The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Scaffolding International Interdisciplinary Innovation Challenges in Higher Education

Patricia Arnold, Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (Germany)

Audrey Stolze, Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (Germany)

Gudrun Socher, Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (Germany)

Nicole Brandstetter, Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (Germany)

Anke Vankempen, Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (Germany)


Higher education institutes (HEI) are confronted with requirements for change. Enabling graduates to acquire knowledge in a discipline, and prepare for fixed professions, following well-defined curricula in study programs is not enough anymore. Higher education graduates need to be enabled to acquire future skills, i.e. to be able to tackle ill-defined problems, to collaborate internationally, and in inter-disciplinary teams, and to create innovative solutions in a responsible way for society [1]. Against this backdrop, we present a case study of an entirely innovative learning offer that provided undergraduate students with an authentic action-based learning setting. Students (n=41) from eight different countries and different disciplinary backgrounds formed virtual, international, inter-disciplinary teams and tackled real-life innovation challenges, proposed to them by non-profit organizations or public bodies. The innovations challenges targeted solutions by digital technologies and were meant to add value to the organizations which proposed them, and ultimately to society. With this learning offer, the HEI fulfilled its third mission, and piloted a novel learning experience for its students, enabling them to acquire future skills for dealing with fuzzy boundaries, uncertainty, and open innovation processes. Such a learning setting is highly demanding on bachelor students and often in contrast to their previous study experiences. Thus, support and guidance for students are very important. Therefore, in our case study we focus on the methods applied to guide and coach the students when going through the collaborative innovation process in a virtual international team, as well as the challenges that arose. We unpack the intricate mechanisms at play acquiring future skills in such an action-learning setting, and analyze the role different support measures like coaching sessions, reflection stimuli etc. have for facilitating students’ development as “reflective practitioners” [2] and acquiring an entrepreneurial mindset [3]. For our investigation, we include the perspectives of all stakeholders involved (students, educators, external process coaches, challenge giver public or non-for-profit organizations) and use data from evaluations surveys as well as document analysis, e.g. reflective exercises.  Results show that such novel learning designs enable students to acquire the intended future skills. They also show that scaffolding students’ learning in such a novel setting is highly important and discuss different options available.

Keywords: Innovation challenges, action-based learning, future skills, reflective practitioner.


  1. Ehlers, Ulf. -D., Kellermann, Sarah A. (2019): Future Skills - The Future of Learning and Higher Education. Results of the International Future Skills Delphi Survey. Karlsruhe
  2. Schön, D. A. (1987).Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. Jossey-Bass
  3. Baron, R.A. and Henry, R.A. (2010) How entrepreneurs acquire the capacity to excel: insight from research on expert performance.,Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal,Vol.4No.1,pp. 49-65.

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