Science Guide Article

Fontys Information and Communication Technology

Students shape their own ICT education

The biggest problem in ICT education is that by the time the textbooks are published, they are already dated. Fontys professor Eric Slaats enables students to shape their own education and acquire open learning materials themselves. “Some students want to study something that is so new that we have no study material on it.”

Many educational institutions are currently experimenting with customised education: offering flexible and personal education. SURFnet is interested in learning the key lessons involved and that is why it is keeping track of a number of instructors and researchers who are busy with this.  In the specialised Open Innovation route at Fontys, they see how students are given the freedom to establish their own educational programme.

World is bigger than students think

“In customised education, only the time frame is established,” says Eric Slaats, Associate Lecturer of Applied Science at Fontys. “A higher educational degree (HBO) takes four years. Everything else - the tempo, the level, the content, the style of learning, the data - is owned by the student. By experimenting and discovering things themselves, students are much more in control of the learning process. We want to stimulate them in such a way that they start planning and choose for level ‘good’.

Initially, the specialisation route offers students a number of intake interviews and awareness sessions. “We want to make good on that promise that, with ICT, they can be anything they want ,” says Slaats. “The world is often bigger than they think.” Based on these interviews, they can determine which direction they want to follow within  the frameworks of the ICT programme.

“What’s nice about Open Innovation is that you can learn about things that you normally wouldn’t learn about in when you follow one direction,” says student Bram Snoek. “At Open Innovation, very little is determined by the directors. You are truly free to determine for yourself how you want to develop yourself. I think the instructors enjoy it just as much as we do.”

Instructors must come down off their pedestals

Slaats concurs, but he admits that this new form of education will be a huge crossover. “Instructors have to get off their pedestals. The field of study is too expansive and too complex and changing so fast that it is impossible to keep up. You can find detailed knowledge everywhere and you will also see it vaporise right before eyes.  This is no longer important for instructors. What is more interesting is your approach as a professional. If you can unleash the knowledge that people already carry within them, you help them get further.”