The University of Würzburg wants to support its teachers in implementing innovative ideas and projects in teaching quickly and easily. A fund for innovative projects in teaching was set up for this purpose.
Through this new fund, the university is able to quickly provide financial support on an as-needed basis in order to facilitate additional improvements in study and teaching. The fund makes it possible, for example, to provide resources for scientific assistants and supports development and implementation of innovative concepts.
All full-time teachers at the University of Würzburg may submit applications for funding for their projects. Both individual and group applications may be submitted. Funds may be used, for example, for the hiring of assistants, increases in staffing levels, guest lecturers, excursions, or teaching material.
Applications should consist of short, informal proposals (maximum two pages with project outline plus financing plan).
Applications should address the following questions:
- To which challenges in the area of teaching and study does the project respond?
- What goal does the project hope to achieve?
- How would one recognize that the project has been successful?
- What lasting improvements would be achieved by the project (for example, development of a concept that can be of long-term benefit in a teaching context)?
Applications signed by the relevant dean of studies may be submitted at any time to the Vice President for Study and Teaching and to the Vice President for Quality Management and Organizational Development.
The approval and allocation of funds is generally decided on a per semester basis, on January 31st for the summer semester and on July 31st for the winter semester.
Approved applications are listed in the university’s annual quality report and reported on the university websites.
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Holzgrabe, Vice President for Studies and Teaching, Teacher Education and Teacher Training, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Dr. Andrea Szczesny, Vice President for Quality Management and Organizational Development, email@example.com
Prof. Dr. Jens Pflaum, Experimental Physics VI
The use of experimental methods, with respect to how they are applied in contemporary scientific research, is limited in the context of university education and even more so in schools. This is because their application is often very complex, is contingent upon access to the right experimental environment, and necessitates a financial investment that is often beyond the means of such institutions. Pre-assembled, inexpensive black box versions of experimental equipment often prove not to be very educational or informative for students.
Against this background and motivated by the amazing capabilities of mass produced electronics, we consider whether it is possible to construct a modern, cost-effective research instrument for teaching using simple, easily accessible components. The sharp drop in the price of optical storage technologies led to the idea of building a powerful laser-scanning microscope from commercially available DVD players and testing its possible applications in various fields of education in the natural, materials, and life sciences.
In order to be able to assess its possible implementation in schools from the very start of the project, the first prototype of this device was constructed and successfully put into operation in the framework of two teaching assignments (Fig. 1). The total price of all components came out to less than €80 (low budget), and further savings potential exists if recycled DVD players are used; thus such a microscope is also suitable for use in project seminars at schools. The current version achieved a lateral resolution of 17 µm, i.e. about one fifth of the width of a human hair, and is able to scan samples with dimensions of 5cm x 5cm (Fig. 2). In its final stage, a spatial resolution of up to 1 µm (high resolution) is planned. For comparison, the simplest versions of commercially available scanning microscopes cost over €2,500. In addition, various modifications are currently being tested to increase the power of the device and enable it to be used as a fluorescence microscope. The latter is an indispensable tool in today’s medical and scientific research and is used for the examination of tissue samples (Fig. 3), physiological processes at the cell level, and new materials and biomaterials.
The ‘Fund for Innovative Projects in Teaching’ provides financial support for this project, facilitating provision of several prototypes of the microscope device and the adaptation of its specifications and user interface for application in specific teaching and research contexts. Following initial contact with potential interested parties, the use of the microscope has proven particularly advantageous in life sciences training, e.g. as part of the medical internship at the Virchow Center or in project work at the Biocenter, as well as in the material-sciences oriented internship experiments in physics courses including those on teaching, nanostructure technology, and functional materials. The usage of this device in university faculties is to be supported and intensively overseen by authorized staff.
Furthermore, affiliated institutes such as the Würzburg-based Fraunhofer IIS Group NanoCT Systemsor the Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (ZAE Bayern), as well as industrial partners, have expressed their interest in the use of such a device for non-destructive material analysis and have already promised provision of the first test samples. In light of the broad spectrum of relevant topic areas, which range from basic research to technological application, the project is to be supplemented by the establishment of an accompanying internet platform. On this platform, users can communicate and share their experiences with the device and make suggestions for its further development. We expect this forum to both serve as a dynamic continuation of the project and to facilitate contact with a steadily growing number of interested parties from universities, schools, and businesses.
Support of the project by the ‘Fund for Innovative Projects in Teaching’ will thus not only enable the adaptation of the device for new areas of application in education, but also – as discussions with its potential users have already shown – promote an interdisciplinary exchange of information and knowledge. This will be of enormous benefit to both students and teachers, facilitating joint research work and providing valuable knowledge and experience for the future.
The University of Würzburg Campus Magazine (September 2018) has reported on the project.
Prof. Dr. Tanja Bipp, occupational, industrial, and organizational psychology.
Goal of the project
Designing and implementing elements of an online training course on psychological aspects of intercultural competence in a work context with students in the Bachelor’s program in Psychology.
What challenges does the project address in the field of study and teaching?
In its current form, the study of psychology assigns great importance to a scientific foundation and the mediation of a comprehensive canon of knowledge from all areas of psychology. Although this is generally appreciated by the students, student surveys show time and again that for many of them, a practical orientation and concrete (active) competences are lacking. Furthermore, current teaching concepts only sporadically integrate aspects of blended learning, i.e. eLearning elements, into classical teaching. However, successful and productive utilization of blended learning concepts and virtual teaching formats represents a key primary competence for prospective psychologists.
What does the project look like?
- The project hopes to develop and make available eLearning elements for use in an online course on intercultural competences. The focus is on the (occupational) psychological aspects of intercultural competence and their application in a company context. The basics of intercultural (occupational) psychology were first taught in the Winter Semester 2018/19, after which the first didactic elements of an online course were designed, implemented, and evaluated. Based on these experiences, the opportunities for, as well as the restrictions on, the use of eLearning elements in an intercultural training context were established with the help of students. In the Summer Semester 2019, an eLearning unit to improve intercultural competence in the work context is to be implemented based on these initial results.
What is the aim of the project?
- Becoming familiar with the professional field of intercultural psychology in the application field of psychology
- Acquisition of relevant practical and didactic competences (conception of an eLearning unit, knowledge in the field of eLearning, working in teams)
- Experiencing the meaning and importance of the learning content, as this adds practical value for the participants of online training.
For participants in the eLearning unit:
- Acquisition of knowledge and skills in the field of intercultural psychology
- Reduction in feelings of uncertainty when dealing with other cultures
- A culturally-sensitive demeanor at home and abroad
For the teachers involved:
- Deepening their own competence in the field of blended learning (a similar project has already been successfully carried out by a teacher at the University of Osnabrück; her experience provides the best practice foundation for the project here in Würzburg)
- Networking and exchange with other courses at the department: An intensive transfer of knowledge and experience from the eLearning project to other existing courses is planned. With support from the Fund for Innovative Teaching Products, particular plans exist to integrate the eLearning project with the already successful learning projects the “Coaching and Counseling” seminar and the “Campus Coaching” student initiative in the Summer Semester 2019.
Where would one recognize the success of the project?
- High interest among students as shown by high volume of registration for the seminar (WueStudy statistics)
- Satisfaction expressed by participating students (teaching evaluations)
- High number of participants in eLearning units (retrieval statistics)
- Further development and usage of an eLearning unit beyond the official duration of the project
What would be some lasting improvements achieved by the project?
The experience gained in the field of blended learning and service learning can permanently improve the quality and practical applicability of teaching in occupational, industrial, and organizational psychology. The eLearning unit would also be available beyond the official duration of the project and could therefore be used at a later date or made available to other individuals. The experience gained in the field of eLearning can be applied to many other areas in psychology and would greatly enrich the didactic portfolio of university teaching. Thus, the concept and participants’ experiences could be incorporated into further teaching projects both within the department and in other areas of the Institute of Psychology and beyond.
Prof. Dr. Tanja Bipp
Occupational, Industrial, and Organizational Psychology
Tel. +49 (0)931 31 86065
Dr. Regina Kempen
Occupational, Industrial, and Organizational Psychology
Tel. +49 (0)931 31 86217