HIS – AN INTERNATIONAL AND DIGITAL SUMMER SCHOOL FOR
Aline Bergert1, Jana Helbig2, Christin Nenner1
1 TU Bergakademie Freiberg (GERMANY)
2 German Centre Delhi.Gurgaon (INDIA)
The teaching project HIS (Holistic International STEMs – Learning with case studies and real life
industry experiences) is presented as part of the poster session.
Experience shows that German (outgoing) and international (incoming) students have difficulties to
communicate properly at the workplace in Germany as well as abroad due to language differences,
especially in STEM terms. In addition, young professionals often do not have experience in working in
international or virtual teams. All those challenges are current job requirements, not just in global
companies. But: How to teach this in higher education? The classical formats of lectures or seminars
are not suitable. Therefore, there is a need to develop and prove new teaching formats, within the
curriculum as well as extracurricular.
With focus on STEM subjects the presented project combines three current impacts on higher
education: Internationalization, digitalization, and labor market orientation.
The concept of the project is that STEM students from different countries will attend an international,
virtual summer school (April to June 2016). They solve real-life job case studies together in
small interdisciplinary teams. The participants are mentored by national and international industry
partners and STEM professors. With such, the participants will improve language and communication
skills, and apply and exchange their expertise as well as gain intercultural work experience.
The concept was awarded by the “Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft” (Donors' association
for the promotion of humanities and sciences in Germany).
The poster introduces the project and exemplary the three-dimensional assignments of one case
study (occupational, lingual, and intercultural). At present, the project should be handled as a “project
Keywords: technology, teaching projects, STEM, internationalization, digitalization, labor market
orientation, employability, job orientation, competencies, development of new curricula
The European university and higher education system is changing. Currently, three particular trend
clusters dominate the discussion on the role of universities in modern knowledge societies:
- Internationalization, globalization, mobility, migration
- Digitalization, digitization, computerization, open education
- Labor market orientation, employability, capabilities, competencies, job orientation
All three areas can be found and are of central importance in higher education policies: In public
tenders, funding priorities of universities and also in the strategic orientation of educational institutions
and universities. However, the aspects are hardly discussed together, especially not when it comes to
teaching and teaching methods .
Kehm, Schomburg, and Teichler  note that the aspects do currently not imply a big plan or an
overall complete change, but can be found in numerous discussions and in a variety of activities in
search for new solutions.
The presented HIS project is one of the outcomes of such search activities and discussions at the
Technical University (TU) Bergakademie Freiberg in Saxony, Germany. The main goals of HIS
(Holistic International STEMS - Learning with case studies and real life industry experiences) are
internationalization, digitalization and labor market orientation with the aim to capture these aspects in
their interconnectedness and to implement them into a practical teaching-learning scenario. The
project aims to trigger new ideas to university teaching and to the development of new curricula -
internally within the university as well as externally with industry partners.
The following article will explain the development of the program, the main idea, and will address the
objectives of the project. The poster and the article are a preliminary workshop report. Comments,
ideas, or requests for collaboration are most welcome.
2 CURRENT SITUATION
Only the terms internationalization, labor market orientation, and digitalization will be considered in the
poster as these aspects are the most commonly considered aspects. Often, the terms are used as
empty placeholders and melodious ciphers in project proposals or university visions. Their importance
and the resulting specific implications are often unclear. Public policy does not clarify it either: On the
one hand, creativity, personal initiatives, and the development of customized, flexible teaching and
learning settings are emphasized. On the other hand, the recent Bologna reforms focus on
formalization and quantification of curricula. In the following, the three aspects are generally and with a
distinct focus on the HIS project introduced.
Internationalization of higher education is not a new phenomenon. Higher education institutions were
always international. Since the Middle Ages students traveled towards renowned teachers and to
schools abroad .
With globalization, modern transportation means, and the constant availability of information on the
Internet, not only the mobility of students and teachers has reached a new dimension, but the
phenomenon has become even more complex. As a result, international education and the
possibilities seem to be limitless, but also confusing. De Wit noticed already in 2002 that the term
internationalization is a "catch-all phrase for everything and anything international" . However,
internationalization can be divided into three levels:
At the strategic level, internationalization serves as a leitmotif of higher education policy and
university management to adequately meet the trends of globalization . This includes
- Both culturally and idealistically, e.g., a university as a meeting place, an intercultural
educational institution, a place for ideas on how to form societies,
- Structurally, e.g., the shared use of resources, knowledge collaborations, and
- Monetary aspects, e.g., the strengthening of competitiveness of higher education systems,
external funding, student and science marketing.
At the conceptual level, internationalization is an explicit and / or implicit process that is reflected in all
core areas of the university (research, teaching, and services). Specific internationalization projects
are realized in the individual areas of a university. In teaching, this means, for instance  :
- Introducing international courses,
- Developing inter-university teaching formats,
- International curricula (content and structure),
- Teaching in two or more languages (English as a lingua franca),
- Preparing for international job assignments,
- Integrating digital media in, for instance, the organization and carrying out of study programs
- Developing meaningful offers for extracurricular and additional professional training such as
o Intercultural knowledge and intercultural practice,
o Use of digital media.
On the individual level, the personal motivation of teachers and students plays an important role.
However, as motives are very diverse, they will neither be covered in the poster nor in the article.
Within the HIS project, the aspect of intercultural exchange as a part of internationalization is
especially emphasized. Recently, the term European internationalization is found with reference to a
specific type of interculturalism that has long been disregarded due to the common cultural area of
Europe. Altbach and Knight  argue that the denotation started only in recent years and because of
the South-North migration when young people from the southern hemisphere countries migrate to the
states of the northern hemisphere for education and training purposes as well as the international
business of companies in countries and emerging markets of the southern hemisphere for lower
In the HIS project, internationalization refers to the following aspects:
- The HIS project is not about integrating of migrants, but about a two-way exchange of
students (incoming and outgoing) beyond the European region.
- Intercultural exchange does not happen by chance, but needs to be didactically provoked and
- Language and media are both learning content as well as learning material.
2.1.2 Labor Market Orientation
A change of the functions  of German universities is highly discussed not just since the Bologna
reforms: Economization, standardization, or the ideals of higher education (Humboldtian model of
education)? The fact is, that universities were always and still are places of academic training, both
professionally and humanly - despite recent developments such as digital technologies in international
and intercultural teams or interdisciplinary problems.
However, the labor market for academics and international companies not only requires technical
knowledge and practical skills of the university graduates, but also an interdisciplinary approach, a
willingness to take responsibility and competence, decision-making abilities, teamwork, flexibility,
intercultural competencies, etc. .
Therefore, universities nowadays try to implement competency trainings and practical trainings.
However, the success of such programs will not be seen overnight   . The rephrasing of
teaching objectives in learning objectives in module manuals is not sufficient enough given that the
traditional teaching formats and curricula are well-proven despite being too bogged down. Therefore,
there should not be complete new concepts, but rather useful supplements.
Similarly to the aspect of internationalization, three levels of labor market orientation were developed:
At the strategic level, labor market orientation is a double-edged concept in higher education policy:
On the one hand, an orientation of higher education objectives (output) to the needs of the economy,
but in a broader sense (outcome) a holistic, competency-based training.
Conceptually, labor market orientation mainly reflects in the area of teaching. It is about a practical
content and the strengthening of holistic, interdisciplinary, informal, and intercultural courses:
- A greater focus on internships,
- Interaction with praxis, e.g., case studies and lectures with practitioners, excursions,
- Practical presentations of the content (project work, problem and solution oriented
- Increase of student activities and initiatives,
- Testing of new formats,
- Focus on problem-based learning.
At the individual level, it can be assumed that students have a self-interest to shape their personal
education according to the requirements of the labor market. For university teachers, it mostly
depends on their personal didactic interests as well as their self-perception as a teacher or researcher.
Within the HIS project, labor market orientation is the central theme. HIS is about real life
requirements, professionally and beyond. However, in addition to the components of exchange and
fusion of, for instance, knowledge, communication, and interaction, demarcation is important.
Demarcation is especially important in terms of developing the students’ personal professional
identities, discovering their personal workplace strategies, and recognizing their strengths and
Compared to internationalization and labor market orientation, digitalization is a relatively young field,
particularly when it comes to the usage of digital media at conventional universities . Nevertheless,
modern information and communication technology means are standard in today’s university
administrations as well as in e-learning. In the U.S., 33.5% of the university courses were digital in
2012. The University of Hagen in Germany, which is an e-learning only university, was the university
with the highest number of students in winter semester 2014-15 in Germany .
Digitalization at universities namely covers these three levels:
- Subject: Scientific examination of technologies, the question of information and
communication technology in education itself, sociocultural conditions, legal implications,
- Method: Systematic review and reflected use of media for knowledge discovery,
communication, and collaboration, and
- Service: Provision and maintenance of digital tools and services.
The term digitalization has two implications: At the operational level it is a technical term for the
transformation of analog signals into digital signals and refers in this regard to the term digitization
. At the strategic level, digitalization refers to the increasing usage of information and
communication technology in organizations. When it comes to the strategic level of higher education
policy and university management, digitalization is, however, merely a response to extrinsic
computerization and technological change instead of an active intrinsic motivation of universities.
Nevertheless, digitalization affects all areas of a university. Conceptually, and in terms of teaching,
digitalization is about:
- Integrating digital media into teaching,
- Flexibility of learning (temporal and spatial independence),
- Creating personal learning environments,
- The idea of education and free access to teaching and learning materials,
- Promotion of mobile capabilities and accessibilities.
At the individual level, the use of digital media in teaching often depends less on the content or the
possibilities, but rather on the personal usage preferences and the personal learning biographies -
which applies to both teachers and learners. Often, teaching purposes are seen separately from work
purposes and research purposes. While digital media are used quite naturally in the latter two, their
advantages are often not perceived in teaching (I teach as I was taught).
Within the HIS project, the use of digital media follows the aspect of usefulness for distance
cooperation, distance collaboration and on the basis of working conditions and working tools in the
respective professional community.
STEM subjects are perhaps not a direct trend cluster, but are strategically relevant for higher
education policy and universities. In particular, these subjects are important drivers of innovation in
knowledge-based societies and set trends themselves. Therefore, there are a number of initiatives to
reduce the number of student drop-outs in STEM subjects or also to introduce more women to these
subjects. Within the HIS project, the STEM subjects are rather a content frame. It was deliberately
opted for STEM subjects as it corresponds with the focus of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg and as
there are already existing inter-curricular connectors to economic or social sciences subjects.
2.2 Initial Situation at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg
The TU Bergakademie Freiberg is the only German university with a single distinct focus on
sustainable materials, natural resources, the energy economy, geosciences, and the environment.
The STEM disciplines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the core research and
teaching subjects of the university. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg is rooted in a 250-year-old history,
but actively focuses on today’s and the future’s challenges of the supply of resources along the entire
value-added chain. Teaching and research conditions at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg are state-of-
the-art due to various endowments, foundations, and numerous partners in industry.
As ongoing surveys amongst current students constantly show, the study programs are highly valued
due to their special adaptations to the professional requirements of the job market and praxis .
As an internationally oriented university since its beginnings, the TU Bergakademie Freiberg is
currently further strengthening its international strategy. As of 2014, 13% of the total number of 5,304
students were foreign students, coming from diverse countries such as China, Vietnam, Russia,
Ukraine, India, and Brazil .
4 HIS PROJECT OUTLINE
4.1 Main concept
Testing and evaluating new teaching formats in higher education according to current
trends like internationalization, digitalization, and labor market orientation
International STEM students with the intention to come to Germany for or during their
studies and German STEM students planning to work or to study abroad meet in a virtual
summer school (9 weeks). They solve case studies together in small international and
interdisciplinary groups. The case studies are based on real life events and experiences
of national and international industry partners representing the STEM industries (e.g.,
GlaxoSmithKline, akili:innovation GmbH, SEM Fire and Rescue). In each case a specific
work problem is introduced.
An e-moderator or e-coordinator and e-tutors are available as general contact persons.
They assist in technical and methodological matters as well as moderate large group
meetings. There are STEM professors and representatives of the companies as
consultants available for technical support (limited number of consulting hours per case
Goals from the perspective of the students: Preparation for working in intercultural and
interdisciplinary teams, obtaining job-related specialist language skills (English), learning
of appropriate behavior and strategies for the future workplace, dealing with information
and communication technologies, introduction to methods of project and knowledge
The team project starts with the online kick-off event in the 15th calendar week (11/04 –
16/04) in the summer semester 2016 and ends with the online final event (presentation of
results) in the 23rd calendar week (06/06 - 10/06) of the summer semester 2016.
Virtual – communication and exchange via the learning management system classrooms
and various free tools
4.2.1 Format and Methods
The Summer School will take place as a semi-open online course. Semi-open since there will be a
public and a protected area. In the public area there will be:
- The project ideas and presentations. There will be possibilities for public discussions. External
participants are encouraged to take part in web conferences, chats, or forums.
- Work results, e.g., glossaries on topics or specific topics, materials, expert interviews.
- Certain practical language tasks.
Depending on the interests and activities of the external participants there may be participation
The work on the case studies and the exchange within the groups will be held on the learning platform
or in private conferences in a protected area. Used tools will be:
- Shared information, organization and interaction base: Course in an e-learning management
system, up to 30 tools available (wiki, glossary, link list, forum, blog, appointments, allocation
of topics, mail, calendar, etc.).
- Handling and presentation of case studies with Adobe Connect (group meetings, expert
- To document the personal learning progress, in particular, in the field of intercultural learning:
- In addition, it is optional for the participants to use their personal communication channels
(email, phone, social media, instant messaging, etc.).
4.2.2 Teaching Methods
Main methods will be case study work in virtual groups as well as portfolio work as independent self-
studies with media.
Training with realistic cases not only teaches encyclopedic knowledge via practical and appropriate
real-life problems, but also applies such knowledge in team work. It also opens up the complexity of
practical problems. The actual outcome for the students is to apply their knowledge and learn, in a
playful way, what to expect in their future work life.
The case studies and case study assignments have been developed three-dimensionally:
Occupational, lingual, and intercultural. It is not just a question of understanding and to solve technical
problems in their interdisciplinary and complex matter, but also to try working as a team (roles,
knowledge, communication), to learn and to apply project management methods, to develop personal
knowledge discovery methods and to work with instruments and tools found in praxis. Students are
able to work in real-life conditions on the cases.
Case studies are a proven method in education, especially in medical, legal, and business study
programs . However, in STEM subjects, teachers are partly reluctant to use case studies since
- Curricula are so closely knit that there is often no time to depart from the conventional
- Exercises have a higher priority than new practical experiments,
- The construction of case studies is time consuming and partly difficult,
- There is a lack of internal and external support,
- In Bachelor level courses the related basics are taught first and teachers shy away from
preliminary interdisciplinary work.
Similarly, at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg these reservations have been discussed. However, test
courses show that participating students and industry partners alike emphasize the efficiency and
effectiveness of the method . Now, the approach is broadened for an international audience.
The case studies will be solved in virtual group work. With such, the problem-solving in virtual and joint
team work is already a pre-employment simulation. Virtual teams are a fact in everyday work life in
international business enterprises and are no longer perceived as insufficient, but rather as a valuable
addition to face-to-face team work . Therefore, the virtual and intercultural team work and the use
of various synchronous and asynchronous freely selectable tools will create ample opportunities to
improve informal and formal learning.
The e-portfolio is a virtual binder for collecting data. The portfolio concept and the associated methods
began in the field of education in the late 1990s . With the e-portfolio, learning outcomes or
products (so-called artefacts) are thematically collected, systematized, and reflected. This can either
be entirely self-controlled (performance or application portfolios) or passed through a task /
assignment (internship or course portfolio). The portfolio is considered to be competence-oriented as it
marks a shift in perspective from income to outcome .
In higher education, the portfolio method is used primarily in educational and social science courses.
Most recently, the portfolio method is also slowly introduced in the STEM subjects. In the past, it was
not used due to a lack of knowledge of teachers and students about this method, lack of time for trying
new methods, complicated corrections, and lack of technical and didactic know-how.
Portfolio and e-portfolio work has already been used at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg . In 2013, it
was examined how e-portfolios may measure the personal development and skill development of
students. The students documented their extracurricular and interdisciplinary activities (courses,
working groups, projects jobs). Students stated that this process was a helpful documentation and
assessment for them for, for instance, applications, career orientation, etc.
In the HIS project, the portfolio will help the students to reflect their personal learning progress as well
as the interaction within the team with a focus on intercultural exchange. In terms of a scaffolding
approach, the moderator will give individual feedback to the portfolio. The aim is to reflect implicit
actions, reactions problems and conflicts and, thus, to trigger an active intercultural confrontation.
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