International study programs at the TU Ilmenau go digital

In a large-scale project, the Technische Universität Ilmenau is developing internationally oriented study programmes digitally so that on-site presence at the university will no longer be necessary. Three existing English-language courses will be offered digitally in the future and new online courses will be developed. To this end, the university will receive a good 1,575,000 euros over three years from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funding programme "International Programmes Digital 2020-2022". The project at the Technische Universität Ilmenau is entitled VEDIAS.

The Corona pandemic has massively hampered cross-border student mobility. With the "IP Digital" programme, the DAAD is therefore providing short-term funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to support the digitisation of internationally oriented Master's programmes. To this end, 18 German universities will receive a total of around eight million euros until the end of 2022 - including TU Ilmenau. With the experience gained by the university in the summer semester of 2020, three existing internationally oriented Master's programmes will be organised in such a way that they can be completed exclusively online in the future: the engineering programmes "Communications and Signal Processing" and "Micro and Nanotechnologies" and the social science programme "Media and Communication Science". All three courses have been internationally successful for years as face-to-face courses and will in future also be offered in parallel on site.

At the same time as digitising the three existing courses, the TU Ilmenau is creating the necessary structures to expand its online courses in the future. By making study courses more flexible, alternating between classroom and online phases, the teaching offers will become even more interesting for prospective students.

In order to enable the digitalisation of internationally oriented study programmes, the IT infrastructure will be adapted to the special requirements and partly newly developed, for example the electronic learning platform Moodle, a campus management software and a multilingual collaboration platform for the organisation of studies, teaching and examinations. An online examination system is also being developed that is not only geared towards foreign students, but is also barrier-free and compliant with data protection regulations. Both teaching and administrative staff will be further qualified in special training courses to enable them to offer digital teaching.

Within the framework of the project, a virtual reality application is being developed that will relocate previous face-to-face courses into virtual spaces. In this way, four places where students previously met physically will be offered online in the future: Seminar rooms and experimental lecture halls, even project rooms and laboratories, as well as rooms for informal meetings, even outside of the study program. All of these virtual spaces are being tested in the three degree programmes that will be the first to be offered digitally.

However, foreign students should not only be able to complete their studies completely digitally, they will also receive accompanying online offers that will enable them to lead a "normal" student life. In this way, they should be able to exchange ideas with each other and gain insights into German culture without having to be present at the TU Ilmenau. The university will implement these offers with the long established international student service "we4you": Employees who assist foreign students in all study and life situations. Among other things, the buddy program, in which students help their foreign fellow students get started in their studies and city life, will be implemented digitally.

The existing quality management system of the TU Ilmenau will be further developed for international online study programmes, for example with regard to e-examinations, data protection as well as licensing and copyright. In addition, the measurement, evaluation and control instruments for quality assurance of digital study programmes will be adapted accordingly.