Prototyping: students bring Utrecht's history to life using modern day technology

Entrepreneurial Education showcased

Entrepreneurial education is available at every faculty at Utrecht University. These are courses, minors or complete programmes in which a entrepreneurial mindset is stimulated and entrepreneurial skills are taught. The Centre for Entrepreneurship went 'back to school' and attended a lecture on Living Pasts: Augmenting Urban Landscapes and Cultural Heritage in the Digital Age.

Make the history of Utrecht attractive in an innovative way, using a digital product. With this assignment, students from different backgrounds and disciplines get to work in the course 'Living Pasts'. The course is a joint effort of five faculties, and can be taken as an elective course by almost all bachelor's students at Utrecht University.

"It is very valuable that the students come from different backgrounds. People are not their discipline, their interest is often broader," says Ivar Troost, one of the lecturers. The second edition of Living Pasts started in February with eleven students, their background varies from Chemistry and Computer Science to Media and Culture Studies and Artificial Intelligence.

In only ten weeks, students create a prototype based on academic knowledge.

The first half of the course focuses on getting different perspectives. What are the technological possibilities for historiography and historical research, and what are the advantages and disadvantages? Guest teachers talk about the geological history of the earth, social geography and anthropology, and there are workshops about co-design, pitching and working with personas, among other things.

Subsequently, students will work in groups on a prototype: based on scientific knowledge, they will design a product in which the cultural heritage of Utrecht and the use of media and/or data technology play a central role.

Continuously adapting and improving

Although the meetings for this course were planned to take place at inspiring locations, such as the Teaching and Learning Lab and the Utrecht Archive, they were moved to Microsoft Teams because of the coronavirus measures. It fits the iterative nature of the course: both during the course and between the course series, the learning process is continuously adapted and improved, based on progressive insight and in close consultation with the students.

Seemingly effortless, lecturer Ivar Troost hosts the lecture online. This time, the students pitch their progress via video. With the help of clear agreements - video and microphone off when you are not speaking, use the chat to indicate that you have a question or comment - and tools such as screen sharing and online 'whiteboard' Miro, the meeting goes smoothly. The atmosphere is good: students and student assistants wait patiently until they can speak and then proactively provide each other with feedback and advice.


The students work in groups on prototypes of a graphic novel about the Maliebaan during the Second World War, an online magazine with cooking videos for Utrecht's historical cuisine and a virtual reality experience for time travel to the Janskerkhof in different historical periods. It is an intensive course, in which you learn to prioritize well: after ten weeks the prototype should be ready.

Utrecht Time Machine

Eventually all prototypes, translated to end products, become a part of the Utrecht Time Machine, a project aimed to make the rich history of Utrecht easily accessible for everyone. Prototypes of all classes, blogs sutdents kept during the course and more information on Living Pasts can be found at