Kaizen Learning – An Innovative Teaching Technique Applied at GUtech

The Department of Mathematics and Sciences (MAS) at GUtech has introduced an innovative, student-focused learning technique, entitled Kaizen, usually used in the industry. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Heim, Head of the MAS Department and Dean of the Faculty of Science recently published along with colleagues from GUtech and RWTH Aachen Germany a paper entitled “Driving student-centered calculus: results of a comprehensive case study for Kaizen learning in the Sultanate of Oman”. The Kaizen method can be applied in large mathematics lectures for Engineering, Geosciences, Computer Sciences students. Prof Bernhard was also awarded with the GUtech Ibn Al Haytham Teaching Award 2016.

“Kaizen is a teaching philosophy that is based on short learning units with many feedback loops and continuous testing of the students’ knowledge,” said Prof. Bernhard who has been teaching at GUtech since 2009. “We introduced the teaching method around two years ago and we were glad to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from our Omani and international students. As a result, the attendance in class has increased to more than 85% since the induction of Kaizen at GUtech,” said Prof. Bernhard while adding that classical forms of memorizing and teaching in front of the students are not applicable anymore. Nowadays students expect the use of multi-media tools, which is a big advantage to enhance the students self-motivation and self-studies. “To overcome the usually used memorizing techniques in our Engineering classes where we teach Mathematics for Engineering the student needs a progression from pure calculus to mathematics, which requires analytical and geometrical skills,” said Prof. Bernhard. To reach high success rates, the Kaizen technique focuses on the continuous human-human interaction between professor and student as well as between assistants and students. Moreover, clearly communicated expectations, avoidance of a short-term learning attitude, a strict no-calculator policy and a balanced combination of traditional teaching and e-learning techniques, through mobile applications or advanced tailored e-learning management software. The e-learning software provides weekly exercises for students. In addition, the students have continuous support by GUtech academic staff who act as mentors and help understand the various assignments. “Such a sustainable learning process through Kaizen guarantees that students are well prepared for their final exams,” said Prof. Bernhard. Moreover, the strict “no calculator policy” in the classroom ensures that students realize that mathematics is about structures, to obtain a result pattern. The balanced use of traditional teaching and e-learning, so called blended learning, e.g. through the use of short videos, it ensures a high student motivation and enfolds its full potential when integrated within the science or mathematics course.

The Kaizen teaching method was presented at different universities such as Sultan Qaboos University, RWTH Aachen University, Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Technical University Munich as well as at an international learning conference ‘Bett Middle East’ in Abu Dhabi. For further details about the Kaizen technique, please contact Prof. Bernhard: Bernhard.heim@gutech.edu.om

In the context of exchanging ideas about teaching, the GUtech Department of MAS has been organizing regular teaching seminars at lunch time, the schedule can be requested from the department.

GUtech team prepares for the Shell Eco-marathon Asia

HALBAN A group of eight GUtech students from the departments of Engineering and Computer Science are currently building an eco-friendly car to participate in the annual Shell Eco-marathon Asia challenge, planned to be held in Singapore this March. For the third time GUtech will participate in this global competition. For the first time two female students participate, one of them is Arjawan Al Hajri, 3rd year Process Engineering student. She will drive the car: “I love driving cars. I think it will be a very good experience,” she said. The software programming of the car has been developed by another Omani female student, Al Shifa al Hadi. “The automatic control programming is an important feature of the car. The team studied the cars of their Asian competitors in the previous challenges and came up with innovative ideas, such as automatic control programming for the car. “The computer programme will increase the car’s performance. It will mainly focus on sensing and reporting car-related parameters to the driver,” said Prof. Dr. Nafaa Jabeur, Head of the Department of Computer Science at GUtech.

Commenting on GUtech team’s preparations for Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2017, Muna Al Shukaili, General Manager of External Relations at Shell Development Oman stated: “We are very pleased to see that German University of Technology in Oman is set to compete in Shell Eco-marathon for the third time. I hope the competition will help develop students’ talents and make a contribution to sustainability in Oman. We are also very pleased to see that for the first time we have female students in the Omani teams participating in Shell Eco-marathon. I wish them all the best of luck as they arrive in Singapore in March for this challenge.” The chassis of the car is ready, it will take another month to build the body before the shipment. “The team worked hard in their free time and on the weekends. In June they started designing the car,” said Dr. Emmanouil Bouzakis, Senior Lecturer of the Engineering Department at GUtech. He is supervising the entire team work. The team used lightweight materials such as aluminium alloys and carbon fibre composites. “The car is very light it should be very fuel efficient,” said Mohammed Salman, the team leader of the GUtech team. A number of companies are sponsoring the team: Oman Air, Oman Cables and Europoles Middle East.

Last year, after passing the technical checks and improving the different features the students drove a specific fuel consumption of 0.6 l per 100 km. Around 100 teams participated in the Shell Eco-marathon in previous years, but many failed the inspection tests and therefore were not accepted for the race.

The students hope that their ideas and inventions can contribute to building lighter and eco-friendlier cars in future. The students would like to motive other students to think in more sustainable ways. After the competition, they are planning to showcase the car to school students in Oman.


Ibn Al Haytham Teaching Award 2016 for Prof Bernhard Heim

On the 14th of December 2016 the Rector Prof. Dr-ing. Modigell awarded Prof. Dr. Heim with the 1st ibn Al Haytham teaching award of GUtech’s Faculty of Science.

The German University of Technology went through a series of major changes recently affecting its student numbers and lecture structures. Due to the increase in class size the classic interactive teaching method did not work satisfactory anymore. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Heim took that challenge and in an ideal way he restructured his courses to accommodate the requirements top level teaching faces. This new teaching style become known as Kaizen Teaching and is well documented in two publications.

In his lectures since then he did not only include pedagogic student centric elements (application of Kolb’s learning cycle, cybernetic testing and student activation) but made perfect use of modern electronic devices like the learning platforms video clips, electronic shot tests during lectures and tutorials, and clicker systems, like the Aachen App. These activities soon found their way to the local and international news and were explicitly mentioned in the RWTH Aachen press bulletins.

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Heim has to an excellent degree proven his capacity as an academic teacher and multiplier of student targeted best practice teaching techniques in ways every university can be proud of.