How do I solve paper without studying

Paperless - what does that mean?

The IAS Day of Teaching took place at the ZHAW in Wädenswil on January 10, 2017. The Institute for Applied Simulation (IAS) dedicated this year to the topic of paperless teaching. The title already makes it clear that this is primarily about the changes that take place in the classroom when students suddenly use notebooks and tablets instead of paper in class. What does this mean for the teachers and their lessons? Here is a review from my point of view as the project manager of the pilot project for paperless studies.

Andri Puorger from Microsoft Switzerland started the topic. Mr. Puorger showed how teachers and students can use digital technologies for teaching and learning. Of course, the focus was on Microsoft tools. Mr. Puorger shows some newer Microsoft tools such as Office Mix, an add-in for PowerPoint, with which you can create PowerPoint lessons including video. Then it went on with Office Forms for surveys and OneNote for Teachers, a plug-in for OneNote with which one could almost replace an LMS like Moodle - but only almost - for more complex requirements such as the connection to a school management system, the implementation of E-assessments and the question of data protection are likely to reach the limits of the solution.

Among other things, Mr. Puorger drew attention to the skills that students need for the workplace of the future. These include, for example, the ability to work in a team, social skills, creativity, but also so-called filter skills, systems thinking and the skills for lifelong learning. The focus was mostly on the digital skills of the students and the topic was taken up again and again over the course of the day. What competencies teachers need for paperless teaching, however, was only discussed marginally.

It continued with a look back at our previous experiences within the scope of the pilot project and the introduction of the regular paperless study at the ZHAW in Wädenswil. Prof. Dr. Jack Rohrer, lecturer at the Institute for Chemistry and Biotechnology and one of the pioneers of paperless studies, showed what has changed for him as a result of paperless studies. First and foremost, it was a relief for him as a lecturer because he no longer had to worry about printing out the documents. Didactic innovation, on the other hand, only takes place if the lecturer actively promotes this in his course and implements the use of digital media and technologies as cognitive tools in the learning scenarios.

This implementation of digital technologies as productive tools can be supported, for example, with the SAMR model. The model envisages that digital technologies can be used at different levels. For example, you can replace a medium like paper or even bring some functional improvements with you. In addition to this expansion of previous possibilities, digital technologies can also be used to change the way in which we interact with one another. At this level, digital technologies can be used to modify previous teaching and learning scenarios or even to redefine scenarios.

The previous evaluations at the ZHAW indicate that students use digital technologies primarily for replacing paper and for extended use with simple functional improvements such as search functions, zoom, dictionaries, etc. The modification or even redefinition of teaching and learning with the help of digital technologies, on the other hand, depends heavily on the learning scenarios used. Frontal teaching, for example, only benefits to a limited extent from digital aids; Although the students have a powerful, productive tool in their notebooks and tablets, they can only use it for taking notes and looking up information due to the teaching setting. This naturally raises the question of whether face-to-face teaching could not also be used for learning activities in which the students take on a more active part, as is the case with the flipped classroom, for example.

The bottom-up innovation at course level, which became visible in many presentations on IAS Day of Teaching, forms an important basis for the upcoming revision of the curricula. On the one hand, the university can fall back on a valuable pool of concrete application examples and on the other hand, thanks to the experience gained with paperless teaching, the teachers already recognize specific need for adjustment in their teaching concepts. One point was, for example, the full timetable, which in some cases hardly enables the students to prepare for a flipped classroom lesson in self-study, for example.

Angela Martucci Siefert used the bachelor's degree in environmental engineering to show how the Institute for Environment and Natural Resources is preparing for the challenge of teaching and learning in the digital age. The focus is on competence orientation and a transfer-oriented blended learning design with a preparation phase, presence phase and supported transfer phase.

The university also hopes that digitalization will result in more personalized teaching. However, this requires measures, such as the presented Universal Design for Learning. These recommendations are based on the idea that diversity is the rule, not the exception, among learners. The measures recommended therein can help to design curricula, courses and learning materials in such a way that they enable greater personalization of teaching.

Following the two lectures, there were some concrete examples from teachers at the ZHAW of how paperless lessons can be designed.

Dr. Andrea Baier showed that the elimination of paper can create more dynamic teaching. She values ​​the fact that digital documents and information are always available and that she can flexibly adapt the lessons to the needs of the students. However, this also means that your lessons depend on WiFi and technology. Using their example, it was easy to see how the use of digital media can be embedded in the context of a course depending on the situation. For example, the biotechnology students are now working with models from a 3D printer or creating simulations themselves. As a result, there is a transformation from paperless teaching to digitally supported teaching that goes much further than the mere replacement of paper.

Dr. Evelyn Wolfram was faced with a digital challenge when the students at the OpenBook exam suddenly wanted to use their digital documents. In the pilot class, the tablets for the OpenBook exam were switched to flight mode so that the students could use their digital documents locally during the exam. However, since the switch to bring your own device, this is no longer an option, as there are too many different devices in use and the classes are significantly larger. In the meantime, various pilot exams are running at the ZHAW with the Safe Exam Browser and virtual desktops in order to be able to carry out various exam scenarios electronically in the future. With her examples, Evelyn Wolfram also showed that lecturers do not always have to look for the solution in technology. Today she conducts her examination in quality management as an oral group examination and has thus found a way to authentically simulate a QM audit and that even better than an electronic examination could ever do.

The voices from the computer science class were rather critical. Claudia Schmucki and René Hauck discovered deficits in the digital skills of the students as part of their IT course. For example, only a few students regularly perform a backup and many students seem to be overwhelmed with the processing of digital documents. They called for the digital skills of students to be promoted more strongly. However, it remains unclear where and when this should happen, because they consider both the start week and the current IT lessons to be unsuitable. The Institute for Facility Management shows that there is another way, which has already included digital competencies in the curriculum of the Bachelor's degree and has now created space for the promotion of these competencies in IT lessons. It is clear that there is still a lot of coordination required as part of the paperless study. Although there is a concept for switching to paperless studies, the institutes have a lot of freedom in implementing it. As a rule, the changeover is discussed and planned in an internal exam, lecturers from the IAS and AWG are often not present, although they are also directly affected by the changeover in the degree programs.

Prof. Dr. Karin Kovar and Iwo Zamora showed how digital technologies can be used to simulate biological phenomena. The complex mathematical formulas come to life through simulations and analogies, and students who would otherwise have trouble inferring the behavior of certain organisms directly from the mathematical formula are given a different approach to matter. The example very nicely shows the previously mentioned potential of Universal Design for Learning, because with the diverse forms of representation and expressions that digital technologies enable, the different needs and abilities of the students can be better addressed.

In her second example, Karin Kovar discussed her New Business Opportunity (NBO) concept, which was awarded a teaching award, and possible further developments. She showed that students in their course are not only paperless, but also, above all, are flexible, interactive and self-determined. The aim is to prepare students for the demands of the market and to introduce them to the biotech community with the NBOs, among other things with a mentoring program during their studies.

Dr. Caroline Hyde-Simon pointed out the opportunities and difficulties for paperless English lessons. For example, she uses digital tools such as Quizlet or Padlet, as well as social media such as Pinterest and Facebook, so that students can collect and share subject-specific English articles or vocabulary. She also observed that several students were already writing on the digital documents by hand or with a pen. Writing by hand or with the keyboard was a topic in many of the lectures.

Beatrice Dätwyler also dealt with the topic as part of her writing advice and found that many students have trouble capturing the notes directly in the scientific articles. Often they take notes in another program on the side, which is less efficient for understanding the text. In her article she also cited numerous studies that deal with the question of whether one learns better with paper or digital media and advocates that students can choose whether they work and learn with digital documents or with paper. It seems important for the learning process that what is read or heard is reproduced in one's own words. The slower handwriting forces you to summarize what you hear in key words. However, this can also be done digitally if the students are aware of the importance of this learning technique.

Peter Marty wanted to offer the students more in his course than simply making digital documents available on Moodle and has started to create an integral digital learning environment based on Moodle, in which digital technologies to support teaching and learning processes are didactically meaningful, differentiated and can be used reflected.

Christoph Gütersloh, lecturer and consultant at the IAP, was more of an exotic among all the lecturers from Wädenswil that afternoon. However, his contribution on digital learning in continuing education at the Institute for Applied Psychology (IAP) showed the participants a few exciting new perspectives. While in university didactics the focus is heavily on the acquisition and transformation of knowledge, the IAP relies heavily on action orientation in terms of workplace learning, reflection and social learning in continuing education. For those taking part in further training, it is important to grow into a community in the course of their further training and to find new sources of inspiration and innovation.

In this task, digital tools for community building can be useful. For example, Christoph Gütersloh uses the Slack social network in his course and held a public expert conference on Blab (no longer available), in which external members from the community could also take part. The example of the expert conference shows how digital technologies can change the way we interact with one another. Communities are becoming more easily accessible digitally and students can, for example, use public social media tools such as Twitter for backchannel learning or carry out collective research tasks via Hootsuite and already get in touch with the community. The main challenge for Christoph Gütersloh is to keep such a learning community alive and to get the members to help each other.

This year's Teaching Day showed that paperless teaching can open the door to digitally supported teaching and that digital media and technologies can offer added value in teaching and learning, provided that the framework conditions and the teaching and learning scenarios allow this. But he also showed the numerous changes and challenges that digitization brings with it for students, teachers and the university and you could see that we were in the middle of a change. After all, we are already in the middle of this process and have a solid foundation of experience on which we can build.

Further information on the IAS Day of Teaching can be found at:

You can find the lectures at