I hope that all of you have enjoyed a relaxing Easter holiday with the closest family and closest friends. People like me, interested in gardening, did not think that the weather was good enough to spend a whole lot of time in the garden. But we know that warmer days will come!
No matter what you did on your holiday or what you do on your free time, it is important that it is not KTH work. It is a challenge, when most of the ITM employees work from home, to clearly separate the working time from the free time. I know many people have complained about this difficulty. I have heard cases where employees have agreed with their closest manager that they check in for work during a certain time span and then checks out after the working day is over. In this way, it is easier to separate the working time from the free time, when working from home.
We are in the middle of a re-exam period and many of you are involved in this new experience. We have suddenly fast been moved into the digital world of giving exams and most of us did not have a clue on how to do this. Just before Easter KTH tested on how to give exams including how to supervise students during an exam. This has been a challenge so far and it is not perfect, but as I mentioned in the headline “practice make perfect”. We will learn from each others experiences so that each one of us becomes more skilled in performing this new task.
I especially want to mention the need for having people supervising exams (tentavakter). KTH will not allow external people to be involved, so we will need to handle it by ourselves. We need to help each other between divisions and departments. One of the schools at KTH asked teachers and PhD students to volunteer for taking on these assignments. The result? …160 persons said that they are willing to help. This is impressive, but I hope that we at ITM have the same spirit among the teachers and PhD students!
Finally, I want to share a personal experience with respect to the English phrase “practice make perfect”. Yesterday, I hosted a digital PhD examination where my and Michael Vynnycky’s student Arash Safavi Nick defended his thesis. The three of us were gathered in the green room at KTH B for the defense. Everything had been planned well by the Service Center including the setup of the camera before the defense and starting the webinar. A few minutes before 10 am everyone is online, except for the opponent. It is during this times you start to think why is this happening now?….. Then, unexpectedly a voice comes up and says that I am from the KTH IT service and I am just checking in to see if everything is going well. After a phone call from this person to the opponent, the opponent managed to get him online. Puh! We were finally back in business!
So how was the defence? Well it became one of the longest defences I experienced. The open part took slightly more than four hours and the candidate got 137 (!) questions and comments. At the end of the day, the committee was very satisfied with the thesis and the answers to the questions, so ITM received a new Doctor, namely Dr Arash Safavi Nick. After the long defence, the supervisors and the new Doctor had a late lunch to celebrate the accomplishment of Arash. We also celebrated that we had been able to take the first step in to the new world of carrying out digital PhD defences. We are not perfect at this stage, but with practice we will excel our skills!
I hope you are all healthy and still feel connected to KTH in these strange times when we’re all forced to work so much remotely from home. Since KTH of course gives priority to ensure that our students can complete their education (at the same time as we all work to reduce the spread of the covid-19 virus) studies and exams will take place remotely for the rest of the semester. This means that we must plan for alternative teaching and examination forms (and also make sure to attest invoices the same day they arrive to help our sub-contractors). You have all struggled extensively to execute all P4 courses by the help of digital tools and I am deeply impressed of the amazing result that ITM’s teachers has accomplished.
Personally my working days are filled with different investigations into the plethora of educational challenges that has arisen, as well as discussions and decisions in the multitude of meetings that the Committee for First and Second Cycle Education executes. The issues we discuss and then decide upon are presented here.
A page I hope both students are employees visit regularly.
First, I wish to thank all of you for your fine work, even though most of you have to carry out your tasks from home. It seems like we all have learned a new way of working. It seems so natural to have the meetings using Zoom today, so that many times I wonder why we did not use it more often.
Still, I wish to stress the importance of keeping yourself updated on the corona situation by reading www.kth.se/corona. As I mentioned before, the President has a crisis group that meet every day. Based on these meetings the website is being updated every day.
I also wish to share some information on what is going on:
The ITM management group meet officially every Tuesday between 15.00 – 17.00 in order to inform each other about the current situation and to make things work as smooth as possible.
The Learning department is working extra hard to be a support to all teachers needing to transform to the new situation. Currently there is also a focus on how to assist teachers in giving digital examinations in the upcoming Easter exam period. A very good news and example of how we collaborate during these times is that 15 other people from KTH have joined their efforts to help the Learning department to carry out these important tasks to assist KTH’s teachers.
The administration is working as usual, but we are using digital signatures to a greater extent, to speed up each case. I think all of you can see from your e-mails that the administration response to your requests fast.
The President has made a decision to move the RAE visit week to 2021 (week 34). In total 82 international and national experts are involved in this evaluation and it is too hard to carry out this big event as was planned to take place in August 2020. It should be noted that an internal review will take place during 2020, based on the information that already has been gathered by all researchers.
Finally, I again wish to thank all of you for trying to do your best working from your homes. This is a new situation for all of us and we need to find new ways to fulfil our duties at KTH. Also, do not forget to get some fresh air during your breaks. The spring is slowly showing up and it is quite refreshing to get some sun and a nice walk in the nearby neighborhood.
As KTH employees, we often talk about how packed our schedule is; Research, teaching, strive for research funding, and of course, all the administrative efforts that altogether make it impossible for us to get bored at our workplace. Spice it up with the fear of the covid-19 virus – then we have no time to think about anything else.
However, at the moment we are also busy with another important exercise at KTH; you have probably already heard about the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2020, that needs to be accomplished soon. Within RAE, we were asked to collect impact cases and write about the processes to enhance our impact. During the last few weeks, I had the privilege of meeting many of you at ITM to discuss impact and how to think and write about it. I must admit that I am very glad that after a few years of “soft discussions”, RAE 2020 brought us together around a tangible mission on the topic. I hope this is just the beginning of our journey.
Despite all those meetings at your department, you might still wonder what impact really is (then guess how hard it is to describe it in a few lines in a blog post…) If I give a try, I would say that it’s all about “WHY” we do our work:
how can the society benefit from our research?
how do we contribute to the creation of a better place to live?
how our research is linked to industries, policy makers, and the society as a whole.
In academia, we are usually expert on describing what we do and how we do it. We are often exposed to the questions about the fancy method/model that we have developed and/or the uncertainties in our experimental studies. However, it feels a bit out of our comfort zone when somebody asks us to explain the significance of our research to the society. This leaves plenty of room for improvement.
Yes, we all realize how packed our schedule is with our daily activities. But it is important to pause sometimes, take one step back and see the big picture by thinking about WHY we do our research. So please fill up your packed schedule with more IMPACT. It will not take much time when it gradually becomes our mindset.
/Hatef Madani, associate professor EGI, and impact leader at ITM
The Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences is working to provide the knowledge and insight needed to transform our education, something that can only be achieved in collaboration with all the Schools of KTH.
The Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences faces a slightly different challenge to many other departments at KTH. While we share the common mission of teaching, research and collaboration with society with the rest of KTH, we also pursue research, innovation and developmental agendas that are of direct relevance to the educational mission of KTH and also Sweden.
Our department is committed to the vision that all staff and students involved in teaching and learning at KTH shall have the most well developed, supportive, exciting, efficient and personally rewarding environment we can achieve with the knowledge and resources available.
We aim to develop and deliver world leading higher education and equip our students with the skills, knowledge and dispositions necessary to lead technological and societal development, and position Sweden at the forefront as a developed and educated nation.
Delivering both world leading research, and also putting that research to use in the context of KTH’s internal development in both digitalisation of education, and also new pedagogies and ways to educate students, is a considerable challenge. As a way to meet this challenge the departmental research and development activity is guided by three future scenarios (A to C) which we pursue in parallel. These scenarios evolve from a single question:
“Is it appropriate that graduates who will work in a society dominated by Industry 4.0 should be educated in Education 1.0?”
A. Education 1+ – work within existing frameworks exploring the use of new pedagogical approaches and digital tools to enhance the KTH teaching and learning environment.
Examples of this type of activity include developing digital solutions e.g. Canvas to LADOK grade transfer, producing digital resources (e.g. learning glass presentations) and digital resources for flipped classroom teaching, and enhancing classroom pedagogy through the courses, networks, and other collegial activities we offer in theory and practice of teaching in higher education.
B. Education 1.5 – work to establish new ways to offer courses and programmes, help to evolve our education to make it more agile and relevant, while maintaining quality. Examples of this type of activity include, evaluation of new ways to assess knowledge (e.g. the ongoing digital examination project), KTH’s MOOC development project, and several ERASMUS+ projects currently underway.
C. Education 2 – new models and means to collaborate with students and life-long learners to deliver high quality education in a digital resource rich environment where educational activity benefits from transformational forces such as AI, Machine Learning, Learning Analytics, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality. This type of research based exploration into new paradigms of education paves the way for experimental work and development that has the potential ro revolutionise education in a manner similar to that we observe in industrial and societal sectors.
One thing is certain however, the Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences cannot achieve its purpose in isolation. Collaboration and activities together with our colleagues and KTH leadership is the only way to make lasting enhancement to education and learning at KTH a reality. We are working to provide the knowledge and insight needed to transform our education, but we can only achieve anything real in collaboration with all the Schools of KTH and our colleagues in the disciplines where the teaching and learning challenges are an everyday reality. Finding better ways to collaborate and to make our expertise accessible to all of KTH is a central question, and one with which I expect to work intensively over the coming years.
We hope that many of you will work together with us in achieving the education of the future at KTH.
/Arnold Pears, Head of the Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences