Tracks – learning and teaching environment

Tracks courses to develop cross-disciplinary competences

Tracks is one of the biggest investments in education in the 190-year history of Chalmers. The purpose is to create and test a new educational model where the structure of the education is developed to:

  • Allow students to create cross-disciplinary competencies,
  • Meet the students' expectations and need for a more individualized study plan
  • Shorten the lead times for changing the education offer
The new educational model is based on the creation of Tracks with different current themes between existing educations. As part of Tracks, there will also be a major investment in Chalmers' learning environment.

Give students the right tools to address complex societal challenges 

Through an analysis of our society, the following three trends have been identified, which primarily affect Chalmers' role in the society and thus the expectations that exist for our education and of our students:

  • Complex societal challenges with greater demands on competence for work over disciplinary boundaries 
  • Changed expectations among and of the students, including lifelong learning
  • The ever-shorter lead times for (digital) technology development
Studies within engineering- and architecture have historically been organized by discipline: mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, etc. Deep knowledge in these subjects is necessary for qualitative engineering work, but engineers also need to develop knowledge and skills in teamwork, ethics, communication, entrepreneurship, so-called "professional skills", without compromising the deep subject knowledge. As a student, achieving these two goals at the same time requires new ways of learning that combine in-depth study with the development of professional skills (Crawley, 2014). Also, there are now expectations that engineers will address complex societal challenges and problems, including both social and technical aspects (UN, Sustainable Development Goals, 2018; NAE, Grand Challenges, 2008, The Mazzucato report, 2018).

Today, Chalmers’ educational model is designed as a programme leading to a professional or general degree. The degree objectives are in line with national educational objectives.  Each programme has its own programme plan and they are grouped through quality assurance processes in which examinations take place according to the rule of law. Today's programme design allows some limited individualization for the student. The introduction of a new course element, from idea to full impact, takes up to two years. To be able to offer the students an up-to-date and relevant education, the way to develop the education also needs to be adapted.

Content

Tracks consist mainly of two parts: learning and learning environment.

Learning

The idea of the project is to create individual, personal and flexible study opportunities by introducing Track-courses to Chalmers students. These courses are optional and address specific challenges. They lie "between" the programmes, where the student will meet students from other programmes and prepare to solve the complex problems of the future. The students will work together, often but not only in projects, and have different educational backgrounds. The courses will be open to many educational programmes at Chalmers to create a mix of students with different backgrounds. The students may also have varied experience from working in projects. Students will be able to join Tracks courses from year 2-5 and the idea is that there is at least one course per study year available within each theme. If a student chooses to take one Tracks course per year within one theme they will follow an optional “Track”. This is one possibility but it will also be possible to study only one course or combine Tracks courses from different themes.

Learning Environment

Tracks also include a large investment in Chalmers' learning environment. To meet the needs of the Tracks courses, Chalmers shall create a prominent and flexible learning environment in which you can form project spaces both physically and digitally through a high degree of interaction with industry representatives, users and internships in the community. A modern work environment is also needed, for example with computer resources for machine learning and artificial intelligence, AI. Other examples are lab and hybrid virtual-physical environments where students can model, build, test and evaluate prototypes, as well as open creative areas for group work and informal spaces for meetings etcetera. 

Student information
On the 6th of October at 12.00-13.00 Tracks will be introduced for all students interested. The link to the event can be found in the Canvas room called Tracks for students. 

Themes

Tracks have five themes in parallel. The intention is that a theme within Tracks is broad and includes a large variety of different projects/courses on basic or advanced levels. 
 
Both themes and projects/courses will be finalised and new ones will be added continuously. Each theme will, however, be kept for a minimum of about three years. The decision on which themes will be included in Tracks is based on, for example, how relevant they are, that they are broad enough to include students from many educational programmes and that there are researchers and teachers who work and research within the subject/field. The purpose of Tracks is also to create possibilities for projects/courses that do not fit within the existing education. The projects/courses should approach new and cross-disciplinary societal- and research challenges.   

The themes for the round of 20/21 are Emerging technologies - from science to innovation, Sustainable transport, Health and sports technology, Sustainable cities, and Sustainable production. Under these themes are a number of Tracks courses. 
Picture showing current themes


Emerging technologies – from science to innovation

Emerging Technologies is an exciting theme, including technologies that are under development and whose practical applications still are largely unrealised. Examples of such technologies are AI, Quantum Material and Quantum Technology, nanostructures and graphene. The link to graphene is natural because Chalmers University of Technology is the host of The Graphene Flagship – a Future and Emerging Technology Flagship by the European Commission. 
The demand for knowledge about Quantum technology is high and the subject provides an interesting advantage to several courses at Chalmers. 
AI is today very important, and the society demands both general and in-depth knowledge of AI. AI is in different ways related to all educational programs at Chalmers and the former AI theme within Tracks is now included in this new theme.

Sustainable transport

A highly relevant field in the transformation into a more sustainable society. Chalmers has a range of successful research within this field and most educational programmes are relevant in these projects. 

Health and sports technology

This is a field where Chalmers has successful research and interesting connections to the society, connections that may be available for more students. To combine health and sport with technology is highly relevant, and may be combined with many educational programmes at Chalmers. The theme is also logical as Chalmers is a National sports university (Riksidrottsuniversitet).

Sustainable Cities

A theme that can include everything from issues regarding water and electricity to recycling and housebuilding. Cities face several challenges linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where Chalmers can offer an interdisciplinary study and research environment. It is possible to use Chalmers campus as a test arena for various projects and solutions within this theme.

Sustainable production

The theme includes both sustainable production and sustainable products. As part of the restructuring of the industry, students in several different areas must develop professional skills that can help the progress of different sustainable production solutions.

At Chalmers there are also opportunities to create educational elements regarding sustainable products by combining technical solutions with environmental analysis and in that way learn how to develop new products and services.

Contact

Articles about Tracks on Chalmers website

Article about Music Engineering ​(April 2020)


References

Crawley, E. F., Malmqvist, J. Östlund, S., Brodeur, D. R. (2014) Rethinking Engineering Education - The CDIO Approach, 2nd edition. ISBN/ISSN: 978-3-319-05560-2. Springer-Verlag, New York.
NAE, National Academy of Engineering. (2008) 14 grand challenges for engineering, visited 2018-04-05.
Mazzucato, M. (2018) Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation in the European Union. A problem-solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth  https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/mazzucato_report_2018.pdf
United Nations. (FN) (2018) Sustainable Development Goals – 17 Goals to Transform Our World, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment​,​ visited 2018-04-05.
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Published: Mon 23 Nov 2020.