Originally, Martin Kazík was interested in completing an ordinary exchange semester. His colleagues at the University of Tomas Bata in Zlin, a partner university of the St. Pölten UAS, recommended that he spend his semester abroad in St. Pölten. “In the beginning, I felt more drawn to Northern Europe but the St. Pölten UAS simply has a very good reputation at our university”, says the 23-year-old.
It was only during his personal interview that he learned about the iLab, an interdisciplinary elective module. The iLab was recently awarded the "Ars Docendi" state prize for Excellence in Teaching. The award honours outstanding teaching performances at Austrian universities thus emphasising the importance of teaching for the scientific system, the cooperation in tertiary education, and the associated quality development. The FH St. Pölten won in the category "Cooperative Forms of Teaching and Working.”
Real Solutions to Real Problems
With the “interdisciplinary Lab – iLab”, the St. Pölten UAS offers its students the possibility to intensively work on practice-oriented projects under real conditions in intercultural, cross-disciplinary and self-organised teams – from the idea all the way through to its actual implementation. “During the semester, project teams develop real solutions to real problems”, says Kazík.
With the aim of increasing mobility and boosting small companies in the region at the same time, Martin Kazík and his team developed an app which works with a reward system for exercise. “By strolling, jogging or cycling in and around St. Pölten, users can collect points which they can redeem in the form of discounts at shops which participate in the programme. This creates a win-win situation for individual persons and small businesses dependent on walk-in customers”, Kazík explains.
So-called “decision gates” ensure that only the most promising ideas make it to the next project phase and the project teams continue to intensively work on these very projects as the semester progresses. In this way, ideas can be developed and put into practice in several phases over the course of the semester.
In addition to the project objectives, personal development and the promotion of international exchange play an important role as well. Martin Kazík is enthusiastic about the diversity of the teams: “23 students from eight different nations and a dozen disciplines work together in the iLab. It is crucial to find a way to cultivate the strengths of the individual and work on weaknesses at the same time. Thanks to the close exchange, all team members were able to obtain personal skills such as presentation skills, foreign languages, communication and intercultural competence which will be of great use for them later.
Kazík emphasises that the unique learning environment and the interdisciplinary teamwork are what makes the iLab so appealing for him. “One semester at the iLab has taught me more than 100 hours of traditional lectures ever could”, he is convinced. The marketing student is planning to continue to work with the innovative teaching concept even after completing his semester at the iLab.
Spreading the Idea of the iLab
Martin Kazík is going to dedicate his graduation to the iLab. For his master thesis and possibly even beyond that, he is planning to delve into this teaching concept. “I want to deal with the iLab concept from an academic perspective and work out what could still be improved or adapted. It is an important goal of mine to be able to establish the iLab at a Czech university as well”, says Kazík.
More information can be found at: ilab.fhstp.ac.at