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KTH tests ways to merge digital studies with physical presence

Teacher teaching in a classroom
KTH will broaden its recruitment through a new form of education. The idea is not for KTH teachers to go to learning centres to teach, but instead the courses are offered via Zoom. Photo: Fredrik Persson
Published Nov 01, 2023

How can KTH Royal Institute of Technology improve its country-wide recruitment? Can digital education still maintain a good social study environment? These are two questions KTH is trying to answer in a new pilot project with NITUS, a Swedish network of municipal learning centres.

"During the pandemic, we expanded our digital and hybrid course offerings. However, between the messages 'come to campus' or 'sit at home in front of your computer', we currently lack an offer to study at KTH digitally with practical moments and a good social study environment with collaboration between students, the cornerstones of learning at KTH. In the pilot, we are investigating the opportunities and structural challenges such a model entails for us," says Nicole Kringos , a professor at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment and leader of the new pilot project.

Portrait photo of Nicole Kringos
Nicole Kringos.

Three working groups

Several teachers from KTH are involved. They are divided into three working groups. One group focuses on offering digital KTH courses that use local infrastructures, another works with a digital foundation year programme at learning centres, and a third brings together students from different learning centres who follow a digital course.

According to Kringos, the project aims to identify the challenges of scaling up the initiative, creating a KTH affiliation and ensuring quality.

"There is a huge need for technical education programmes throughout the country, and many large facilities are being built that require competent technical staff. In the modern world we live in, as the leading technical university in Sweden, we should be able to offer high-level digital education programmes wherever needed in the country. Learning centres can be an important piece of the puzzle.”

Broaden recruitment

By enabling students to participate in education from anywhere in the country, the hope is to broaden recruitment to KTH without causing a brain drain to Stockholm.

What is a learning centre?

A Nitus Learning Centre is a municipal meeting place for students in post-secondary studies with access to appropriate technology (WiFi, computers, conference equipment), study places and to write exams according to the requirements of higher education institutions/education providers. A designated contact person exists for students, Nitus and higher education institutions/programme providers.

Read more about Nitus  (Only in Swedish)

“We know that KTH mostly attracts students from the local area, and usually from academic homes. But KTH's main criterion is quality, not geographical proximity or parents' level of education,” says Kringos.

How will this work in practice? According to Kringos, the idea is not for KTH teachers to go to learning centres to teach; the courses will be offered via Zoom. The students have local support from the learning centre staff and their practical elements at the local infrastructures. The idea is that this reduces the threshold between education and business while creating a very good recruitment base. This means students can stay in their home municipality but take KTH courses together with students on campus. Currently, as many as 20 municipalities want to participate in the pilot project.

“Amazing interest”

“When we went out to the municipalities, we had hoped to get three or four interested, so now we just need to ensure the pilot is not too big to handle. Nevertheless, it's amazing how much interest and enthusiasm there is.”

Kringos hopes KTH can find a well-functioning structural model that enriches the education offered today and adds a new dimension to how KTH views broadened recruitment and participation.

Those who want to learn more about the pilot project can take the opportunity to visit the NITUS annual conference held in Flemingsberg on 6-7 November.

“I hope that colleagues who are curious and want to learn about learning centres and the pilot will come and listen,” says Kringos.

Text: Jon Lindhe

The municipalities participating in the pilot project

Gällivare, Skellefteå, Örnsköldsvik, Åre, Östersund, Härnösand, Nordanstig, Hudiksvall, Bollnäs, Söderhamn, Ludvika, Hagfors, Norrtälje, Köping, Karlskoga, Nynäshamn, Nyköping, Oskarshamn, Värnamo and Varberg.