University of the Future: Avans University | D2L Europe Europe
IE Not suppported

Sorry, but Internet Explorer is no longer supported.

For the best D2L.com experience, it's important to use a modern browser.

To view the D2L.com website, please download another browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

How Avans University View the Future of University Learning

  • 4 Min Read

As part of our University of the Future series, we spoke to leading institutions from across Europe to understand their vision for the future, and how they plan to realise these ambitions.

In this selection of interviews, we hear from our contributors about what’s on the horizon for higher education.

These are extended interviews that were conducted as part of the research for our University of the Future whitepaper. Read more from the University of the Future page series or download the whitepaper – What’s driving the vision for the University of the Future? – to explore how universities can embrace the opportunity to reimagine the university of the future.

Download Now

Felix Kuijpers, Programme Manager Education Innovation with ICT, Avans University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands)

Avans University of Applied Sciences was formed in 2004 as the result of a merger between Hogeschool Brabant and Hogeschool ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Its departments comprise the 21 Avans schools, offering programmes in Economics and Business, Engineering, Society and Behaviour, Health Care, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, Law and Governance, Education, Earth and Environment and Language and Communications.

How has Avans University reacted and adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic?

We immediately set up a crisis team and deployed our team of 30 ICT in Education coaches to support our teachers in the transition to distance learning. We also created a team to work with staff on devising and managing remote assessments.

This whole situation will certainly speed up the move towards digital learning, but this was already a big work in progress here at Avans. More broadly speaking, universities have very quickly had to accelerate their knowledge and understanding of remote teaching. This would have been impossible without technology, and thankfully we were already a good way along the path in terms of our technology roadmap.

What’s your vision for the University of the future?

For me, it’s all about personalised education and preparing students for the world of work. But we really have to differentiate the student experience in order to make this possible. It’s not enough to just digitise what they’re doing now. We have to change the way we think about learning completely.

Currently, universities tend to work in faculties – social, technical, arts etc, and subjects are very divided. But in the world around us, everything is merging. Even in the medical field, you’re seeing a proliferation of technology, and students will need the right skills to be able to work with that tech. Shouldn’t we be bringing these disciplines together, to reflect the world we live in?

From a commercial perspective, universities will have to differentiate themselves to remain attractive to applicants. In the future students could potentially select different universities for different modules. The power and the choice certainly lie with the learner, and universities have to be mindful of this and continually find ways to appeal.

Universities also need to be more agile in how they operate. The university of the future should be constantly evolving to take into consideration what’s happening in society. This has to happen if universities are to remain relevant, and if going to university continues to be the right choice for young people.

How can the university of the future make students more work-ready?

The evolution of the university is being driven as much by employers as it is by students. It’s also been fuelled by the start-up economy and by entrepreneurs. Approximately two million people in the Netherlands are self-employed and there are many more flexible and micro workers here. We need to make sure we are equipping them with the skills they need.

That’s why we need to integrate skills better – the academic alongside other disciplines such as marketing and financial management. We also need to look at things like teamwork, leadership and creativity, for example. We don’t usually think of these attributes in the context of a classroom environment but they’re essential 21st-century skills. We have to close the gap between universities and the commercial world by enabling students to access this kind of learning before they enter the workplace.

We also need to help our students navigate their way through their education and make the best choices while they’re there and when they leave.

What needs to happen to realise this vision?

Firstly, staff need to be on board for this journey as much as students. We can put technology in place to free up staff so they can spend more time focusing on students and helping to develop that personalised learner journey. Currently approx. 75% of teacher time is spent on admin and other work where there is no contact with students, for example, but by digitising some back-end processes we know we can get this closer to 50%.

But the biggest challenge is helping people understand what you’re trying to achieve and why. It’s a big change management exercise for universities and their staff. Essentially, the transfer of knowledge is where teachers perceive their value to lie, but we’re asking them to put the focus on understanding the needs of each of their students first. This is a big cultural shift that is happening right now and will be the real key to realising that vision for the future.

Felix Kuijpers

Felix Kuijpers began his career at the Royal Military Academy in the Netherlands. He worked as a technical officer for 15 years in the Air Force at several airbases and at its headquarters. He continued his career as a Business Unit Manager at Capgemini in the ICT and high-tech-sector. He joined Avans University as a lecturer in industrial engineering in 2015 and since 2018 has been the University’s Programme Manager Education Innovation with ICT. Felix has degrees in Aeronautical Engineering, ICT and Industrial Engineering.

Subscribe for blog updates
Share this:

Subscribe today!

Please complete this required field.
Phone number must be a valid number.

Thank you for subscribing!

Subscribe to our blog

Get the latest news and expert tips to help you get the most out of your learning environment.

Subscribe Now!

Fueling up:

Upskilling to grow careers

Name: Zaria
Age: 27

Policy prescriptions: Invest in a Learning-Integrated Life; Transform the learning of today with new partnerships; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Zaria has five years of work experience and is ready to change jobs and enter a field that has high growth potential in her region. The national government has been investing in collecting better skills-based labour market information for years and has developed a public platform to offer individuals specialized tools to assess their skills against current market needs, and to locate employers that are currently hiring.

On the employer side, the human resources team is closely examining a recent internal skills audit done at their organization and determines that the organization needs additional digital marketing specialists. They initiate a search for individuals with the skills they will soon need and spot a strong candidate in Zaria who requires only light training on regulatory issues regarding the sale of electric vehicles, along with some formal skills development courses on social media marketing strategy. After a successful interview, Zaria is offered the job.

Upon joining, Zaria will receive an educational benefits stipend from the company, and access to a company-provided platform of curated programs for skills building from approved providers. Upon completion of a set of courses, Zaria will receive a credential from a company approved program verifying her technical knowledge and marking the end of her probationary period at the company. To ensure she continues to build her skills, she will move into a formal mentor program with one of her colleagues to receive continual peer-to-peer feedback on her demonstration of skills and knowledge. information

This affordable and accessible learning through employer-funded training has enabled Zaria to begin working while also upskilling to ensure her long-term success in the company and growing industry. The employer is investing in its employees, and company leaders are thinking further into the future about the skills the company needs, and the types of job candidates who will succeed. This match, based on skills potential, was made possible because of government investment in high-quality labour market information and a national platform that matches job candidates with career opportunities based on the candidates’ skills and the identified skill needs of a given job.

Taking the road less travelled:

A networked postsecondary education

Name: Sam
Age: 18

Policy prescriptions: Transform the learning of today with new partnerships

Sam is a prospective postsecondary student who has always been interested in pursuing a global and interdisciplinary education. Sam’s siblings have all instilled in her the importance of studying abroad, having spoken fondly of their academic exchange semesters, field research trips, and intensive language immersion programs. She is inspired, but unsure whether this pathway will be available if she chooses not to complete a four-year degree at one institution.

Sam is interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be used to modernize and improve government services—an area in need of talent not only in her home country of Canada but also abroad. She could take on a general political science, public administration, engineering, or computer science degree at the university close to her home, but none of those degrees feels like the right fit to build the skills she needs to pursue this career interest.

While researching options, Sam learns of a new degree completion pathway that allows students to take courses from a network of universities, colleges, and polytechnic institutions throughout Canada and stack them for skills-based  credentials that are recognized by major Canadian employers. A set of four of these credentials grants an individual a degree-equivalent endorsed by each institution. Sam identifies the skills and knowledge she wants to work towards and charts out four credential pathways:

  1. Service delivery design
  2. Change management
  3. Applications of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence)
  4. Machinery of government

With this customized learning pathway, Sam has full flexibility to decide how she wants to structure her courses, the institutions within the network she will study at, and the format and model of courses she prefers—whether live in-class instruction or online courses.

Cost flexibility is built in as well—students pay a standard fee based on the number of competencies they intend to learn rather than the normal standard of ‘credit hours’. The province in which Sam lives has endorsed this networked model of  postsecondary education and adjusted its financial assistance program to better support students. Grants and other non-repayable assistance take into consideration the number of courses the student is taking across all institutions when assessing financial need. Previously, Sam would have been required to be a full-time student at every institution to receive support.

Sam also has the option of starting with foundational courses or applying for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) information so her existing knowledge and skills can be tested and she can move on to more advanced topics.

Sam completes her first three credentials in three years and uses her certifications to apply for a one-year work-integrated learning experience with the federal government in Germany where she can learn first-hand about the applications of artificial intelligence in government. When she returns home, she applies for PLAR to certify her learning on the machinery of government and is granted a degree acknowledging her four-part customized education.

The collaboration between universities, polytechnics, and colleges to create a networked approach to degree completion, and its endorsement by the provincial government, allowed Sam to graduate as an alumnus of multiple postsecondary education institutions. Her exposure to different thought spaces and networks was highly valuable for ensuring she was engaged throughout her education and set up for post-graduation success. In the rapidly evolving field she has chosen, she understands how important it is to continuously upskill, and is prepared to return to formal education for more stackable credentials as she continues throughout her career.

Route guidance:

Personalized professional development

Name: ZheYuan
Age: 33

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

ZheYuan is about to join Marama’s school as a new secondary school teacher. He completed his professional teacher education a decade ago, and teaching looks a bit different today than it did when he was studying. With the incorporation of learning technologies in the classroom, and expectations of teachers delivering competency-based education information, he needs personalized professional development to feel comfortable and supported in this new opportunity.

The school district has been on its own learning journey since shifting to a competency-based education model, and has had some growing pains. Over time, the district has come to recognize that success depends on school administrators working closely with teachers to co-create systems of instruction, and pathways to professional development. The district has its own online learning management system (LMS) for teacher professional development, with a catalogue of content covering a range of subjects including:

  • Strategies for student-centred instruction
  • Design thinking—how to prototype and iterate on solutions to test new approaches
  • Online content—using learning management systems to advance competency-based education
  • Data analysis—interpreting student progress

ZheYuan is excited that he can take on professional learning to suit his needs on his own schedule. He recalls an earlier time when he had to spend nine hours a month in-person taking the same professional development courses as his peers who were teaching very different subjects and had varied skill levels and pedagogical needs than him, which was less than effective.

ZheYuan can also take advantage of his teacher community in the LMS, connecting both in asynchronous chats and in live discussions with other teachers and experts from across his region to ask questions and share his experiences. He sees some upcoming dialogues hosted by his school district to share learnings and signs up for those sessions, knowing he will get a valuable peer perspective from other teachers. ZheYuan is thankful that his school leaders recognize and value professional learning and provide the supports and the time needed for improvement.

D2L Whitepaper Contributors

Lead Authors:
Malika Asthana, Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs
Joe Pickerill, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, International

Contributors:
Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Schneiderman, Senior Director, Future of Teaching and Learning
Brendan Desetti, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, United States
Mike Semansky, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, Canada
Nia Brown, Senior Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs

In the driver’s seat:

Owning the personalized learning journey

Name: Marama
Age: 14

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Marama is enrolled in a school with a competency-based education model information. Students are responsible for owning the personalization of their learning pathways, making choices alongside their teachers in how and when they learn.iii Teachers play a central role in guiding and validating all learning, regardless of where it takes place—offering formative assessments to evaluate a student’s mastery of skills and knowledge. Teachers use data from these assessments, gathered through an online learning management system (LMS), to differentiate instruction and provide targeted supports so that all students progress toward graduation. As a student diagnosed with a learning disability, Marama is supported in her education by this personalized learning pathway.

All students complete an assessment in ninth grade to identify their natural strengths as a learner. Their teachers use the results as inputs to design tailormade educational pathways with learning materials and activities that suit the individual students’ learning needs. In Marama’s case, this includes:

  1. Supplementing lecture-based teaching with structured but independent reading
  2. Shadowing professionals who work on the concepts she is learning about
  3. Taking the stories and lessons she’s learned and sharing it back with classmates by designing a creative and interactive presentation

Over the course of the school year, Marama spends a third of her time in live lectures (sometimes online) with her teacher alongside other classmates—but the rest of her time is spent learning in the ways that suit her best. She can log into her online LMS from her mobile device to access her school resources and complete on her own schedule before the assigned deadline. When Marama finds a concept that interests her, she can ask her teachers and counsellor for support in finding a working professional to speak to, or work alongside for a couple weeks, from the network her school has curated over time. And when she has learned something, she is encouraged to reinforce her learning by applying her skills and developing content to share back with her classmates.

Marama’s personalized learning journey empowers her to own her education by learning in ways that are effective for her, with the support that allows her to be successful. Her teachers have high-quality data about student strengths and performance they can share with her parents to show them how she is mastering specific skills, and where she may need extra support. Her school experience empowers her to embrace her subject interests very early on, and she advances to deeper topics quickly as she submits evidence of learning that demonstrates her proficiency. She graduates having cultivated a mindset for self-directed learning early in her education.