New project develops problem-based learning in East African Universities
Increasing collaboration across disciplines and enhancing structured multidisciplinarity are key to advancing problem-based learning (PBL) in East African Universities, according to partners of the PBL East Africa project steered by Aalto Global Impact.
The launch of the three-year PBL East Africa project brought partner universities together for a one week kick-off workshop held at Aalto University at the end of August. The project, funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, is a joint initiative of University of Nairobi (Kenya), Makerere University (Uganda), Dar es Salaam University (Tanzania), and Aalto University.
‘Problem-based learning and multidisciplinarity are present in our institutions, but what we are lacking is structured multidisciplinarity. Implementing PBL in a multidisciplinary way during this project will help us cut a pathway from teaching university to innovation university’, explains Dr. Tonny K. Omwansa, Director of University of Nairobi's Innovation and Incubation Hub C4DLab.
A key goal of the PBL East Africa project is to contribute to the development of sustainable innovation ecosystems by building the capacity of university students and faculty to respond to global challenges. Partners emphasize that in addition to developing multidisciplinary PBL courses and curricula in their universities, building regional networks to support PBL in innovation work is also crucial.
‘If we really want to make an impact at the country level, it is not enough to bring PBL to one institution. We need to reach a point where we become experts and we help others, in all levels of society, to integrate PBL,’ says Dr. Gladness Salema, Deputy Director of University of Dar es Salaam Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre.
Kick-off week included planning of joint courses
Delegations of about six people from each partner university took part in the kick-off week. The week included matching Aalto University courses with East African university partners. Course partners at Aalto include International Design Business Management, Creative Sustainability, Sustainable Global Technologies and Software and Service Engineering. The programme also encompassed expert presentations, team building and visits to Aalto University facilities.
‘Our visit to Design Factory was one of the week’s many highlights. The Design Factory has a very good working model and institutional structure that can prompt us to think how to organise our teaching and learning environment to match the PBL approach’, says Dr. Venny Nakazibwe, Deputy Principal of College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University.
Next Aalto University faculty will travel to the partnering universities to set up the joint courses. East African universities will select the challenges for some 20 Aalto students who will participate in the joint PBL courses to be held during the project.
‘The purpose of the kick-off week was to build a common understanding of the project, initiate the PBL East Africa network and set the planning of future activities on the right track’, says Riina Subra, Manager of PBL East Africa, Aalto Global Impact. ‘As a whole, the week exceeded these goals and the partners departed with clear next steps for launching the first PBL student challenges as early as November.’