46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

The key guidelines for pedagogical innovation implemented by UTC aim at ensuring the students become the actors of their personal learning process. This calls for collaborative work on real, scale-one problems, also for reverse educational lectures and serious games. The aim is not only to better arm our student-engineers to face their future professional career but also to adapt the university to comply with the specifics features that characterize a new generation of undergraduates.

46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

Cutting edge tools to learn how to work collaboratively

Two years ago, with the support of the Sorbonne Universities Cluster, UTC installed and equipped a “digital hall” specifically to meet the needs of project intensive pedagogy: the platform has 5 collaborative work areas, each equipped with an interactive, tactile table and display board, as designed by UTC research scientists. The result is very positive. 

 Occupation now close to 100 % ! The digital hall has proven to be a growing success for both UTC academics and students. Today the Hall is used on a regular basis by a dozen or so CCs that address subjects like creativity, innovation or project management, but also serves from time to time as a support for other CCs that include project-work phases.

The display units and tactile tables were designed by the UTC labs Costech and Heudiasyc – to encourage and enhance co-design work and collective intelligence. Using the units and tables enables the students to learn how to make good use of this sort of collaborative tools that we shall see increasingly present in corporate situations. In addition, they also offer several advantages in terms of pedagogy.

Increased levels of participation

The first advantage is that, with these tools, all students present can be active during collaborative work sessions. Each participant can, to illustrate, bring up a virtual keyboard on the table and noting his/her ideas on a digital Post-it®, sharing with fellow students by ‘sliding’ the notes or transferring them to a display unit while another student can rank and classify the ideas as they and when they appear. “Using the interactive table encourages and enhances creativity and cross-fertilization of ideas thanks to the face-to-face exchanges across the table while the display units serve to achieve convergence of ideas and proposals that help when it comes to making decisions”, explains Thierry Gidel, lecturer and research scientist working at the UTC-Costech Lab.

“What we have observed with the use of these tools is that distribution of ‘exposé-time’ than with classic Post-its®, paperboards or other traditional brain-storming tools used in collaborative work sessions. It also proves much better than a group, of students round a PC with a large screen display. In this configuration, the student who accesses the PC keyboard tends to become “the boss” and the other students then become more passive”.

Joanna Daaboul, who, teaches at the UTC Mech.Eng Dept. shares this view: “With the interactive table and display units, the more reserved, ‘shy’ students can propose their ideas via the virtual Post-its® without having to speak up in public”. And to the extent that more brains are contributing here, the results are all the more relevant and globally interesting. Finally I can conclude that students simply love working in the Digital Hall”. 

A multitude of possibilities

Another inherent advantage is that the display units and interactive tables integrate a multi-user multifunction software package offering a wide range of possibilities: co-construction of a business model, or scenario or schedule, mapping the processes, commenting a map…Moreover, the software used was designed to guide beginners as to best uses, facilitating also the learning of collaborative work methods. Naturally, other software package can be developed to handle specific cases and applications (cf. article below). The pedagogical interest of these tools is not limited to the students as audience.

The digital hall also serves as support for an experiment in interdisciplinary collaborative work conducted by a nearby school. In a partnership with CIREL, a laboratory specialized in education sciences at University of Lille 3, the UTC-Costech Lab has just launched a thesis on training for collaborative work based on use of tactile display units and their contribution to specialist training.