Column – So? What will Npuls deliver in the future?

Gerdinand, programme director of Npuls, shares in his summer column how Npuls, together with all vocational education training schools, universities of applied sciences, and research universities, is building world-class education.


02 July 2024 4 min

This question was recently posed to program director Gerdinand Bosch at a National Growth Fund meeting. To answer this question, he shares his thoughts and experiences in this column.

I had asked myself this question several times over the past few weeks. The answer, I noticed during my introductory meetings with colleagues within and outside Npuls, varied considerably depending on who I was speaking to. Which is not surprising for a program of this scale that is still taking shape.

One of the answers was something like: “We are developing a technology infrastructure for administratively barrier-free flexible studying.” Other answers emphasized our contribution to the digital transformation of institutions or the promotion of learning and innovation in this area through Centers for Teaching and Learning. Not to mention the enthusiastic visions and initial concrete results in the field of (open) educational resources, AI in education, an XR infrastructure, the future of EdTech, the facilitation of digital assessments, and the target architectures that coherently frame all these elements.

The formal ambition and the challenge of ‘everything’
And the formal ambition, how does it go again… roughly? “With Npuls, all vocational education training schools, universities of applied sciences, and research universities are building world-class education together, now and in the future. Together we learn and work on innovative, joint solutions. Here we use digitalization as a means and prioritize public values.”

Everything fits within that. But ‘everything’ is challengingly vast. ‘Everything’ can still be overseen within a program, but how about the institutions? Do they have and maintain the overview? Do the linking teams still know what is happening where? And can we not connect our work more clearly with the main tasks institutions are already working on? In those same introductory meetings, there were also numerous suggestions for this.

So, here is my first attempt, which I would like to further develop together over the coming period. If we all think this is a good idea, of course:

Potential and expertise of Npuls
Npuls has great potential, and much expertise has been brought together – talented people from the participating institutions. We also have resources available. This is pleasant in a time when shrinkage and cutbacks put pressure on the available resources for innovation. Educational institutions in all regions face major challenges. Think of training people for the energy transition and tackling staff shortages in sectors such as ICT, engineering, healthcare, and education. Keeping tertiary education accessible for everyone is also a challenge that institutions are dealing with, whether directly after high school or later in working life in the context of Lifelong Learning.

Societal challenges
In my view, the role of Npuls is to support tasks of societal importance in every region of the Netherlands with sustainable and scalable digital facilities. Think of places where internships are scarce, the simple combination of educational offerings from multiple educational institutions across vocational education training schools, universities of applied sciences, and research universities, and the responsible use of AI in all these developments.

For example, educational institutions in Groningen, Enschede, Delft, and Eindhoven are implementing initiatives under Project Beethoven. Npuls can deploy already developed elements from the program, but also co-create and scale new elements for use in these and other regions and educational institutions. This way, Npuls ensures that the facilities are eventually usable and scalable across the Netherlands and work well with other elements.

The same applies to the approved applications for the LLO Katalysator. Of course, this requires coordination and alignment of schedules. The timing will not be optimal everywhere. But if we do it smartly, the initiatives of Npuls can align with major tasks that educational institutions, often in collaboration with others, are already working on.

My wish is that through smart collaborations, innovation power, and inventiveness, Npuls will give a boost here. I look forward to taking the next step together with the institutions after the summer vacation, now that Npuls is just a year old.

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