DigiFlex - Digital Flexibilization Program for an Individualized Freshman Year
The increasing heterogeneity of first-year students poses great challenges for universities. As a result of the differentiation of university access routes, the spread of entry requirements in basic competency fields such as mathematics, language, key competencies and digital skills has increased to a critical extent. Particularly in the sensitive phase of the transition from school/training to university, many first-year students need customized support in order to acquire the technical and methodological ability to study and thus create the prerequisites for a successful academic path.
The mentioned bottleneck competencies are addressed with a university-wide, centrally anchored offering of digital flex modules. The modules are designed transdisciplinarily for all departments of the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences and can be used additively and concurrently with the original studies of the target group. Digital forms of teaching and learning take into account the individual time availability of the students. In addition, there is also the possibility of an extended study program variant that integrates the additional DigiFlex modules regularly into the curriculum of the specialized study program. For this purpose, six-semester Bachelor's programs (180 CP) can be stretched to seven semesters, thus extending the initial study phase to three semesters. This approach has already been piloted at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences since the winter semester 2020/21 in three degree programs in a pure attendance variant.
DigiFlex - The product
Accompanying the first three semesters, DigiFlex modules are placed within the 7-semester study program variant or also additively to the 6-semester variant, thus supplementing the subject modules of an undergraduate study program. With the help of these additional offerings, students can close their knowledge gaps individually in the sense of a cafeteria plan and build up competencies that promote study success, including digital skills to a greater extent. The DigiFlex offering is supplemented by learning support, which is available to students during the semester in the form of personal contact persons within the DigiFlex modules. Among other things, it provides support in organizing studies and promotes the social embedding of students at the university. This also reduces the likelihood of students dropping out. The DigiFlex modules complement the effectiveness of face-to-face teaching through the blended learning format, allowing students to participate largely without time or location constraints and without conflicting with their special study.
The competencies acquired through DigiFlex serve to improve study skills, social integration, and ultimately increase student success. For the university, this can contribute to shorter study times and a higher graduation rate; for the teachers, it can contribute to a more homogeneous student body in terms of entry competencies.
The ifi takes over the accompanying evaluation of the DigiFlex modules by comparing the study success of participants and non-participants after each run of the offers. In addition to this data-based analysis, the student perspective is also taken into account by conducting interviews not just with professors but also with tutors. In this way, the need for consolidation within the DigiFlex offerings can be identified in order to further develop or finalize them for future runs. Finally, the project results will be transferred to the professional world and beyond via publications and lectures.