As education becomes more global and virtual, Penn State and Freiburg universities start a pilot virtual classroom project.
In late 2019, the University of Freiburg and Penn State signed an agreement in Living Materials; this agreement led to the establishment of the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems (LiMC2) at Penn State and the Cluster of Excellence for Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) at Freiburg. The virtual classroom award is also born because of this partnership.
After a highly competitive selection process for the virtual classroom awards, two projects were selected. The first one focuses on declines in insect biodiversity and abundance, while the second focuses on implications, challenges, and solutions for integrating renewable energy systems into the grid – where the Solar Energy Engineering department comes into the picture.
The virtual classroom program aims to create collaborative, integrated virtual courses in these selected topics. Teams are working on the implementation of the ideas since early 2021. The projects connect students from U.S. and Germany by bringing them together in these virtual classrooms in a creative and collaborative environment.
This course is integrated into two online master’s programs, namely, Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems at the Penn State and Solar Energy Engineering program at Freiburg universities. The course is co-taught by faculty members from both institutions. Prof. Dr. Anke Weidlich is the instructor from Freiburg, and Assistant Teaching Professor Mark Fedkinis from Penn State.
The course aims to explore integrating solar energy into the grid system with its technical and economic aspects. According to the University of Freiburg’s press release, “this idea is built uponthe leading position of the University of Freiburg in solar and grid technologies and renowned expertise of Penn State in energy and grid economics”. So, an ideal combination of topics and instructors will tackle this issue in the weekly classes between May and August 2021 – with a total of 12 sessions.
According to the Penn State News page, Mark Fedkins says, “We are very excited tosee how the student collaboration will occur across the two universities. While working with our Freiburg colleagues on this project, we realized that our approaches to online teaching are quite different, so we built on our strengths to develop a synergy that will hopefully lead to a richer learning experience for everyone involved”.
We are looking forward to seeing the fruits oft his exciting international collaboration; the modern and urgent problems we are dealing with can only be solved thanks to a global effort.
Sources: Penn State University https://news.psu.edu/story/657187/2021/05/03/academics/penn-state-university-freiburg-partner-form-virtual-classroom
University of Freiburg https://www.international.uni-freiburg.de/en/news-events/virtual-classroom-award