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The university invests in innovative education

Published: 22 January 2021

Innovative educations are a university-wide investment in developing new undergraduate educations that can meet the societal challenges of the future, utilize the university's interdisciplinary competence and develop new pedagogical tools.
– The idea is that these pilot projects will function as locomotives that can contribute to renewing the existing education programs as well, says Lena Abrahamsson, professor of Human Work Science and dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

In addition to Lena Abrahamsson, the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, the Vice-Deans, the Pro Vice-Chancellors and representatives from the student unions and HPC are part of the working group that, together with the Vice-Chancellor, has made the decision to launch five pilot projects in innovative education:

  • Work-integrated and internship-based teacher education
  • Master of Science in Sustainable Production
  • Sustainable Resources Engineering
  • Master of Science in Climate Physics
  • Academy of Natural Resource Governance Artic

If the pilot projects are successful, there may be new educations starting in the autumn of 2022. The scope of the investment is unique in its kind for Luleå University of Technology; each pilot project has been allocated development funds of SEK 1.2 – 1.8 million.

Interdisciplinary perspectives

– Interdisciplinary perspectives already permeate the university's technical education programs.. But we need to make clearer connections to current societal challenges. The newly graduated students should be able to step straight into working life and from day one be able to contribute to a better society.

The current societal challenges that the pilot projects have identified are digitalisation and sustainability in industry, climate and the environment, as well as the sustainable use of natural resources. In addition, the programs must contribute to increasing gender equality, strengthening the university's attractiveness and developing new forms of examination.

Combine jobs and studies

In pedagogical terms, the pilot projects are characterized by flexibility. Several of the pilot projects, for example those concerning teacher education, are intended to be designed so that professionals can combine studies with employment. Within the framework of one of the projects, greater freedom of choice will be developed in the course offering. Some of the pilot projects work with module-based training so that professionals can supplement the training they already have with independent courses in areas where they need competence development.

– Despite the fact that the innovative educations have not started yet, I notice that they already at the planning stage function as sources of inspiration. There have been several proposals to the education committees on how the existing programs can be developed, says Lena Abrahamsson.

Sustainable production – one of the new educations

One of the planned programs included in the innovative education initiative goes by the working title sustainable production. Project leader for the development of the new master's degree program is Joel Lööw, assistant university lecturer in work science.

The program is intended to meet the new requirements placed on civil engineers who will work with industrial production, requirements that have emerged as society changes. Nowadays, much stricter requirements are set for production to be sustainable. Sustainability here means, firstly, increased environmental consideration and circularity, ie not consuming the earth's resources. Secondly, it is about social sustainability, ie that human needs and conditions are taken into account in the digital production system of the future.

Fourth industrial revolution

The so-called fourth industrial revolution, which is about various digital solutions such as artificial intelligence, big data and automation, has already begun to become an integral part of industrial production. Against this background,the program has two main themes: sustainability and digitalisation.

– As far as I know, there is no other similar education in Sweden that has the same focus on both circular economy and social sustainability, says Joel Lööw.

Today, students can study the master's engineering program in technical design (TD) at Luleå University of Technology. Originally, the program was called "industrial work environment" and had a clearer production focus. As the program changed its name to technical design, the production focus was toned down, and relatively few students now choose the specialization in production offered for the last two years of the program.

– The labor market also needs specialists who can lead the development of the production system of the future. Two years of specialization is not enough.

Close collaboration with industry

The new program is based on close collaboration with both large and small industrial companies. The members of the project group also conduct a number of educational projects in collaboration with industry, including the national project Master of Science in Engineering 4.0. The conversations and discussions that take place there suggest that there is not only a demand for recent graduates with specialist competence in sustainable production; even the existing workforce needs skills development.

– A lot has happened in society since today's civil engineers graduated 10–20 years ago. The program has therefore been designed so that individual modules can be read as independent courses for those who already have a master's degree in engineering, says Joel Lööw.

In the new program, the students will carry out industry-based projects already during the first semester. In the current program, an oppurtunity to do so is not offered before the fourth academic year of the program . This, together with the opportunity to exchange experiences with those who are already active in working life, gives students opportunities to apply their knowledge early on in the environment in which they will then be active.

Digitized teaching

Digitization will permeate, not only the course content, but also the teaching methods.

– The pandemic has shown that a large part of the teaching can be carried out at a distance. Distance education is an advantage, not least for those who receive skills development within the framework of their employment at a company and, thus may be unable to take part in all teaching at campus in Luleå.

The plan is for the master's degree program to be offered for the first time in the autumn of 2022.

– There are many research fields that have participated in the design of the program: Human Work Science, ProductIinnovation, Product and Production Development, Technical Psychology and Technical Acoustics. The many research perspectives not only contribute in making the program both interesting and competitive in the labor market; it is also a prerequisite for a program with the aim to teach about such a multifaceted and complex subject as sustainable development.