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Blended learning in a design project for Product Service Systems

University of Twente


The project Virtual Product Development challenges student groups to present their results to potential investors and peers in a ‘Dragon’s Den’-like setting. Next to this result-oriented assessment, group exams address the academic quality of the work. Students are thus actively involved in distinguishing between the different perspectives on their own work. Moreover, the project relates to ten mini-courses on relevant topics; each student follows six mini-courses, while the group has to cover all mini-courses to stress topic integration in the project. One additional mini-course is ‘empty’, challenging students to deXne learning goals based on the needs in the project groups.

Major Objective

The project challenges students (and staff) to be versatilists; switching between different topics in the project, averts ‘consuming’ education, and stimulates active participation and contribution to achieve optimal results. For example, formulating learning goals and negotiation about them for one of the mini-courses involves students in blended learning.


The aim of this module is to learn how to deal with the wide variety of tools available for designers. The emphasis is on being able to make an underpinned choice between the various options, and the ability to integrate the selected tools within the project.

The project groups have to deXne an assignment themselves. This is a re\ection of the group members, everybody must maximize not only his/her contribution, but also his/her personal development. Each student will compose its own education and has to debate and discuss the division of who will acquire which knowledge. A balance must be found between the interests of individuals, and the beneXts for the group.

All tools aim at implementing the provided knowledge directly in the project, therefore the tools have no course speciXc assignment. The tools are provided as masterclasses to generate knowledge on, gain skills in and discuss content of a speciXc expertise. Peer-learning by transferring knowledge and information between students is essential for a group with fragmented expertise. The output from one can be the input for another. No individual student can follow all the tools, this forces them to explain their gained knowledge in such a way that another student can utilize it in another tool.

This module is developed in a period of one year, and was initiated by educators (Roy Damgrave and Eric Lutters). During the development of the project the expertise of the educational services, Industrial Design Engineering teachers, students and the programme director were used.

Major Outcomes

  • The project is initiated by educators, not directly by educationalist
  • The students and teachers have a conjoint responsibility in education and learning.
  • Individual education is available in a group setting
  • The teacher is not positioned as an expert in each Xeld, but elaborates his role in the desired synergy of multiple engineers
  • Student are allowed (or even challenged) to alter the course and content of meetings, based on the developing needs of the student.
  • There is no assessments on separate educational element level; but the results of each element should be visible in the module results.

Lessons about Innovation

  • Don’t underestimate students; with responsibility and freedom, the results will be surprising and above expectations.
  • Providing students with the control of deXning their own assessment criteria, involves them in their education program. This forces them to deliberate on every action during the project.
  •  Organizing projects like this requires \exibility and creativity among all staff members. Unexpected problems will occur; fast decision-making has to result in quick adjustments throughout the project
  • The combination of a student driven learning environment, motivated staff and challenged students, resulted in a project in which students are treated as academic professionals; in line with their education.

How it Challenges Conventional Thinking

The integration of single-expertise tools in a multi-expertise project enhances the relationship between theoretical knowledge and practical skills. By putting the knowledge into a project immediately, the dependencies and opportunities are directly visible, without the need to make separate assignments for each Xeld of expertise. The relationship between different expertise is facilitated throughout all educational elements, but these relationships are not emphasized nor imposed. The challenge to Xnd these potential relations forces students to critically review their intended activities and planning. Students and teachers stimulate and challenge each other by working in an environment with a minimal set of rules.

Name of Authors

ir. Roy Damgrave
dr. ir. Eric Lutters

Name of Main Contact Person

Roy Damgrave, +31 (0) 53 489 5364

University of Twente

The Netherlands

Entrepreneurship has been part of the University of Twente’s DNA for over many decades: seeing opportunities where others don’t, taking risks when no one else would and setting up successful teamwork to achieve ambitious goals.

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