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Die Universität der Informationsgesellschaft

I-WIRE: Internationalization Through Web-based Interactive Robotics Education

Project Background

The project I-WIRE focuses on the development of an interactive web-based e-learning platform in English language. This platform facilitates professional preparation and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer in the field of robotics. The platform is available worldwide for the public interested in the field of robotics and facilitates internationalization of the STEM fields (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The web-based e-learning platform includes trend-setting modules for the internationalization of degree programs from the STEM fields. By applying a blended learning scenario imparting mathematical and technical competencies, in this case exemplary for robotics courses, individualized learning opportunities are provided for German and international students based on digital formats.

The STEM fields represent a critical factor of national innovative capacity and facilitate opportunities for social advancement. Also the University of Paderborn emphasizes the importance of the STEM fields by it's motto "The University of the Information Society". Therefore, in order to attract international students, the Faculty of Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Mathematics of the University of Paderborn offers three master's programs in English language by now. According to the German Academic Exchange Service, the majority of the international students prefers to work in Germany after finishing their studies.

Nonetheless, a shortage of specialists threatens as a result of demographic change. The high amount of students breaking off their studies greatly contributes to this challenge. Regarding national engineering degree programs, dropout rates are already high for German students and partially even higher for international students. The high dropout rates among international students emphasize that German universities are not yet effective enough addressing international student's heterogeneous prerequisites and the resulting integration problems. An internal study for the University of Paderborn shows that international students are dissatisfied with supporting courses and professional advice.

The experience at GET Lab is in line with these results: Significantly different learning cultures are an important reason for poor student success and high dropout rates. International students are frequently unfamiliar with the local teaching and learning culture to which they often cannot accommodate without further support. As a result of different international standards and final degrees, entrance to German master's programs is particularly difficult for international students since presupposed mathematical knowledge is frequently missing. Furthermore, there is a lack of communication between German and international students which additionally complicates integration of international students at German universities.

Objectives of the Project

Digital educational and informational formats play an increasingly important role for engineering education. Nowadays almost any university offers e-learning programs such as virtual laboratories. Another trend are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with worldwide open access. Nonetheless, such approaches focus on the provision of learning contents and on improving their mediation only. The difficulties of international students with the local teaching and learning culture are typically not addressed.

This is where the project I-WIRE comes in: Building on existing and already completed teaching interventions [1] and integrated into the international master's programs Electrical Systems Engineering (MS ESE) and Computer Engineering at the University of Paderborn, an innovative instrument for study preparation and for addressing subject specific challenges is being developed. The interventions are being developed exemplary for the robotics courses held by GET Lab. A blended learning scenario is used to combine theory and practice. In the face-to-face courses, the e-learning platform is used to impart mathematical and subject specific competencies. By means of explaining articles, quiz-like exercises for self-diagnosis and interactive multimedia applications, different subject areas are covered and learned with regard to individual prerequisites. Additionally, the e-learning platform attracts students worldwide to the field of robotics and related degree programs at the University of Paderborn, thereby supporting internationalization and international exchange of knowledge. The e-learning platform is being developed in cooperation with international partners. Furthermore, the platform is being enhanced by an online-assessment. The project I-WIRE is embedded into further interventions by the University of Paderborn for improving its degree programs for international students.


1. Hennig, M., Mertsching, B., & Hilkenmeier, F. (2015). Situated Mathematics Teaching Within Electrical Engineering Courses. European Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 40, No. 6., pp. 683-701. Available online.


We gratefully acknowledge partial funding of this work by the Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft, Daimler-Fonds and Daimler und Benz Stiftung within the initiative MINTernational Digital.


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