediately encounter new developments. “The professional ICT field changes every day. We wanted to create a course in which students are trained to become additive professionals. Young people who are constantly developing themselves, on a daily basis. The diploma has certainly brought them to a certain level, but they aren’t finished and still have a long way to go.”
As a third reason Dave Stikkolorum names the lecturers. “By encouraging them to work more closely with the private sector, they will also stay up to date in their field.”
In the differentiation Innovative Development, HBO-ICT takes things one step further. “After the basic semester in the first year, students start on their elective path. “It sounds revolutionary and it actually is, a little bit. Each semester revolves around a challenge. The challenge consists of a mostly undefined problem. To solve the problem, the students have to identify the various sub problems and address those. A challenge could be for example: ‘how do you promote security awareness’.
The electives are part of a framework. “We work with professional assignments, comparable to competencies. These professional assignments are based on a national framework that each university of applied sciences student has to fulfil. When you complete enough professional assignments at the right level throughout your entire degree programme, you are entitled to your diploma. The best part is that we don’t know what path the student will choose. We do know that they can only choose from what we offer. By letting them plan their degree programme, we challenge them to go the extra mile. We want to do away with the university of applied sciences predetermined way of thinking. We want students to excel in their talents. They don’t have to be good at everything.”
Fun but not a party
“We began with one pilot group that works with the Innovative Development differentiation. We will definitely continue with this. We foresee an even closer cooperation with the private sector. We have noticed that students are studying more consciously. And the role of lecturers has also changed. They become a challenge coach who not only transfers knowledge, but also supports students and interacts with companies.”
Those who think that this innovative form of education gives students an easy ride, are sorely mistaken. Dave: “We have very strict standards for the professional tasks. The students have to obtain all their credits within a set time frame. The students receive weekly feedback and are assessed every two weeks. So yes, they have a lot of freedom, but there is a strict process we have built in to ensure the quality. Innovative Development is fun, but it’s not a party. Students will have to save the party until the end of the semester, if they have worked hard enough.”