A team of lecturers from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences’ Faculty of Technology, led by Youssef el Bouhassani, can call themselves the first winners of the Dutch Higher Education Premium. The lecturers received the prize for their work on LearnLevels, an app that aims to boost equal opportunity in education. The app focuses on helping first-year students to transition from their preparatory studies to higher professional education (HBO).
The awards are an initiative of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). AUAS lecturer Youssef El Bouhassani, one of the founders of LearnLevels, accepted the award from OCW Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven.
‘Very special!’ El Bouhassani was delighted to hear of his win. ‘This prize gives us unprecedented opportunities to increase our impact.’
AUAS Rector Geleyn Meijer also expressed his pride in the achievement of Faculty of Technology team. "Youssef and his colleagues prove that a lot is possible when you combine entrepreneurship in education, a big heart for your students and online resources. This prize is a fantastic example and inspiration for others."
In 2015, Youssef El Bouhassani and Jonas Voorzanger, a physics teacher at Het Amsterdams Lyceum, came up with the idea for LearnLevels. They developed an app that students can use to prepare for their final physics exam. The app is also very suitable for students at universities of applied sciences (HBO level) who want to brush up on their knowledge of a particular subject. With the help of artificial intelligence, each pupil or student receives a tailored learning route with explanatory videos and questions.
El Bouhassani and Voorzanger laid the foundation for the approach and together they developed the application, the teaching materials and the tools for teachers. At a later stage, AUAS lecturers Wilbert te Velde, Charaf Batou, Joppe Buntsma, professor Bert Bredeweg, supporting colleague Paul den Hertog and the Faculty of Technology’s Dean, Esther Ras, also contributed to the app’s implementation and evaluation.
"This tool aligns with our vision of learning. Specifically, one where young professionals at AUAS learn to think even more independently, until they exceed even our own expectations," says Ras in reflection on the importance of LearnLevels for students at the Faculty of Technology.
The creators of LearnLevels say that the success of this equal opportunity project would not have been possible without the help of many colleagues from both the AUAS and Het Amsterdams Lyceum. El Bouhassani: "I cannot stress enough how happy I am that everyone was so enthusiastic and wanted to help." Looking ahead, the team wants to focus on scaling up LearnLevels to cover more courses and programmes.
THE FIRST HIGHER EDUCATION AWARD
By winning the Dutch Higher Education Award, the team receives a sum of €1.2 million that can be invested to increase the impact of LearnLevels across the institution as a whole.
It is the first time that the OCW has presented this award, worth a total of €5 million: €2.5 million is available annually for higher professional education (universities of applied sciences) and € 2.5 million annually for scientific education (universities). The winning teams within each group receive one of three ‘premiums’− a first-place prize of €1.2 million, a second-place prize of €800,000 and a third-place prize of €500,000.
The Dutch Higher Education Award was created to enhance the appreciation, promotion and recognition of higher education projects that makes a significant or unique impact. The Dutch Higher Education Award explicitly acknowledges the value of higher education in the Netherlands, alongside existing Dutch awards such as the NWO-Spinoza Award, NWO-Stevin Award and the Delta Award for Applied Research.
This article was first published on 1 March by AUAS.