Innovating ICT education as best practice for Europe
Education and training programs within ICT, have still a gap towards the market needs of ICT professionals in Europe with fitting software skills. Within The European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA), this problem is addressed. Also the HU faced this challenge within her programs, where it also faced high drop-out rates during the first year and an experienced difficulty of the offered programs by the students. To tackle this problem the HU introduced in 2019 the Open-ICT bachelor program, with a focus on Agile learning and working processes based on the SCRUM methodology. This program is now an example within ESSA how to use education to train fitting ICT professionals.
The new program doesn’t have any standard courses, no preconceived exams and a big focus on self-discovery and cultivation of a passion for ICT-related professions. Gert van Hardeveld, initiator and teacher of the Open-ICT program, mentions that this is one of the biggest advantages of the Open-ICT program. ‘We want learners to become creative, adaptable and flexible self-learning students that can be successful in a ever-changing market. To be a good learner, you must be motivated. In the program we give students the power to make their own choices and determine their own learning goals and development path. Hereby the students get a big role in their own development. We want them not to only give presentations and answers, but also ask the right questions and tackle real challenges. Hereby we tap into their own motivation and adapt to their level of competency.’
"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, Involve me and I learn"Benjamin Franklin
The new set-up
Students are given real-life assignments and work on real-world challenges offered by external clients. To complete their assignments, students meet every two weeks — in project teams — to define the solutions they will build for their clients (sprint). Based on their functional wishes, students assign themselves tasks and identify what they need to learn next to complete the tasks.
Within the process each student has a coach and receives continuous feedback on their professional and content-related development from peers and experts. ‘This gives new challenges for teachers, as they now need to be coaches and ask good questions instead of giving the right answers as the traditional education method often does’, says Gert.
The progress of the students is tracked by a dashboard, where ten essential ICT-related skills are defined. This helps them to visualize where they stand as well as acts as a basis for the assessment. At the end of an education cycle of six months, students assess themselves and set their own development goals for the following period. The developments are discussed and polished during an interview with their coach.
The new education program Open-ICT is effective to lower the drop-out rate during the first year (25%). Coaches also have noted a very high level of commitment from students (>35 working hours/week) with a 90% presence on location and overall high satisfaction (9/10) of the students. Often, external clients have taken the products developed by the students into production such as a dashboard that tracks food waste for cooks. The program also won the university’s educational innovation award and a national innovation award.
This new innovative teaching method is also used a best practice within the ESSA network to reskill and upskill software skill professionals. Gert gave a presentation at the ESSA launch Event in February 2022 to share the impact of this educational program. ‘The ESSA project and the Open-ICT program have a lot in common. Both the network and the program see soft skills just as important as hard skills for the new ICT professional. Think of creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, proactivity and reflection. Especially in the ever-changing field of ICT these skills combined with self-learning are very important.’