University of Bonn Successful in Quality Pact for Teaching Program

“Together for More Quality in Study and Teaching” Project

From 2011 to 2021, the University of Bonn initiated and established many projects and measures for improving study and teaching under its “Together for More Quality in Study and Teaching” initiative. This was made possible by funding provided by the German Ministry of Education and Research under the federal and state Quality Pact for Teaching Program (QPL). The University focused on the following funding lines and subprojects:

A key part of the project was establishing University-wide professional study management in the faculties. Full-time study managers are responsible for the administration, organization and especially ongoing improvements in study and teaching in their respective organizational units. They have responsibilities in many areas, including quality management, study and examination organization, information and advice and public relations. Generally the first point of contact for students and teachers, they provide advice on study and teaching-related matters. The goal is not just to provide efficient, professional support for degree programs, but also to lighten the load on existing personnel so they can once again focus on their research and teaching responsibilities. The study managers are assisted by mentors who can provide advice to students on questions and problems related to their studies.

During the project, substantial progress was achieved in satisfying the structural and operational requirements for sustainable quality management in study and teaching. Thanks to the funding, the Characteristics Data Portal and other survey tools finally allow access to a comprehensive database of qualitative and quantitative data that permits sophisticated analyses to be performed. The framework is provided by the Evaluation Policy (EvaLS) implemented in consultation with all of the faculties, specifying all the elements of quality assurance based on operational feedback and defining reporting channels. Implemented in 2014, the University of Bonn Characteristics Data Portal was designed by a cross-faculty developer group as a web-based, interactive platform. A key feature of the portal is that it can be used to visualize complex data sets. Analyses are immediately available locally and are ideal for rapid feedback cycles and, therefore, sustainable quality management. The University has made the software available free of charge to a network of other universities since 2017.

As part of the project, to satisfy the demanding requirements for study and teaching, programs for earning (further) qualifications were designed and conducted for specific target groups in the Bonn Center for Higher Education. For teachers, a portfolio of courses on topics related to university teaching was successively expanded after the start of funding, and opportunities were provided to take part in the “Professional Teaching Competence for the University” certificate program and earn an eTeaching certificate. For students, workshops on teaching methods are offered as needed and in close coordination with the departments to adequately prepare them for specific aspects of their tutoring or mentoring activities.

The funding allowed the eLearning services offered by the eCampus team to be systematically developed and expanded to provide extensive support for teachers and students, ranging from setting up eCampus courses, advice on matters related to teaching and making course content available, all the way to recording courses and final electronic examinations.

The University of Bonn offers a program of preliminary courses for different departments aimed at easing the transition from school to university for prospective students. Due to differences in the qualifications of students, they frequently experience difficulties and frustration during the initial stage of their studies. This negatively impacts their study performance and often leads to the chosen degree program not being completed during the standard period of study or even being abandoned. By ensuring that the desired academic performance standards are satisfied, preliminary courses provide an appropriate way for students to begin their studies as smoothly and successfully as possible. Preliminary courses also allow students to gain a first impression of university teaching and learning and campus life.

The “Accompanied Autonomous Foreign Language Learning” project is located at the Center for Language Learning at the University of Bonn, Section of Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism Studies. It offers a variety of forms of professional assistance that students can use to learn their desired target language or improve their language skills. Depending on their personal and media preferences, they can learn online or offline by taking digital courses, such as those offered through eCampus, or use the self-learning materials and workplaces available in the Media Library. Participating in workshops and making use of consultation hours are additional learning opportunities for students.

Since winter semester 2014/15, the Writing Lab in the Section of Intercultural Communication and Multilingualism Studies with the Center for Language Learning has been providing courses, workshops and tutorials to help students with writing during their studies. The range of assistance offered was further expanded during the project with interdisciplinary (peer-to-peer) writing counseling, many materials for self-learning and eLearning and the “Long Night of Writing” that was restarted with the USL. These have now been discontinued, as the funding provided for the Writing Lab under the Quality Pact for Teaching ended at the end of 2020 and the project is not being continued.

Help desks and tutorials were set up in many departments to provide assistance based on the individual needs of first-year students and bachelor’s students. Tutors provided individual and subject-related assistance for students, providing students with the opportunity to address obstacles to further study at an early stage, especially during the important initial period of their studies. If those responsible for modules identified courses or modules that had low success rates and/or significantly lengthened the standard period of study, tutors could be requested to reduce group sizes. Additional forms of assistance based on the level of learning were also available.

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