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B³ - Bildung Beyond Boundaries 2020

Radical Ideas in Higher Education Challenge

Europe’s universities have always pursued either Wilhelm von Humboldt’s science-oriented ideal of the university or the more academic ideal of the British model, following John Henry Newman's ideas. The emergence of a new and rapidly expanding “world-class university model” focused solely on scientific excellence has caused a process of “disenchantment” (Antonio Loprieno) with such classical educational concepts (Bildungsidealen). The implications for teaching and learning are rather unclear, and this rapidly evolving era of ubiquitous digital technology only multiplies the complex questions facing university educators. Only one thing is certain, that the answers to such questions are as manifold as the university landscape itself.

To take this heterogeneity into account, and to foster a culture of evidence-based teaching and learning innovations, Jacobs University and Jacobs Foundation has established the Symposium ‘B3 - Bildung Beyond Boundaries’.

The symposium is accompanied by the ‘Innovative Ideas in Higher Education Challenge’, which actively supports the transformation of Humboldt and Newman in the digital era, generously funded by the Jacobs Foundation.

As Simon Sommer, Co-CEO of Jacobs Foundation stated, this Challenge format targets beyond merely developing new ideas for teaching and learning, it aims to integrate the testing and its experimental evaluation.   

Click here for an interview with Simon Sommer, Head of Research at Jacobs Foundation.
Source: Till Rückwart, Hochschulforum Digitalisierung


Call for Proposals 2020

2nd Innovative Ideas in Higher Education Challenge

The ‘Innovative Ideas in Higher Education Challenge’ initiative established by Jacobs University Bremen and the Jacobs Foundation aims to foster collaboration between cross-disciplinary researchers in seeding innovation or even disruptions in higher education, in particular in academic learning.

Jacobs Foundation is generously funding the ‘2nd Innovative Ideas in Higher Education Challenge’ with a total amount of 800,000 CHF (750,000 EUR).

While the call for proposals is open to all current and prospective Instructors of Record at Jacobs University, the involvement of external expertise is an advantage and is particularly welcomed.
Applicants should integrate one of the following four well-established, student-centered teaching methods into their proposals:

  • Project-based learning,
  • Team-based learning,
  • Problem-based learning, or
  • Phenomenon-based learning.

These pedagogies shall serve as the starting point for new teaching approaches, applied to Jacobs University’s curriculum, and integrated into credit-bearing modules.  

Strong emphasis is given to an evidence-based application design, which distinguishes this approach from other innovation projects in learning and teaching. Such translational research may comprise psychological, physiological, pedagogical or technological interventions before or after, and in an online or offline course. However, the call is open to all disciplines.

Jacobs University will accompany the application phase with a series of expert sessions introducing each of the four teaching approaches. Potential applicants are, in particular, invited to participate and get updated on student-centered teaching and learning methods. More information in due course.


General information

  • Submission: Applications should be sent to b3 [at] until  July 15th  2020
  • Timeline: Project starts in Fall 2020 with a duration of 18 months
  • Scope: Project scope should be between 50.000 EUR and 200.000 EUR – including 10% overhead.  
  • Eligibility: Scholars with existing or future teaching obligations (Instructors of Record) at Jacobs University. The involvement of external expertise is an advantage and is particularly welcomed.
  • Setting: credit-bearing modules in Jacobs University’s curriculum. The project should be agreed with the responsible Study Program Chair(s) and, if it requires any changes to a program or module, approved by the responsible Dean in advance.   
  • Methodology: Project should be integrated into one of four student-centered teaching pedagogies:  Project-based learning, Team-based learning, Problem-based learning, Phenomenon-based learning.
  • Design: The project should have an evidence-based application design.
  • Decision: A jury will evaluate full proposals and nominate projects for funding. The final funding decision will be made on August 15th and will be announced at the beginning of the Fall Semester 2020.

Guiding Principles & Submission

We welcome short proposals no longer than four pages – excluding references and project budget calculation – for either of the following three types of projects, all to be implemented and tested at Jacobs University:

  1. Evaluations of interventions/programs/technologies
  2. Add-ons to existing interventions/programs/technologies, wherein applicants seek to enhance an existing program
  3. Smaller “proof-of-concept” projects

Project results will be presented to the campus community and the public during the next Symposium “B³ - Bildung Beyond Boundaries”.

Further information:
Download PDF Call for Proposals
Please send your proposal to: b3 [at]
For further questions, please contact Pablo Zerm at: b3 [at]


Background Information

The European University Association (EUA) observes a new momentum in the transition from teaching to learning, also referred to as student-centered learning.
This paradigm shift “stipulates that education provision and all its aspects are defined by the intended learning outcomes and most suitable learning process, instead of the student’s learning being determined by the education provided” (EUA Report 2019).
In this context, the students’ role in creating the learning process distinguishes between teacher-centered and student-centered learning approaches.

I.    Column: Project-based learning (PrBL)
The PrBL approach enables students to actively explore real-world problems. In a curriculum built around project work, faculty guides rather than directs students; ultimately, they take responsibility for their own learning by tackling tangible problems.
Jacobs University’s UG curriculum aims with its Community Impact Project (CIP) to actively engage with the University’s “Third Mission” or “Capacity Building. This mandatory module provides an ideal space for student-centered research projects, based on PrBL approaches.

II.    Column: Team-based learning (TBL)
TBL is a collaborative learning and teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, best described as a version of flipped classroom approaches. It is a structured form of small-group learning that emphasizes student preparation out of class and application of knowledge in class. Students are organized strategically into diverse teams of around 5-7 students that work together throughout the class.
Team-based learning was coined by Larry Michaelsen in the 1970s at the University of Oklahoma and is widely used, in particular in Anglo-Saxon medical education. The TBL pedagogy is mainly fostered by the organization: “Team-Based Learning Collaborative”.
Four principles of Team-Based Learning (Michaelsen & Richards 2005) are:

  1. Groups should be properly formed (e.g. intellectual talent should be equally distributed among the groups). These teams are fixed for the whole course.
  2. Students are accountable for their pre-learning and for working in teams.
  3. Team assignments must promote both learning and team development.
  4. Students must receive frequent and immediate feedback.

III.    Column: Problem-based learning (PBL)
PBL’s influence can be traced back to McMaster University’s Medical School in the 1960s.
Maastricht University has adopted PBL as the core of its teaching pedagogy ever since the university was founded. UM students team up with ten to fifteen fellows to tackle real-life challenges and actively engage with the subject matter, under the supervision of a tutor.
Cornell University describes PBL as an instructional method of hands-on, active learning centered on the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems. Rather than teaching relevant material and subsequently having students apply the knowledge to solve problems, the problem is presented first.

IV.    Column: Phenomenon-based learning (PhBL)
PhBL (or PhenoBL) was implemented in Finland’s education systems in 2016. It has its origins in constructivist learning theories.
Phenomenon-based learning is a multidisciplinary instructional pedagogy, where students study a topic or concept in a holistic instead of in a subject-based approach.
The challenge of PhBL is that no specific subject is taught, nor is there any preset learning objective. Learning goals are created during the learning process, learners investigate and solve their own questions by applying what subjects are relevant to the problem.


•    EUA Report 2019:
•    Wright, G. B. (2011). Student-centered learning in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Postsecondary Education, 23(1), 92-97
•    Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.