Knowledge is developing faster than education can keep up with -especially in the field of technology and ICT- and the need for lifelong development is increasing among both students and professionals. Universities of applied sciences are therefore increasingly developing hybrid learning environments to reduce the distance between school and professional practice.
Purpose of the educational concept
The Fontys ICT InnovationLab is such a hybrid learning environment, which means that students, lecturers and business partners learn, work and perform research together on authentic issues in professional practice or society. Learning in school is combined with learning in professional practice. Together with educators and (business)professionals, students work on developing talent and ICT innovation. The learning environment is situated among companies and set up like a professional practice, so the student gets a realistic picture and the professional field also feels at home. This educational concept is relatively new and requires a process of learning and changing on-the-job.
So a hybrid learning environment reduces the distance between school and professional practice, but what exactly does this mean for the educational concept? The key question of research line A is;
What skills and attitude are required from the various actors involved for working, learning and conducting research in the educational concept of Fontys University of Applied Sciences ICT (FHICT), and how does the Strijp TQ location affect this?
- Professional development and well-being
If we look at desired learning outcomes, FHICT wants to give its students self-direction, lifelong development skills, guts, innovation, research and professional skills. All this ensures a good fit with the job market. We investigated how the learning environment and the educational concept contribute to these learning outcomes. Finally, we investigated well-being; how do students, teachers and partners in the field rate the educational concept and the location as a learning and working place?
Knowledge creation and knowledge sharing
The open learning environment and educational method are designed to allow for chance encounters and cross-pollination. We investigated the extent to which this spontaneous interaction and knowledge exchange occurs.
Collaboration with business partners
The InnovationLab aims to offer students a meaningful learning context that stimulates their talent development. The ambition is to form a community of learners together with the professional field and lecturer-researchers. In addition, FHICT aims to create an environment where students, lecturers and business partners are eager to collaborate on innovation. We looked at whether the InnovationLab is perceived this way by the actors and what is needed for it to be seen this way.
Plan of approach
In addition to research triangulation (several researchers trying to answer the same questions), methodological triangulation was also used: several methods were applied to form a picture as complete as possible. For this part of the study, we collected a large amount of quantitative data in the form of education surveys. This was enriched with qualitative data in the form of in-depth interviews, focus groups and observations of social interactions (online and offline). The target group for line A consisted mainly of students and lecturers and, to a lesser extent, partners.
The pandemic and the various lockdowns that followed made the use of the location completely or partially impossible in different periods, which created challenges for the research. You can only say something about what influence an environment has when you can actually be there. Online education took off during this period and caused an acceleration in the development of blended learning. This allowed this line of research to survive the most. Despite adjustments in both educational implementation and this research it has provided the necessary valuable insights. These are discussed later in this roadmap. In addition, advancing insight has caused some adjustments to the main and sub-questions.