Due to the COVID -19 crisis, educators are confronted with the problem that the way teaching can be offered often changes within days or weeks. The pace of these changes hampers a structured approach, rather it is necessary to change the format of education immediately based on the current state restrictions. In order to meet this demand, educators, who in most cases are already working to full capacity, must keep pace with these rapid changes, while at the same time addressing the challenges of a fully virtual education. This is a particular challenge for educators who have no experience with digital technologies. In the absence of generally accepted guidelines on how to digitize the different types of lectures in the face of the current situation of an ongoing (health) crisis, educators must rely on their own knowledge and skills rather than on scientifically based and proven approaches.

The main objective of the project is to develop a framework, a knowledge hub and practice-oriented crisis-resistant guidelines that provide the educational tools and methods as well as the expertise and experience necessary for the rapid adaptation and digitisation of lectures in case of a crisis. The framework defines various “crisis scenarios” that allow past, present and future crises to be identified and categorized and their impact on education and training to be determined. In addition, a distinction is made between lecture types such as oral presentations or individual exercises. These crisis scenarios and lecture types comprise a matrix, whereby the framework suggests favourable tools and methods in each case. The Knowledge Hub takes the form of an interactive website, which enables educators to search for and exchange expertise and experiences related to a crisis-resistant education and training. The practice-oriented crisis-resistant guidelines contain detailed descriptions of how to implement the most favourable educational tools and methods, thus providing educators with a clear and structured way to adapt their own courses to the given circumstances.

The project focuses on “product design” courses for two reasons. Firstly, the variety of activities and tasks in product development leads to the use of a variety of lecture types. Secondly, the transition to digitized education and training has been slow, despite great progress in the digitisation of products and the product design process itself. Therefore, design courses offer an ideal candidate for the validation of the proposed crisis-resistant tools and methods.

This project requires that all participating partners have a deep understanding of educational systems and methodologies, that they use such tools and approaches on a daily basis and that they have used them long before the crisis. The four partners TUW, UL-FME, UNIZAG-FSB and POLIMI have a long tradition of working together on different educational projects and of working with innovative ICT tools. Previously, UL-FME and UNIZAG-FSB worked together on EGPR and NARIP. Currently TUW, UL-FME and UNIZAG-FSB are finalizing the Erasmus+ CASPROD. Finally, all four partners are currently working together in the Erasmus+ project ELPID, in which an e-learning platform is being set up to meet the demanding needs of project-based design courses.

The expected impact of the project, its activities and its results varies according to the actors involved. The main target group are lecturers in mechanical engineering and engineering design in higher education. The framework developed will enable them to assess different educational tools and methods and to choose the most appropriate approach for their own courses. In addition, the knowledge hub enables the easy exchange of expertise and experience related to crisis-resistant education and training. Finally, the practice-oriented crisis-resistant guidelines help educators to respond to rapid changes and adapt their courses accordingly. In addition, the educators participating in O2 have the opportunity to use modern technologies and to make their courses crisis-resistant under the direct guidance of the project partners. Another important target group are students of mechanical engineering and engineering design students in higher education. Thanks to the outputs, the students do not have to interrupt their education in case of a crisis. Instead, they benefit from the immediate implementation of modern educational tools and methods. Furthermore, students participating in O2 have the opportunity to work on innovative projects in the field of engineering design and gain experience in collaboration and teamwork in a virtual environment using state-of-the-art ICT tools. Finally, all educators and students outside of the product design domain will also benefit from the project, as it will bring different insights to educators who teach students mature enough to participate in a digital learning environment.