9 November 2016

Development of and research into new IT techniques in education

University opens unique 'Teaching & Learning Lab'

Designing a microscope in class and printing it right away with a 3D printer, gaming to gain skills, doing your experiments in a virtual lab environment. All the digital possibilities in education have not yet been utilized by a long shot. On 11 November, Rector Magnificus Bert van der Zwaan will open a new facility of Utrecht University to give the use of IT techniques in education an additional impulse: the Teaching & Learning Lab. In this lab, lecturers and researchers can test new forms of education and study their effects.

The use of digital techniques in education is here to stay. Utrecht University has invested heavily in blended learning, in which traditional forms of classes and working groups are combined with an electronic learning environment, digital testing, knowledge clips and augmented reality. The newly added Teaching and Learning Lab is unique because, among other things, the classrooms can be fully adapted to the user needs of the moment. There is also a place where students can test prototypes of the latest technologies developed by corporations.


The augmented-reality sandbox is one such example of a new form of education. Students can make computer simulations in a sort of sandbox to, for instance, mimic a river landscape. They directly interact with that landscape by moving the sand. Another example is a motion sensor that uses students' walking patterns to draft formulas. This enables students to personally experience the connection between motion and formulas. There will also be tests with experiments in a virtual lab environment. The potential of these techniques will be researched in the Teaching and Training Lab.


The new educational laboratory, that has been developed by the Freudenthal Institute and Utrecht University's Educate-IT, consists of a studio and a number of flexible teaching rooms. The rooms can be adapted at will to specific teaching forms. They are equipped with modern tools such as 360-degrees cameras, 3D printers, smarttables, which are basically table-sized tablets, and light-boards, which are the modern variants of the chalkboard.

“We stimulate the professionalization of lecturers as well as teachers in secondary education,” says Freudenthal Institute General Director Toine Pieters. “The Teaching & Learning Lab is a meeting place where lecturers and students share knowledge and experiences on new education methods. Users' needs and wishes are the central focus here. All in all, a place to stimulate and test innovations in education."