Teaching Quality Pact
From 2011 and 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supported the improvement of study conditions and the teaching quality at German universities with the Teaching Quality Pact of the German Government and Federal State Programme (QPL).
One of the essential objectives of the programme was to establish better staffing in higher education institutions. The higher education institutions were also supported in qualifying their staff for teaching, support and counselling. The other objectives included establishing and developing qualitative teaching offers. A total of two billion euros were made available for the higher education institutions in all 16 federal states.
The topics and implemented measures covered all fields of academic teaching. They illustrated the complex challenges higher education institutions are facing. They were of utmost societal relevance and for example analysed how to successfully integrate students of different cultures and nationalities. For many higher education institutions, the introductory study phase is the key to individual study success. They considered among others the numerous starting conditions and previous knowledge of new students. Digitisation of teaching and the resulting integration of electronic teaching modules into the regular curriculum pose a major challenge to universities.
Participating higher education institutions
In the first period until 2016, the BMBF sponsored 253 projects of 186 higher education institutions. Among them were 78 universities, 78 universities of applied sciences and 30 arts and music universities. After a positive intermediary review, 71 universities, 61 universities of applied sciences and 24 arts and music universities had the opportunity to further develop their successful concepts and to apply them to other sectors in the second funding period until 2020.
A committee chaired by Prof. Dr. Karin Donhauser (HU Berlin) decided upon the selection of requests. The committee consisted of twelve experts from science, university management and the student body, as well as representatives of the Federal Government and the Federal States. Source: www.qualitaetspakt-lehre.de/de/qualitat-von-hochschullehre-und-studienbedingungen-verbessern-1764.php
The BEST-FIT project
The BEST-FIT project of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS) was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the course of the “Teaching Quality Pact”. This project was initiated because of the high drop-out rates across Germany in the STEM-subjects. The BEST-FIT project aimed to significantly lower the drop-out rate, especially in the technical degree programmes, to increase the exam success rates, to promote quick entry to the job market and the optimal practical fitness of graduates.
In the first funding phase until 31 Dec 2016, FHWS was provided with a total of 3.2 million euros for a period of just under five years. FHWS’s concept persuaded the expert committee in the selection process of the second funding phase of the programme by the Federal States and the Government for improving study conditions and teaching quality (“Teaching Quality Pact”). Until the end of 2020, FHWS received another 5.5 million euros, provided by the Federal Government, to support the ideas and teaching concepts and the resulting improvement of study conditions at the University.
First funding phase
As part of the “Teaching Quality Pact”, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the BEST-FIT project at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt with a total amount of 3.2 million euros over the course of nearly five years which ended on 31 Dec 2016.
This project was initiated because of the high drop-out rates across Germany in the STEM-subjects. The BEST-FIT project aimed to significantly lower the drop-out rate, especially in the technical degree programmes, to increase the exam success rates, to promote quick entry to the job market and the optimal practical fitness of graduates.
This was supposed to be realised by the following five sub-projects which are aimed at different study phases.
The introductory assessment served as an online self-assessment for the study applicants.
Project-oriented introductory study phase (ProStep):
ProStep was directed at new students scientifically working on practice-oriented and industry-oriented questions.
Small-group tutorials and internationalisation:
Small-group tutorials provided students with targeted and individual support in groups of 2-5 students, from which they particularly benefited in STEM subjects. Additionally, German and English language classes as well as intercultural trainings were offered.
Living Case LearnFab:
LearnFab accompanied and supported students with founding and running an actual company.
Central office for quality assurance and knowledge transfer (ZEQ, Zentralstelle für Qualitätssicherung und Wissenstransfer): Within the BEST-FIT project, the ZEQ was the superior authority for accompanying, connecting and evaluating the sub-projects.
Second funding phase
In the second funding phase, increasing students’ study success and practical fitness served as overriding objective. As consequent development of the BEST-FIT project, the second funding phase focused on competence orientation and individual competence development. In the framework of study success and competence research, factors influencing a successful course of study should be assessed and visualised. Creating an integrated database and providing analysis tools for mapping individual and collective study and competence development. The aim was to include the developed study success and competence monitoring system in the production operation and to integrate it in the system landscape of the University. The innovative, competence-, practice- and application-oriented study model linking theoretical and practical learning and supporting different and individualised learning while also promoting the development of entrepreneurial competence was supposed to be one essential element for improvement of the teaching quality standards.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the implementation of the concept at FHWS with a total amount of 5.5 million euros from 2017 to 2020.
Coaching concept for the Academic Advisory Service
The results of the BEST-FIT drop-out surveys had shown that the reasons for dropping out of university are heterogeneous and multicausal. Thus, the supporting measures for students in such challenging situations must be tailored to these reasons. In the systemic coaching, the focus was placed on the coachee, their needs and their individual environment. The aim was to increase the coachee’s self-management competences enabling them to better cope with study requirements. The programme advisors at the University of Applied Sciences (FHWS) are an important point of contact for students in challenging situations. Thus, the module FEM (research and evaluation module) developed a coaching concept for the Academic Advisory Service, which provides the programme advisors with student counselling methods.
Not only the current state of research but also the student target groups and the programme advisors were included in the development of the coaching concept to best possibly meet the requirements of these target groups. Individual coaching methods were then tested in student counselling interviews after which the concept was adjusted accordingly. The programme advisors were questioned regarding their needs for coaching methods and regarding their work requirements and their expectations towards such coaching concepts. As a first step, a guideline-based interview with one programme advisor was conducted. Based on this interview and the current state of research on coaching and student counselling, a quantitative survey was conceptualised and conducted among all programme advisors. The total of collected findings led to a coaching concept for the Academic Advisory Service.
Digitisation of teaching
From February 2018 to April 2019, the BEST-FIT module Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters (CoMa) supported the digitisation of teaching. Innovative teaching and learning scenarios using digital elements made it possible to consider individual student needs. Internal workshops and trainings were offered to all lecturers of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS). In practice-oriented units, the lecturers learned how to use simple digital tools on the learning platform Moodle to enhance their teaching in a media-didactic way.
The offers of complimentary, internal workshops and trainings were continuously expanded and updated. Topics included:
- Moodle – Level 1: Basics for beginners
- Moodle – Level 2: Advanced basics and organisation of a lecture
- Moodle – Level 3: Blended learning elements
- New tools in Moodle
- PINGO & Co – voting tools in teaching
- Adobe Connect in teaching
- Blended learning
In addition to the seminars, lecturers of FHWS were also offered personal support in conception, development, execution and evaluation of prototypes of digital teaching, which could then be offered to the academic public as “best practice examples“.
To firmly establish the contents developed and implemented in the course of the BEST-FIT project, the package of measures could successfully be established at the Centre for Digital Education (ZDL) at THWS.
The three-step certificate GRÜNDER:portfolio entrepreneurship and intra-/entrepreneurship was conceptualised for students who have successfully completed the MakerSpace implementation phase following the theoretic basic module. In the course of this certificate, students can deepen their knowledge of prototyping and idea implementation. Along with these, innovative start-up events, international workshops and cooperative counselling with relevant contents were offered. The final portfolio contains the students’ interdisciplinary founding activities and can be used as a basis for the students’ individual start-up activities.
Competence assessment procedure
For the pilot degree programme Mechanical Engineering, an individual practice-related competence profile was created upon which the intended testing procedure was based. For a profound competence assessment, lecturers and graduates with work experience were interviewed. The survey also included representatives of technical supervisors and HR managers from the regional industry to additionally cover professionally relevant qualifications and skills of the mechanical engineering graduates.
The testing procedure was developed to represent technical and interdisciplinary competences. Through self-evaluation and external assessment students’ competences were measured at various times of their studies.
The competence monitor aims to visualise students’ competences at various times of their studies. The competences assessed during this testing procedure are processed and collected in a data warehouse. The competence monitor is used to visualise these competences according to target groups. Students get to see their individual competences and their competence development compared to other students in their year of study (cohort). Lecturers receive information on division of competence within the cohorts they teach so that they can adjust their modules accordingly. University management shall also receive information on competence development of the student cohorts so that they can derive measures for university and degree programme development.
The module PROPHET defined the requirements for the competence monitor, the module SEISMO was responsible for the technical implementation.
Lab of the PIONIER-module
In the term of the theoretic basic module gründen@fhws, the practical implementation phase began in the facilities of the newly founded lab of the PIONIER-module. There, students of all fields found an innovative environment to study and work, to test their preprototypes and test them with users for the first time. Materials, equipment and advisory offers supported these first test phases and added interdisciplinary experience exchange to the theoretical basic module. Due to the interconnectedness, the theoretical modules could also react on progress achieved during the testing phases, and contents could be adapted in an agile and development-focused way. The PIONIER-Lab acted as a communication and cooperation lab for interdisciplinary student collaboration across locations, and offered a local institution for networking with cooperation partners. A summary of all student activities relevant to founding were included in the FOUNDER:portfolio (GRÜNDER:portfolio)
Online-assessment and self-evaluation (OASE)
The measure OASE is a digital feedback instrument for students and lecturers to check students’ progress.
The name OASE combines the terms online assessment and self-evaluation and unites the many facets of a hybrid process of external and self-evaluation components.
The objective is to raise students’ motivation and engagement especially in modules with high failure rates and thus increase the pass quota.
For this, students’ learning progress in each module is evaluated pre-term, mid-term and pre-exam using an online tool. By the combination of self-evaluation and external assessment, students learn about their individual learning progress. Students thus learn about their individual deficits sorted by topics so that they can directly tackle these deficits. Lecturers also learn about their students’ deficits and can react to them by either repeating the topics or by deepening students’ knowledge on the topic.
In addition to central test points, online teaching sessions were planned which should have been included in the course of study to increase students’ intrinsic motivation. This could have been effected by motivating and activating elements (gamification elements), which could have been integrated in regular teaching and the usual modules.
Online self-study units
A good command of English is the preliminary prerequisite for study success of the English-taught degree programmes at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS). Since the summer semester 2020, the BEST-FIT module “Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters“ (CoMa) has been offering complimentary self-study units for all FHWS-members. These offers are provided by Speexx, offering access to the learning platform Speexx Campus (in particular Business English), and by TechnoPlus (in particular Technical English) offering online extensions and a vocabulary app (VocabApp). The self-study units can also be used to add digital elements to the didactic concept of in-person lectures. In the Self-study course on E-learning (only in German; Selbstlerneinheiten-Kurs im E-Learning) you can learn about these self-study units. The self-study English courses are available until March 2022. In the course of a Kompetenzentwicklung, which was available to all FHWS-members free of charge, the effective use of the online self-study units and the individual learning progress could be discussed.
Online Self-Assessments (OSA)
The OSA-measure is a web-based orientation offer for prospective students. The OSAs aim to prepare prospective students for the requirements of individual degree programmes and to compare them against their individual preferences and abilities. The programme-specific OSAs thus offer orientation to prospective students who are still deciding which programme to choose.
During the first funding phase, five faculties already created ten OSAs. This offer was to be expanded systematically.
Findings from the first funding phase showed that due to the free creation a variety of heterogeneous OSAs was developed which was disadvantageous, especially regarding usability and comparability. To avoid this heterogeneity and to make the OSAs more comparable and easier to exploit, it was decided that the underlying framework had to be revised.
The revision focused on greater standardisation which makes it possible to integrate the OSAs into the future data warehouse system of FHWS where the data can be analysed. The standardisation also resulted in improved comparability of degree programmes and in the assurance of uniform standards.
You can find the OSAs on the orientation platform of the university (only in German).
Orientation project for prospective students
The orientation project for determining the suitability in the pre-study phase served the practice-related orientation of prospective students with different educational biographies in a so-called introductory assessment. In a project-oriented way, up to 300 prospective students were confronted with the competences required for engineering studies. The project was divided in project handling by prospective students and information events which dealt with the University, the engineering degree programmes, the students requirements and the job profile of an engineer. The orientation project was conducted in the run-up to the application phase in cooperation with general and vocational schools and the local industry. In cooperation with the THWS Taster Sessions by the orientation project, especially women (e.g. female pupils) could be introduced to engineering studies.
Lecture series "Gründen@THWS"
In the module PIONIER, a practice-oriented basic module on entrepreneurship and intra-/entrepreneurship was developed to give students an introduction to the areas entrepreneurship and freelancing, and to sensitise them to founding new companies. For this, lectures and courses for a permanent general elective “gründen@fhws” were conceptualised and offered interactively each semester. The contents focused on creative idea development, entrepreneurial competence and the requirements of freelancing. The aim was to guide students in the process of systematically developing product and service ideas and help them develop technical and general leadership competences.
Academic writing advisory service
The academic writing advisory service was aimed at increasing study success rates and to promote the internationalisation strategy by supporting students during the creation of seminar papers, Bachelor’s and Master's theses. Lecturers could also benefit from these offers when creating journal articles and conference papers, also in English. By this, the academic writing advisory service pursued the objective to teach participants to continuously improve their skills and to be able to create better texts in future. Participants were given information on the structure of academic papers and journal articles, resources for writing (e.g. print and online dictionaries, corpora and terminology databases), and information on creating linguistic awareness of typical linguistic phrases and grammar structures in German and English economic texts (e.g. by using online phrasebanks) and information on how to avoid typical mistakes and on correct punctuation. The offers were directed at participants of all levels of experience, from beginners to experienced writers.
The counselling, workshops and writing groups were based on the principle of collaborative work. This encouraged a discourse on various aspects of writing and written output. During the writing process, the responsibility for the text remained with the writer. The writing coach “only” gave advise and thus encouraged critical assessment of the writing process. The focus was placed on the writers’ sustainable learning process. The writers not only worked on specific writing tasks but also developed techniques and methods which will enable them to complete future writing projects independently.
During the writing counselling, various electronic resources supporting the writing process were used. These included electronic dictionaries and terminology databases, corpora, academic phrasebanks and collocation finders, which enable the user to find typical collocations in academic language electronically and automatically during the writing process (which is one of the main challenges in academic writing even for native speakers).
The academic writing advisory service was a complimentary offer for all members of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS). If you are interested, you can visit the German E-learning course Schreibberatung to learn more about the counselling offers and to benefit from the offers even without using the counselling offer.
To contribute to the internationalisation strategy of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS), the BEST-FIT module CoMa (Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters) promoted language courses offered and conducted by the Campus for Language Proficiency.
The courses “German as a foreign language” are best-suited for international students who want to enter the German labour market. These students are usually enrolled in the English Bachelor's degree programmes Business and Engineering, Mechatronics, Logistics and International Management. Especially courses for the levels B1 to C1 are offered. Since winter semester 2018/19, prospective students have been able to already benefit from these blended learning offers. Even though the study contents are all available in English, a certain command of German is required for administration, internships with German companies, and generally for living in Germany. The study success of “incoming students“ can be increased by improved language competence and the drop-out rate can thus be decreased. By these measures, professionals trained in Germany can be integrated in the German labour market more easily if they already complete their internships in German companies instead of completing them abroad because of the language barrier.
There are also English courses for students preparing for the international labour market, either in the course of a semester abroad, an internship or a longer stay abroad.
Students can complete an UNICert-certificate for most language courses. This certificate is awarded in the higher education sector for language courses.
Contact persons Campus for Language Proficiency
The innovative teaching and learning concept, which refers back to autonomous language learning, ensured that students who were back then not taking any English classes could still improve their technical English to be better equipped to understand lectures held in English. The counselling also served as a means of preparation for semesters abroad and as a measure for improving language proficiency before exams and internships. FHWS administration and teaching staff also benefited from the new offers of the BEST-FIT module Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters (CoMa) because they learned to communicate with international students on a higher level. The language learning counselling offers were available to students of all levels.
From summer semester 2020, all University-members were offered access to online self-study units of the providers Speexx and TechnoPlus. The visibility of blended learning and E-learning offers is increased if they are included in a class on campus or if they are conducted by a lecturer who teaches this course in the longer term, develops a course curriculum and regularly discusses learning progress. The blended learning and self-study units were introduced at the beginning of the language-learning counselling and possibilities for improving the language level were shown. Ever since, interested students, lecturers and administration employees could arrange language learning counselling appointments, during which individual programmes based on the unique learner biography were created which the learners could then work on independently. The language learning counselling also answered questions on contents and learning psychology and discussed participants’ learning progress. In addition, possibilities were shown on how to use not only blended learning and E-learning tools but also various media of the FHWS Library as well as online materials and resources such as language corpora to promote the individual learner’s needs.
The language-learning counselling was a complimentary offer for all FHWS-members. If you are interested, you can visit the E-learning course Sprachlernberatung to learn more about the counselling offers (only available in German).
Academic achievement research
The module FEM (Research and Evaluation Module) assessed factors influencing study success. Reaching the defined goal of the study programme can be seen as study success (see Berthold et. al., 2015). This can be interpreted as follows: Studies are successful if a degree qualifying the graduate to enter a profession is obtained in a reasonable period of time and completed with an appropriate final grade. What is deemed appropriate or reasonable depends on the relevant context (higher education institution, degree programme, cohort etc.).
In order to successfully complete a degree programme, students must overcome study-related but also private challenges. Convictions regarding one’s own competences and the effectiveness of one’s actions are attributed an important role regarding assessment of stresses (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 2002). Study success research thus focuses on assessing the influence of the academic self-concept, the motivation, the self-efficacy expectations as well as stress experience and coping strategies. In addition to these psychosocial factors, prerequisites (e.g. school qualifications), study and context conditions (like resources and environmental stresses) also influence study success.
To assess the influencing factors, quantitative and qualitative data is collected throughout the course of studies. Data of new students, Bachelor’s students of the fourth and sixth semester, Master’s students of the second and third semester, drop-outs and graduates were questioned in a quantitative FHWS-wide survey. In qualitative guided interviews, the target groups of drop-outs, graduates and lecturers were questioned on stress experience and coping mechanisms during their studies. To increase the study success at FHWS, recommendations for actions are to be derived from the qualitative and quantitative research results. In addition, this module also contributes to research on study success research.
The study monitor is a measure of the BEST-FIT modules SEISMO and FEM. It serves as an online-platform for visualisation and analysis of indicators relevant to study success. Indicators, e.g. passing rates or credit point analyses, are used to inform target groups including students, lecturers, faculty administration and University management about individual and collective study progress and development potential of the degree programmes and the University. By early-warning systems and recommendation systems (for critical study progress but also for outstanding results), students are additionally guided during the course of their studies. The homogeneous database and connection of different indicators offer the diverse target groups a complete overview.
The module SEISMO developed a data warehouse, which enabled the linkage and connection of various data sources, like the database of the examination office or of surveys. Based on guided interviews of the different target groups, the module FEM defined indicators (e.g. overall grade and average time to degree), which were subsequently prioritised in quantitative target group interviews. The indicators were analysed according to target group and presented via different user interfaces already existing at the University (Study portal ⇒ Students/Micro Strategy ⇒ other target group).
The study monitor has been available to students since winter semester 2018/19. For the target groups lecturers, faculty administration and University management, a publication was scheduled for summer semester 2019. Based on target group surveys, the study monitor was then gradually expanded and optimised according to formative evaluation. That way it could be ensured that the demands of the target groups are met by the study monitor.
In order to achieve linguistic consistency at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS) and to better connect the English- and German-taught (TWIN) programmes, a terminology database, the THWS Language Base, was created and maintained in the BEST-FIT module “Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters” (CoMa). The THWS Language Base was created in cooperation with the Department of Public Affairs and Communications. It is available online to all lecturers and students of THWS (and also to the general public). The terminology database aims to support lecturers by keeping lecture notes on a linguistically high level corresponding to academic standards. Instead of paraphrasing, which produces understandable but uncommon utterances, students are supposed to familiarise with the technical language early on. Of course, the database also works as a guideline for students, e.g. when creating project papers, Bachelor’s or Master's theses.
If applicable, contextual examples and fields are added to the terms. Currently, the THWS Language Base contains around 4,000 entries (as of March 2021). To access it, please visit https://languagebase.thws.de.
For questions and feedback on the THWS Language Base, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the BEST-FIT module CoMa (Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters) mostly anticyclical tutorials were offered to increase study success. Their main target group consisted of students of all degree programmes who had to retake exams or who had put off the exam in the previous semesters. BEST-FIT could support the establishment of tutorials that had not been offered before by the faculties.
The tutorials aimed to recognise deficits and to offer students targeted support in difficult phases of their studies. Personal support by tutors led to participating students developing technical and general competence. In these mentoring programmes, participants developed self- and time-management competence and acquired learning strategies. Tutorials held by student tutors were particularly popular because the peer-to-peer learning was highly valued by students.
By using the study monitor of the BEST-FIT modules SEISMO and FEM, students were notified in the Study Portal if their exam success might be endangered. Then they are advised to participate in a tutorial. Furthermore, top-performing students could be identified. If they were suitable and interested, they were offered to give tutorials in certain subjects.
To best possibly support international students and to permanently offer tutorials, the sub-project CoMa has cooperated with the project “i-Confidence“ of the International Career Service since winter semester 2018/19.
To ensure and improve the quality of the courses offered, the lecturers and learners were evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively on a regular basis.
Quality management support
As part of the BEST-FIT project, FHWS-wide surveys were conducted among students to assess their study conditions, their learning behaviour, and support and counselling offers. BEST-FIT conceptualised and conducted a FHWS-wide survey of all new students, a survey on the satisfaction with studies, a drop-out survey and a survey for graduates. The surveys were conducted annually. During the project term, they could be submitted with the quality management of the University and thus incorporated in the University operations. An overview of the BEST-FIT survey results was, among others, published on the FHWS homepage for quality management. The results of the BEST-FIT surveys were also made available to the University management, the quality management of FHWS and to the faculties to be included in quality development measures. It was also intended to provide the target groups (students, lecturers, programme directors and University management) via the study monitor with the survey results sorted by target group. In addition to the survey results, the target groups received other indicators on study success like success rates and analyses of students’ progress. Indicators and survey results from the study monitor should be included in the faculties’ teaching reports and thus promote institutionalised exchange between all University levels. An important objective of the study monitor was to provide a database for the development of degree programmes and the University. That way, the BEST-FIT measures considerably contributed to the internal quality assurance at FHWS.
International orientation is one of the most important topics at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS). FHWS has been welcoming international students from over 80 countries for more than 30 years, maintains contact with more than 230 partner universities worldwide.
The teaching quality of the English-taught degree programmes, Mechatronics, Robotics, Business and Engineering, Logistics and International Management, could be increased significantly by the use of specialised translations. In the BEST-FIT module “Coaching and Autonomous Learning Matters“ (CoMa), a specialised translator translated the lecture notes from German to English. Over the course of the project, a total of 750,000 words were translated.
- Science Journal 2015, 1st edition
- Science Journal 2021, 1st edition
- Coachingleitfaden für die Studienfachberatung
- Fachkonzept zum Studienmonitor
- Handlungsempfehlungen aus der Studienerfolgsforschung
Title: Didaktik-Nachrichten (DiNa) 12/2020
Editor: DIZ Zentrum für Hochschuldidaktik
free PDF download
Zeitschrift für Empirische Pädagogik – 2020 – 34 (3)
Editor: Prof. Dr. Rebecca Löbmann
free download or paid print edition via www.vep-landau.de
Conference contribution (videos, in German)
Quality and University Development Unit