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Universities in Dortmund, Wuppertal and Aachen Develop Virtual “Semester Zero”

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Two students sitting at a table with books and laptops in the library © Nikolas Golsch​/​TU Dortmund
To study successfully, sound school knowledge is required – ensuring this is the objective of the beVinuS.NRW collaborative project.

TU Dortmund University, the University of Wuppertal and RWTH Aachen University want to make it easier for students to refresh essential school knowledge in an individual and independent way. In a collaborative project, the three universities will develop a reference process for a “Parallel Virtual Semester Zero at Universities in NRW (beVinuS.NRW)”, which aims to enhance study success and prevent students from dropping out. The Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia will fund the project for three years from October 2022 onwards with around €3.5 million. Other universities in NRW should also profit from the results.

Knowledge levels among young people starting university often vary – for example due to different educational biographies or pathways into higher education or because of a break between school and university. To study successfully, however, sound school knowledge is an essential prerequisite. This is where the beVinuS.NRW project comes in: The three participating universities will together develop a program of digitally supported, self-study phases that enable students to close knowledge gaps in parallel to their studies and refresh the skills required for the respective degree program – at precisely the moment when they need their school knowledge for their studies.

Although universities already offer a wide spectrum of support services for new students, including preliminary courses, for example, the contents are covered in a very short space of time before the start of the lecture period and not tailored to individual requirements. In addition, participation is usually fixed to a specific time and place. beVinuS.NRW counters these disadvantages: Students can make use of the digital self-study courses flexibly in terms of time and location and repeat precisely those topics where they still have gaps. In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the participating universities are striving to develop a reform model so that participation in such supplementary courses can also be funded via the Federal Training Assistance Act. The aim is for the courses to be credited as additional academic achievements and, if they are on an appropriate scale, to lengthen the standard period of study eligible for funding. The program to be developed is understood as a supplement in support of supervision formats that already address students individually, such as mentoring, work in small groups or workshops; it is not intended to replace them.

“Important contribution to more educational equity”

The project lies directly with the university management at the participating universities. Professor Wiebke Möhring, Vice President Academic Affairs at TU Dortmund University, is pleased about the project funding from the state: “We have observed for some time that our students partly have very different levels of prior knowledge from school. With beVinuS.NRW, we are therefore also making an important contribution to more educational equity because successful studies should not depend on the educational path and the point in time at which students came to the university.”

Up until September 2025, the three universities will develop concepts in the area of subject and media didactics for diagnosing as well as refreshing and expanding prior school knowledge as needed. On this basis, the universities will systematically make instruments available to students with which they can test themselves, along with options for digital self-study in all the courses of their degree program where prior school knowledge is required. Initially, the mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering departments as well as the Center for Research on Education and School Development (IFS) at TU Dortmund University will be involved. To study how the structure and content of beVinuS.NRW needs to be designed in order to give participants a concrete advantage, TU Dortmund University will additionally accompany the project from the perspective of learning and motivation science.

After the end of the project, the documented reference process will be made available to other universities in NRW. These can then draw on the previous experience of the University of Wuppertal, RWTH Aachen University and TU Dortmund University when introducing their own “Parallel Virtual Semester Zero”.


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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Campus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Campus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Campus to South Campus by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Campus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund University has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dortmund Airport (DTM) to Dortmund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dortmund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on North Campus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Campus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Campus and offers a direct connection to South Campus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dortmund University (Second Page in English).