Virtual Lab Experience Wastewater Treatment (V-Lab Water)
What is IVAC?
International Virtual Academic Collaboration (IVAC) is the DAAD-funded project aiming to expand international teaching collaborations between the University of Applied Sciences Heidelberg (HSHD) in Germany and the University of Novi sad (UNS) in Serbia. IVAC, with the concept of Virtual Lab Experience Wastewater Treatment, is dedicated to establishing a virtual teaching collaboration between the two universities and sustainably anchoring it in the curriculum of their collaborative degree programs, M. Eng Water Technology from the HSHD and Water Treatment and Safety Engineering program from UNS.
From their long-standing and successful research and project collaboration between their Engineering departments, SRH University Heidelberg, through its program, Water Technology, and the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, through its Water Treatment and Safety Engineering program, have dedicated Virtual Lab Experience Wastewater Treatment (V-Lab Water) project for establishing virtual teaching collaboration between the Universities.
The M. Eng Water Technology program from HSHD and Water Treatment and Safety Engineering program from UNS offers numerous overlaps and points of contact. In the HSHD Water Technology program, students learn central aspects of water technology, including freshwater production, wastewater treatment, technology, and hygiene solutions for water-scarce (developing) countries to reduce local water conflicts. In the UNS’s Water Treatment and Safety Engineering program, students learn Engineering strategies for water-related environmental protection. They also deal with water resources from quality control, water treatment and wastewater management.
The objectives of V-Lab water projects include the integration of a virtual collaboration format into Water Technology and Water Treatment and Safety Engineering programs for the two Universities and plans to anchor them into their curriculum. It also aims to assist students from the two universities to gain international experience in the sense of equal opportunities. This project will allow students and teachers to apply the developed digital and intercultural competencies further. In addition, the two universities’ coordinated IT services will enable the implementation of virtual collaboration formats. Furthermore, students and lecturers from both universities are networked with each other in international virtual collaboration formats and form a community of practice.
The project objectives are defined for the following purposes:
Integration of virtual collaboration formats into the courses of Water Technology (HSHD) and Water Treatment and Safety Engineering (UNS) degree programs and the lecturers plan to anchor them in the curriculum.
To further promote collaboration between the engineering degree programs of both partner universities, the joint course “Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis will be integrated and tested in the two master’s degree programmes, Water Technology (HSHD) and Water Treatment and Safety Engineering (UNS). The project’s teachers will develop a methodical-didactic teaching /learning concept, which they record in a qualitative description. The course’s teaching/learning concept aligns with the partner universities’ teaching strategies. The” Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis” course will take place in the winter semester of 2023. The course will be integrated into the already existing modules M1(Water Quality) and M2(Water Treatment I) (HSHD) and in the module Environmental Practicum (UNS).
Following the learning approach with and from each other, students from HSHD and UNS will work together in the virtual course” Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis”. The students will work together on a project in binational tandems. In the course study, the students will participate in joint virtual seminars and face-to-face seminars at the University of Göttingen.
Students will learn different analysis methods in the HSHD and UNS laboratories and conduct various water analyses in their respective laboratories with the help of HoloLens glasses as part of virtual collaborative seminars on practical lab work. They will also receive training on tools and relevant software required for their analysis and professional development as engineers. Students will also conduct excursions to water treatment plants in their home countries (Germany and Serbia).
Various digital educational tools will be used to implement the virtual collaboration formats (including Moodle for course organisation and digital teaching materials, Microsoft Teams as a communication platform, Mentimeter for visual knowledge retrieval, Padlet for group discussion, VR formats and HoloLens applications for joint practical subject content exercises, the website for project results communication and exhibition. At the end of the project, project leaders will have compiled process documentation on the recognition of the examination performance and coordinated it with those responsible for quality assurance in teaching. The course will also be evaluated with the help of a specific online questionnaire.
Virtual collaboration formats enable students of the HSHD and UNS to gain international experience in the sense of equal opportunities.
Virtual collaboration formats selected to implement the course “Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis” offer students an opportunity to open up completely different perspectives in the international and intercultural context and to reach more students for an exchange. It also provides flexible and diversity-oriented teaching. The programme synchronously opens up new practical experiences for international students with limited mobility, which they would otherwise not be able to gain. During the project implementation, the students in binational tandems and virtual meetups can test their further developed skills and informal intercultural exchange. This will also expand professional and cultural competencies for people with limited mobility and increase equal opportunities in terms of social participation.
Students and teachers of the HSHD and UNS apply the further developed digital and intercultural competencies.
The virtual collaboration formats and the selected digital tools for implementing the ” Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis” course offer students an optimal framework for developing and testing their digital cultural competencies and other essential qualifications, including teamwork and problem-solving. Students will test their additional developed digital competencies when using collaborative platforms in binational tandems for their joint “practical lab work “seminars with HoloLens glasses.
At the end of the project, students in their groups will submit field reports. The reports will be published on the project website and in social media channels and further deepen their required digital competencies.
Teachers will select and successfully use the target and group-specific digital tools for implementing virtual collaboration formats in the joint courses. They will also share their experiences using the digital tools with the higher education community of both partner universities using at least two best practice examples.
The coordinated IT services of the HSHD and UNS enable the implementation of virtual collaboration formats.
With the experience from the corona pandemic challenge three years ago, where institutions switched to online teaching, the HSHD and UNS have adapted their IT infrastructures to the new requirements and greatly expanded their digital offering. The expanded IT infrastructure opens new possibilities for communication and collaborative teaching and learning. To enable teachers and students to efficiently use digital teaching formats in the ” Environmental Practicum- Water Pollution and Analysis” course, technical compatibility and using existing systems and tools are considered for economic reasons. The project will be implemented using most existing digital platforms, and additional tools will be purchased.
Students and lecturers at the HSHD and UNS are networked with each other in international virtual collaboration formats and form a community of practice.
During the pandemic-related online teaching, students and teachers at partner universities tried new teaching/learning formats with commitment and dedication. They tested digital educational technology’s fit with the didactic demands of their subject discipline and course. The foundation for the community of practices was established at both universities with the formats for exchanging experiences with digital teaching and learning tools.
From the successful virtual collaboration between the partner universities within the framework of Democratia-aqua-Technica I-IV, there is already direct and comprehensive experience in the joint use of digital tools for collaborative research. The partner universities will transfer this experience to teaching and contribute their experience. Teachers and students will establish their contacts with each other and receive extensive opportunities for exchange through regular meetings of the project teams. Teachers and students will publish reports on their learnings and experiences in various project communication channels, such as (the project website and social media) and thus expand the possibilities of exchange beyond the university boundaries. The project team will participate in the DAAD offers for exchange about the projects and get actively involved. This will contribute to strengthening the “we-intelligence” for international virtual collaborative teaching cooperation of the engineering departments of the participating universities.