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

Identical trends on the Shanghai campus

Utseus (*Sino-European School of Technology of the Shanghai University), is an academic association of the three French universities of technologies (UTs) and the Shanghai University. In China project based learning and development of intercultural skills is becoming increasingly important.

 Utseus proposes three one-semester ‘mobility’ programmes for student engineers matriculated at one of the three French universities of technology: UTBM (Belfort-Montbeliard), UTC (Compiègne) and UUT (Troyes): one addresses 2nd year students, while the other two, at Master’s degree level, aim at students finishing their engineering diploma training.

These training courses, especially at the Master’s degree level, leave plenty of scope for pedagogical innovation and make provisions for numerous meetings and projects with Chinese or Franco-Chinese companies, start-ups and other local actors engaged in innovation-intensive activities (cf. Interactions #42, January 2017, dossier, pages 5-12).

But the objective here is also to develop these ‘active’ forms of pedagogy – which are quite novel in China – in the framework of the Bachelor’s degree that aims at Chinese Utseus students specifically. UTC Emeritus Professor Jean-Pierre Caliste – responsible for three credit courses in 3rd year at Utseus, asserts “the first CC focusing on project management was organized in autumn, 2017. At this point in time, the students have not, as yet, done any group project work. I ask them to get organized in teams of 6 to address a subject that will involve several ‘deliverables’, including a ~ 10 page publication. The subject matter is ‘general’ in its scope and not an engineering problem per se. Each group chooses its own theme (museums, salaried students …), but there is an overriding proviso that the team comply with the specs and delivery dates. Over and above the students’ inexperience here, our main difficulty lies in their numbers, much more than those met at UTC, around 70 students in each seminar class, which makes it physically impossible to supervise each student individually! What I do is ask them to work with a project management software package, so we can follow their progress a posteriori”.

A very enriching cultural shock

The second CC (on quality assurance, or QA) will take place in the springtime. Drawing on their experience with a project, the students here will be invited to redesign an object and to produce a dossier that supports their design and findings. In 2017, for example, the assignment for each group consisted of transforming an existing product into a connected object with new functionalities. But the key point here is that the teams are mixed – each with 2 Chinese students and 2 French students doing their second year ‘mobility’ studies at Utseus. “For both Chinese and French, this represents a very enriching cultural shock”, notes Jean-Pierre Caliste. “The Chinese discover that the French are more familiar than them in project-intensive collaboration, are highly self-reliant, anticipate difficulties and takes lots of initiatives. The French realize that the Chinese are more immediately reactive, but demonstrate their capacity for a high level of creativity”.

The third CC deals with agile project management, and focuses mainly on creativity and innovation. Here again, the students are invited to address a project inmixed tram formations. In 2017, the idea proposed was to imagine assistance systems for firemen engaged in fighting a fire.

In the future Utseus intends to go further- developing more team-based pedagogy for the Chinese students, enhancing their autonomy and their capacity to innovate and encouraging them to move into entrepreneurship. Moreover, the aim is to reinforce intercultural skills of both Chinese and French students, enhancing and encouraging remote collaboration on joint projects. A project called the Interaction Laboratory Innovation (ILI) will receive means needed – rooms fitted for collaborative work (white boards, large PC-connected interactive large screens …), makerspace for prototyping, audio and video equipment for network sessions between the French UTs and Utseus.