BARKA The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has conducted professional development workshops for its employees recently. “Knowledge is changing in a very fast pace. We have organized the professional development days for the third time, just before the start of the academic year. It is important for us to train and motivate our staff so that they learn themselves and motivate the students throughout the year,” said Prof. Dr. Michael Modigell, Rector of GUtech.
This year two groups of academics from GUtech’s partner-university, RWTH Aachen University conducted training courses in the basics of Blended Learning and on Teaching Methods. The workshop included different sessions on key challenges in teaching, conducted by a group of researchers from the Center of Learning and Knowledge Management (ZLW) at RWTH Aachen University.
Knowledge changes very fast and needs to be renewed continuously. “Ten years after school, there is no added value for a learner. Five years after graduating with a Bachelor or Master’s degree there is no value anymore,” said Prof. Dr. Heribert Nacken, the Rector’s delegate for Blended Learning and Exploratory Teaching Space at RWTH Aachen University. According to Prof. Nacken, those who teach at university should be aware of how we learn. In order to apply and improve the work of our brains with its neurotransmitters, knowledge usually needs to be practised and repeated. To increase the learning outcome for students various teaching techniques can be applied, according to the motto “Life is where there is a connection,” said Prof. Nacken. He suggested to use e-learning, a self-paced learning media to teach certain skills, e.g. in natural sciences, in engineering and even in language learning. “The first input always comes from a human being,” said Prof. Nacken. Referring to the Dual Code Theory a link between the verbal or oral and pictoral or visual perception create knowledge in the long-term memory of the brain. However “visual information is usually faster than aural information” he said. Explanations for illustrations are usually better understood in a spoken (oral) form than in a written presentation only.” Prof. Nacken also recommended to reduce the learning material for students and to apply various media while teaching. GUtech staff was introduced to new teaching techniques involving ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ or the ‘flipped classroom technique’ where the lecturer plays the role of a mentor instead of a presenter and the students themselves acquire their own knowledge from various sources.
The second part of the workshop conducted by a team from the Center of Learning and Knowledge Management at RWTH Aachen University, GUtech academic staff was asked to give sample presentations and their teaching styles was recorded and analysed by their fellow colleagues. They were also given advice how to improve their presentation style, based on the body language, the spoken words and the tone of the voice. At the end of the one week workshop an academic vision was projected for GUtech. Participants gave suggestions about their vision for the year 2015 – how the teaching, the student-lecture interaction and the overall study environment will look like. Due to the very positive feedback to the workshop, the university is planning to conduct a follow-up workshop next year.