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Prizes for outstanding teaching ideas

University of Freiburg bestows the first Freiburg-Penn State Virtual Classroom Award and other prizes

Freiburg, Jul 16, 2020

Prizes for outstanding teaching ideas

Anke Weidlich and Alexandra-Maria Klein (from left) received the Freiburg-Penn State Virtual Classroom Award. Photos: Jörg Blum

The University of Freiburg has presented the Freiburg-Penn State Virtual Classroom Award for the first time. In the context of the digitization of teaching, the award honors innovative courses that were jointly designed by lecturers from the University of Freiburg and Penn State University, USA, for students of both universities. The sponsored teams will each receive 10,000 euros at the University of Freiburg and 12,000 US dollars at Penn State University to implement their projects. The projects are:

  • “Bringing International Experts in Pest and Pollinator Management to the Classroom,” Professor Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein, Institute for Geo- and Environmental Sciences, and Professor Dr. Andrew Straw, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, and Professor Christina Grozinger and Assistant Research Professor Natalie Boyle, Penn State University: Biodiversity and the number of insects is declining worldwide - a finding that has triggered public discussions about the consequences for life on earth. There is a widespread consensus that this decline is man-made, and due to issues such as more intensive agriculture and the fragmentation of insect habitats. In an online course, students from the University of Freiburg and Penn State University will deal with approaches and methods that will make it possible to reconcile sustainable food production with the conservation of biodiversity. The spectrum of topics ranges from bioinformatics, molecular biology and remote sensing to machine learning.


  • “Solar Energy Integration and Economics,” Professor Dr. Anke Weidlich, Institute of Sustainable Technical Systems (INATECH) at the University of Freiburg, and Assistant Teaching Professor Mark Fedkin, Penn State University: Experts assume that solar energy will make the largest contribution to the global supply of electricity in the coming decades. One of the biggest challenges is to integrate the energy generated by photovoltaics into the power grid - because solar energy production is subject to strong fluctuations and the capacity of the grid is limited. In the online course “Solar Energy Integration and Economics,” students from the University of Freiburg and Penn State University will deal with the technical and economic aspects of integrating renewable energies into modern power grids.


The representatives of the committee disbursing the “student suggestion budget” (SVB) paid symbolic tribute to three of the overall 17 projects in the “Innovative Studies” competition. The competition is meant to create university-wide incentives for innovation and improvement in studies and teaching. For 2020 a total of 385,000 euros is being made available via the SVB. Project funding is given at the suggestion of University of Freiburg students. The award-winning projects are:

  • Cinzano theater seminar, Natalja Althauser, Slavisches Seminar: Lyudmila Petruševskaja is one of the great contemporary female narrators who have made a name for themselves as playwrights and writers in Russia and beyond. Her plays characterize the absurdity of life, both on a large and on a small scale, by everyday failure and the difficulty of interpersonal communication. In a practical theater seminar, students developed all the aspects necessary for a successful production on stage: From text analysis and acting to stage and prop construction, they brought the drama 'Cinzano', which was published in Moscow in 1973, onto the stage.


  • “Development of the Günterstal Arboretum as a learning location for self-guided excursions,” Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bauhus and Dr. Winfried Meier, Institute of Forest Sciences: The aim of the project is to develop the Günterstal Arboretum into a learning location where students - individually or in small groups - can improve their knowledge of the forms and species of woody plants. The arboretum in the municipal forest of Günterstal contains more than 1,300 different plant species from five continents in a small area, all close to Freiburg. The project is planned in three steps: A research assistant will first design learning units, students will prepare the relevant information for an arboretum website. Then, an app will be developed with which this information can also be called up in the arboretum itself via QR codes at the various locations.


  • “Diversity & Arts Education. Teacher training between lecture hall, sports hall, school and theater,” Christina Plötze and Prof. Dr. Petra GießStüber, Institute for Sport and Sports Science: The aim of the project is to provide students of teacher training with professional learning and teaching opportunities to promote tolerance, the acceptance of diversity and cultural education. In a community dance project, students develop dancing and didactic skills in the context of cultural education; reflect on their own experiences and apply their findings directly in teaching exercises. The project thus combines academic themes, didactics, dance practice, experience in teaching in institutions relevant to the profession, and research practice. The course concludes with a performance of the choreographies which the students developed with children and young people.


 The University of Freiburg also handed out accolades for four outstanding concepts for creative higher education teaching in the form of the Instructional Development Award (IDA).

  • “DoppelfOERderung: Learning by teaching with tools,” Professor Albert Gollhofer and Dr. Flavio Bessi, Institute of Sport and Sports Science


  • “Law and Digitization: Coding for lawyers,” Professor Boris P. Paal, Institute of Media and Information Law


  • “Chemistry bootcamp,” Professor Birgit Esser, Institute of Organic Chemistry, Professor Eckhard Bartsch, Institute of Physical Chemistry, and Dr. Janina Kirsch, Faculty of Biology


  • “Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Freiburg,” Professor Thorsten Schmidt and assistant professor Dr. Philipp Harms, Institute of Mathematics, and Professor Frank Hutter, Institute of Informatics


Press release on the Instructional Development Awards


Prof. Dr. Juliane Besters-Dilger
Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs.
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-6971


Press photos for download
Photo: Jörg Blum


Videos of the award ceremony (German only)

Freiburg-Penn State Virtual Classroom Award


Innovatives Studium


Instructional Development Award