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(Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital)
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Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital
Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital
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André Baier
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Winter Semester 2020/21
Winter Semester 2020/21

Aktuelle Version vom 27. Januar 2021, 10:30 Uhr

Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital


The semester projects includes the following points: 1) semester project/building block - 2) topic and group identification - third session - schedule - 3) dress rehearsals and premieres of the building blocks - 4) documentation of the building blocks - 5) peer-to-peer feedback - 6) evaluation of the semester projects - 7) submission - building block - digital

Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital
Semester projects - finding, conducting, documenting topics - digital
Introduction, getting to know each other, responsibility of engineers
Perspective-Taking, anticipation, Gaining Interdisciplinary Knowledge, Dealing with Incompleteness and Overcomplexity, Cooperation, Coping with Dilemmas of Decision-Making, Participation, Motivation, Reflecting Principles, Acting Morally, Acting Independently, Supporting Others
Forms of Learning
creative, cooperative
individual/small group work
Group Size
Material and Space
very good - basic building block in Berlin
Winter Semester 2020/21


The semester projects in digital includes the following points:

  • Semester project/building block
  • Identification of topics and groups - third session - schedule
  • Dress rehearsals and premieres of the building blocks
  • Documentation of the building blocks
  • Peer-to-peer feedback
  • Evaluation of the semester projects
  • Template - Building Block - Digital

1 - Semester Project/Building Block


The information on the semester project is taken up in the first four sessions again and again. All information for the participants regarding the semester projects is provided in a central place.

In the first session of the seminar, the facilitators explain in a short info block what semester projects and building blocks are and what they include and comprise.

At the beginning of the section on topic and group identification in the third session, the facilitators explain what makes a good building block. Using the building blocks that have already been carried out, 100 factors, plastics and technology assessment, the facilitators give examples of the respective quality criteria.

Information for participants

What is the digital semester project? What does it contain and comprise?

The semester project is worked on in a small group of 2 to 4 people. The semester project includes the following steps

  • Development of a new building block (learning/teaching unit)
  • Documentation of the building block - methods and schedule are documented according to a template
  • Dress rehearsal of the building block - first presentation of your building block with comprehensive peer-to-peer feedback
  • Incorporation of feedback, revision of the building block and documentation
  • Premiere of the building block - second execution
  • Submission of documentation- final version

What is a building block? What does it contain and comprise? Building blocks are teaching/learning units on specific, complex topics. In these building blocks, the teaching/learning process is shifted to the participants as far as possible. The facilitators of the building block are not experts who simply impart knowledge. Instead, the facilitators are those who design a teaching/learning process.

Your building block should include the following elements

  • Moderated presence time - 30 min
  • Preparation and/or follow-up in our Blue Engineering forum - 30 min

Criteria for a good building block The following quality characteristics serve as a first orientation for the development of a building block. Not every good building block necessarily includes all features, since some features are in a conflict with each other or cannot all be considered equally due to time constraints.

  • Content - Topics of social-ecological transformation - Scientifically based contents that demonstrate a social-ecological transformation of society.
  • Student-driven - The learning process as well as the teaching process are largely transferred to the participants, who work out a larger complex through several work steps in a self-determined way.
  • Teaching/learning levels - Roughly speaking, four levels are distinguished - 1) Remembering/understanding - 2) Applying - 3) Analysing/evaluating - 4) Creating/designing- A building block should be on average at levels 3) and 4)
  • Variety of methods - Different methods are used within one building block and two building blocks do not use the same basic procedure.
  • Reflection - The participants reflect alone or together in the group on the contents/methods/values conveyed.
  • Change of perspective - A topic is developed in a complex and differentiated way, so that different perspectives are revealed.
  • Social Dimensions - The social dimension of a topic is considered, for example by raising the following questions: Who has power? Who is affected? Who can contribute and how?
  • Competence to act - Individual and social scope for action with regard to the topic is identified, discussed and tested.
  • Transfer - References, similarities and differences to other topics are revealed and topics with a different perspective are opened up.
  • Democratization - The participants are involved all the time and work together on the contents of the course. They participate, cooperate, make decisions with each other and help shape the building block.

2 - Topic/group identification - schedule - third session

Brief description - Finding topics/ groups

In the first session of a semester, the participants reflect on the topics that are currently on their minds. They choose a topic and present it briefly in a small group. In the follow-up to the first session, the participants post a photo of themselves in connection with their topic in a forum and explain it in a few sentences.

The participants who would like to work on a certain topic as a semester project post suggestions for content and methods in a forum in preparation for the third session. During the third session, they present their proposal in an elevator speech. Afterwards, all participants come together in a market of possibilities and form the small groups for the semester projects. The participants finish the session independently in their small groups and enter the topic and the corresponding group members in a forum.

Preparation/follow-up - third session

Preparation for the facilitators

The facilitators provide the information "Criteria for a good building block?".

The facilitators create two forums to find topics and groups:

The "Pitches" serves as a first collection of ideas for the semester projects. The task for the participants is: In preparation for finding topics and groups, you can post your idea for a building block here. Then others can see if there are already topics that interest them. Write one sentence each about the content and the method. We call this a pitch. In the next session, you can present your idea as an elevator speech in 45 seconds in front of all participants of the course. After the elevator pitches, the topics and groups are formed. Only topics that you present can become a semester project.

The "semester projects" forum is used by the groups that have found each other during the session to present their topic and their group members. This gives the facilitators and other participants an overview of which topics are being worked on. The task for the forum is: In this forum, one person from each group enters the defined topic and the rough methodical implementation as well as the corresponding group members (first and last name) for the semester projects.

Preparation for the participants

The participants who would like to work on a certain topic with others as a semester project write a contribution in the forum "Pitches". They describe the content and method of their idea for a semester project in a few sentences. They create a link for a video conference and post it in their forum post. They prepare a 45-second elevator speech on their topic in the large group to publicise their topic.

All participants look at the proposals in the "Pitches" forum until the start of the session.


The groups that have formed during the session write a post in the "Semester project" forum in which they briefly name their topic and the members.

Participants who do not yet have a group inform themselves about the "Semester project" forum and contact the existing groups. They can find out about other topics via the "Pitches" forum.

The facilitators have an overview of how many groups are present and which topics are being worked on through the "Semester project" forum. Schedule - topic/group identification

Minute 00 - What makes a good building block?


The facilitators briefly describe the quality features for building blocks and explain the respective points.

Using the building blocks carried out in the first and second session, 100 factors, plastic and technique assessment, the facilitators give examples of the respective quality criteria. The facilitators show the template for documenting the building blocks and explain how to use it.

The facilitators particularly emphasise the quality feature of teaching/learning level stages, as the participants often start from "classical" teaching courses and develop their building block accordingly only at "Level 1 - Remember" at most at "Level 2 - Apply. The aim of the Blue Engineering building block, however, is for the participants to reach "Level 3 - Analyse" and "Level 4 - Design in the building block.


What is the Semester Project?

  • All important information can be found in the general information category

Criteria for a building block

  • Themes of social-ecological transformation
  • Student-driven
  • Teaching/learning levels
  • Variety of methods
  • Reflection
  • Change of perspective
  • Intersectionality
  • Competence to act
  • Transfer
  • Democratisation

Schedule for the Semester Projects

  • Groups will be assigned a letter (A, B or C)
  • All A groups will present in one session, all B groups will present in the next session, …
  • 19/10/20 - The Productivity Worldview
  • 26/10/20 - Responsibility and Codes
  • 02/11/20 - A - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 09/11/20 - B - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 16/11/20 - C - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 23/11/20 - Building Block by tutors
  • 30/11/20 - A - Premiere of the building block
  • 07/12/20 - B - Premiere of the building block
  • 14/12/20 - C - Premiere of the building block
  • 22/12/20 - Final Session
  • 04/01/21 - Final submission of the documentation

Minute 05 - Elevator Speeches


The facilitators explain how the elevator speeches work in the large group. If a participant wants to present their topic, they raise their hands digitally via the video conference. The facilitators give the floor one by one to the participants who come forward.

The facilitators use a stopwatch and hold the display up to the camera so that the speakers can keep track of the time.

The duration of this element depends very much on how many elevator speeches are given. For example, 100 participants in the seminar and about 20 elevator speeches were given. All in all it takes 15 minutes for 45-second elevator speeches.


Elevator Pitches

  • If you want to pitch a topic and find group members, …
    • give a zoom hand signal
    • wait for your turn
    • pitch your topic for a semester project (45 seconds)
  • If you do not want to suggest an own topic, …
    • switch on the speaker view
    • listen carefully to the ones who pitch a topic
    • note down topics you find interesting

Minute 15 - Market of possibilities


It is up to the participants to find topics and groups on their own. If necessary, they split large groups and divide topic areas into different sub-topics. The facilitators point out that the participants act on their own responsibility to find a topic and a group.

The participants who have proposed a semester project have posted a link to a video conference in the "Pitches" forum. They do not have to offer a video conference for their topic. Other participants interested in the topic then have to post a link.

All participants take part in a market of possibilities and can freely switch between the individual video conferences

The participants end the session independently in the respective groups. A group member briefly describes the topic in the "Semester Projects" forum and lists the individual group members.

The facilitator remains in the main session during the Market of Possibilities and is available for questions and assistance in finding topics/groups.


'Finding Groups

  • If you have pitched a topic and want to find group members, …
    • create an own video conference (Zoom, Jitsi, etc.) without password!
    • post the link as an reply to your own pitch in the forum
    • maybe moderate the group finding process in your meeting
  • If you want to choose a topic and find a group, …
    • click on the meeting-link below a topic you were interested
    • maybe have a look at different topics that interest you
    • exchange ideas on the topic during the video conference
    • decide on a topic and find your group
  • If you found your group, …
    • poste your topic and group members (2 to 4) in the forum in the topic Topics and Groups

Note: If there are more than 4 people wanting to deal with the same topic, split into two groups and deal with different aspects of the topic.

Links - Video Conference Tools -insert link -

Notes and comments

From the authors

The topic and group identification can be combined with a variation of the building block "25 Questions by Max Frisch" and/or the building block "Technology Assessment" as a 30-minute variation.

  • 00 - Welcome
  • 05 - Technology assessment
  • 60 - Market of topics and finding groups
  • open end

Further notes

Still to come.

3 - Dress rehearsal and premiere of the building blocks - procedure

General procedure

Each group carries out its building block once as a dress rehearsal, then works in the peer-to-peer feedback and carries it out again with other participants. The first draft of the building block documentation is submitted on the day of the dress rehearsal and used for peer-to-peer feedback. The final documentation is submitted at the end of the semester.

The facilitator distributes the semester projects evenly among the dates and makes sure that there are enough participants per semester project. The participants choose in a survey in preparation for the sessions which building blocks they would like to participate in. Through a limited survey, the participants are evenly distributed among the building blocks that take place at the same time. The participants choose different building blocks for the premières than for the dress rehearsals.

To prepare for the building blocks, the facilitators of the building blocks/semester projects provide the participants with the materials in advance.

The participants give peer-to-peer feedback as a follow-up to the building block.

Exemplary procedure at the TU Berlin - winter semester 2020/21

100 participants in 30 groups result in an average of 3 groups. The 30 groups will be divided into A, B and C. For the different groups, this results in different dates for the dress rehearsal, drafting of the documentation and premiere of the building block. On each date, 10 groups will present. To ensure that the ratio of facilitators to students is appropriate, each building block lasts 30 minutes and two building blocks are carried out one after the other on each date. This means that on the A date, 5 groups present simultaneously in the first time slot (A.1 groups) and 5 groups present simultaneously in the second time slot (A.2 groups).

In each time slot there are therefore 15 facilitators and 85 participants, i.e. 3 facilitators and approx. 17 participants in each building block.

  • 02/11/20 - A - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 09/11/20 - B - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 16/11/20 - C - Dress rehearsal and first draft of the documentation
  • 23/11/20 - Building Block by tutors
  • 30/11/20 - A - Premiere of the building block
  • 07/12/20 - B - Premiere of the building block
  • 14/12/20 - C - Premiere of the building block
  • 22/12/20 - Final Session
  • 04/01/21 - Final submission of the documentation

The division can be scaled in all directions. With 30 participants in 10 groups, there will be an average of 3 groups. This means that if two groups present with 3 facilitators at the same time, there will be 12 participants for each group. With two time windows on one presentation date, 5 dates are needed for the dress rehearsals and 5 dates for the premieres. If there are three time windows, only two times 3 appointments are needed. If there are 30 participants in 15 groups and 3 groups in each of the three time slots, two times 2 appointments are sufficient.

Sequence of a session with two time periods for building blocks

  • 00. minute - Start together with all participants in a video conference.
  • 15th minute - building block in A/B/C.1 groups in separate videoconferences
  • 45th minute - time for change and feedback notes
  • 60th minute - Building block in A/B/C.2 groups in separate videoconferences
  • 90th minute - Conclusion in the A/B/C.2 groups

Participant Course Learning Platform

The facilitators set up an independent course on a learning platform for the semester projects and turn all participants into trainers. The facilitators create a separate topic section for each group. The facilitators can use the possibilities of the learning platform and, for example, make the materials for the preparation and follow-up of their building block available to all other participants. The participants also upload the links for the video conferences and the documentation in their topic section.

In the upper section of the course, the facilitators set up the survey for participation in the building blocks.

Information for participants

Preparation and Follow-up when participating in a building block

Each participant works on the following points in preparation/follow-up for participation in a building block: Select the building blocks in which you will participate in the voting on the learning platform.

  • Prepare for the building blocks in which you will participate (see Participant Course). Read on your own what the facilitator expects from you.
  • Give feedback to the groups whose building blocks you have participated in based on their documentation. For this purpose, you will find feedback with the hypothesis tool and instructions in the participants' course under each topic.
  • Do the follow up on the building blocks participated in and reflect on the session in the learning journal.

Preparation for the conduction of a building block

  • Each group works on the following points in preparation for the conduction of their building block:
  • Upload the preparation for your building block to the participants' course on the learning platform in your topic section up to four days before the conduction of your building block.
  • Upload your first draft of the documentation in the participant course on the learning platform in your topic section as a PDF until one day before the dress rehearsal of your building block.
  • Create a link to a videoconference for the conduction of your building block and post it in the participants' course on the learning platform in your topic section.

4 - Documentation of the building blocks


In the first third of the seminar, the facilitators carry out existing building blocks that are documented. In each session, s_he refers to the respective documentation, which can be used as an orientation by the participants. The facilitators upload the documentation for orientation and the template to a central place. In the third session, the facilitators present the template for documenting the building blocks and explain how to use it.

The documentation of the building blocks is done in three steps and always using the template:

  • On the date of the dress rehearsal, the facilitators (members of the semester project group) submit a first draft of the documentation by uploading the document as a PDF file to the participants' course on the learning platform in their topic section.
  • After the dress rehearsal, the facilitators incorporate the peer-to-peer feedback into the building block and the documentation.
  • After the premiere of the building block, the facilitators incorporate the findings of the premiere, complete the final documentation and hand it in.

Template for the Documentation of Building Blocks

Aim of the documentation of building blocks

A person who has not participated in the building block must be able to facilitate it after a simple training period in a way that the creators of the building block intended.

Note on using the template

Document your building blocks according to this template. Use the documentation of the plastics building block as an orientation in terms of content and scope. Delete all information that is not necessary, especially the instructions for filling in the separate sections. Please do not change the layout, especially the format for the headings etc.

Explanation of the individual chapters

The documentation of a building block consists of the following chapters

  • Infobox - all essential information at a glance
  • Preparation/follow-up - overview of what preparation/follow-up is necessary by the moderator/participants
  • Schedule - minute-by-minute work steps - each divided into notes to the facilitator and slides to show to the participants with concrete work instructions
  • Notes and remarks - general notes and remarks or background information, motivation, outlook etc.
  • References - commented list of sources
  • Participants’ preparation - Materials and instructions - All materials necessary for the preparation of the participants, including all quizzes etc.
  • Presence time - Materials - All materials necessary during the presence phase and not included in the slides, e.g. longer texts read individually (don’t overload your building block with materials in the presence phase!)
  • Participants’ Follow-up - Follow-up e-learning, further texts etc.

Template - Building Block - Digital


As precise as possible and at the same time catchy - Not just "Plastics", but "Bisphenol A - ban or permit?”


A short description of about 150-250 words in total. Three sections:

Learning Outcome

General description of the problem/aim of the building block - if possible using the terminology of tools, but without direct reference to tools


short summary of the concrete content/topic


short summary of the methods used and the steps/different actions taken by the participants to work on the content and achieve the learning outcome.


One sentence (max.) that reflects the topic better than the title, or if the title is informative enough , it can simply be repeated.

Lesson Type

Analog / Digital - currently only digital


short, expressive words describing the topic


Selection of competences participants can acquire in your building block

  • Perspective-Taking - to gather knowledge in a spirit of openness to the world, integrating new perspectives
  • Anticipation - to think and act in a forward-looking manner
  • Gaining Interdisciplinary Knowledge - to acquire knowledge and to act in an interdisciplinary manner
  • Dealing with Incompleteness and Overcomplexity - to deal with incomplete and overly complex information
  • Cooperation - to co-operate in decision-making processes
  • Coping with Dilemmas of Decision-Making - to cope with individual dilemmatic situation of decision-making
  • Participation - to participate in collective decision-making processes
  • Motivation - to motivate oneself as well as others to become active
  • Reflecting Principles - to reflect upon one’s own principles and those of others
  • Acting Morally - to refer to the idea of equity in decision-making and planning actions with the look on TINS-D
  • Acting Independently - to plan and act autonomously
  • Supporting Others - to show empathy for and solidarity with the disadvantaged


Reference to the Blue Engineering tools used in the building block

Modes of learning

Select up to two modes of learning that are mainly used

  • creative' - stimulating creativity, demanding self-action, offering possible results, artistic interests
  • cooperative' - cooperating , communicating, strengthening group feeling
  • fact-oriented' - communicating facts and values, analyzing problems, finding technical solutions
  • system-oriented - applying rules and procedures, following proven paths, going ahead systematically


Brief description of the teaching/learning methods used

Group size

What is the typical group size? How many people should or can participate in your building block?


How much time is needed to realize the building block, a note where to shorten or extend the building block if necessary


  • What material is needed for the realization? Which material is provided by the module?
  • Preparation and Follow-Up
  • Facilitators’ Preparation
  • What specific preparations (besides reading conscientiously) are necessary for the facilitators to prepare the building block? What content needs to be updated? Which slides?

Preparation and Follow-Up

Participants’ Preparation

What preparation is necessary for the participants?

Participants’ Follow-Up

What follow-up is necessary for the participants?


Minute 00 - Section One


  • There are two subheaded blocks per section:
  • Notes - Only for the facilitators, short explanation of the work steps, specific preparation that the facilitators take over, background information etc.
  • Slides - Description to explaining the tasks to show the participants, short presentations, etc.


As small steps as possible

  • Start a separate section for each of the participants' work steps
  • Give information about the time for each work step
  • Do not put too much in one section

Simple Language

  • use short sentences
  • as simple sentences as possible: subject - predicate - object
  • Avoid duplication - name one information in one place

Task for facilitators / participants

  • Clearness in tasks for facilitators OR participants
  • all persons who perform the building block are facilitators
  • the participants are the ones participating in the building block

Describe main actions in headlines

  • primarily describe the tasks for the facilitators or the participants
  • keep further explanations to a minimum

Indicative - Present - Active

  • Describe individual actions in the indicative
  • Indicative: The participants form groups of 5
    • do not use an imperative: The participants should form groups of 5
    • do not use a subjunctive: Participants could form groups of 5
  • Use the simple present as a tense
    • Present: The participants form groups of 5. Then they discuss.
    • No future: The participants form groups of 5, after which they will discuss.
  • Ase "active" language - no "passive" language
    • Active: The participants form groups of 5
    • do not use passive: Participants will be divided into groups of 5.

Final discussion / Tools / Transfer

  • Discussions - clearly identify the goal of the discussion, offer guiding questions
  • Tools - use at least one existing Blue Engineering tool or invent a new tool
  • Transfer - provide instructions on how to transfer the contents of your block to other areas / problems / circumstances / personal life / ...

Minute 15 - Section Two


Create as many time frames/sections as you need to structure your building block. Give further notes to the facilitators.


  • Further explanations for the participants
  • Further explanations etc.

Notes and Remarks

Authors’ Note

First assessment of the building block. What are the aspects facilitators should pay particular attention to? How can the building block be extended?

Further Notes

  • Still to come.



Short description of the source - author and title - if necessary classification of the source - then the source



Participants’ Preparation


Short overview of texts, e-learning and materials for the preparation of the participants. If possible, use headings to structure clearly and concisely.


Work instructions and materials for the preparation of the participants, ready to upload to the learning platform (e.g. forum).

Presence time - Materials


Materials that are necessary during the presence time in the video session and are not in the slides, e.g. longer texts that need to be read individually. If possible, use headings to highlight the structure.

Use those materials not at all or as few as possible. Always look for possibilities to give the participants the chance to interact during the presence time.

Participants’ Follow-Up


For example, further texts and materials. If possible, use headings to structure clearly and concisely.


Work instructions and materials for the follow-up of the participants, ready to upload to the learning platform (e.g. forum).