PBL South Asia: Students’ First Pilot Case Study Conducted at Dhungentar, Nuwakot, Nepal

February 26, 2019

Aalto Global Impact (AGI) of Aalto University, Finland, is the lead partner of a recently launched project “Strengthening Problem Based Learning in South Asian Universities”. After the kick-off workshop of the project held from Feb. 04 to 08, 2019 in Aalto University, the next event of the project was organized in Nepal from February 18 to March 01, 2019. The event in Nepal included students’ first pilot case study at Dhungentar, Nuwakot, bilateral meetings of the partner Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Nepal with Aalto project coordination team, faculty workshop in Kathmandu University, and project dissemination event in Hotel Greenwich Village in Lalitpur organized by Sagarmatha Engineering College.

A multidisciplinary team of seven graduate students (Arts, Business and Engineering fields) and two mentors from Aalto University and five undergraduate students (Engineering, Biotechnology & Hotel Management fields) and one mentor from Asian Institute of Technology & Management (AITM) was involved in the first pilot case study conducted at Dhungentar. The involved students in the pilot case were selected based on different criteria. Interest in the pilot case study, available time to get involve in the pilot case, communication skill and academic performance were some of the criteria utilized in selecting students from AITM. After the selection, the students in Aalto and AITM discussed on their interests, ideas and possible themes of their projects at Dhungentar several times both in group and individual levels through skype/zoom meetings. The students exchanged their cultural backgrounds, interests, background information of Dhungentar field as well as other personal information through the zoon/skype meetings before they met face to face later in Kathmandu. The mentors in Aalto and AITM guided the students whenever needed during and after the pilot case. “Social cohesion before and after the 2015-earthquake at Dhungentar” and “Entrepreneurship business potential of cement stabilized earth blocks (CSEB) by Dhungentar local residents” were the two themes chosen by the students for the pilot case study.
Dhungentar is a hillside settlement of about ninety-six households of poor and marginalized low-caste people located at about 50-km North-West of Kathmandu in Bidur Municipality of Nuwakot district, Nepal. Almost all the houses at Dhungentar were completely damaged by the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in association with National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), Nepal and support from International Development Research Center (IDRC) launched a project of constructing low-cost resilient houses for the Dhungentar residents from April 2016 to September 2018. A joint team of Aalto and AITM students had conducted a field research entitled “The Relation between Communication Practices and Knowledge Adoption of Sustainable Solutions in Nepal” at Dhungentar reconstruction site previously in March 2018. The Dhungentar field site was chosen for the “PBL South Asia: Students’ Pilot Case Study” also owing to the students’ interest in a reconstruction field site and their familiarity with the Dhungentar reconstruction site.

The Aalto PBL South Asia team together with Aalto students landed in Kathmandu on Feb. 17, 2019. Then the students and mentors of both Aalto and AITM met at AITM physically for the first time on Feb. 18, introduced to each other, discussed and worked together on their themes for the students’ first pilot case study at Dhungentar and finalized the contents. A half-day seminar was organized at AITM by the Aalto and AITM students on their pilot case study on Feb. 19 before going to the Dhungentar field. Participants from other Nepalese partner HEIs (Kathmandu University, Nepal Engineering College and Sagarmatha Engineering College) and Shakuntala Acharya from Indian Institute (IISc.), Banglore also attended the seminar. The students presented their cases (e.g., background information of the field site, their study themes, methodologies, plans and expected results) in the seminar, while the participants commented on their presentation.

Then the multidisciplinary team of twelve students, three mentors and Shakuntala Acharya as an observer travelled to Dhungentar on Feb. 20, 2019. The team stayed in the multi-purpose community center constructed at Dhungentar by the ICIMOD project from Feb. 20 to 26 and conducted their field works. The daily activities of the students and mentors included planning for the day’s activities in the morning, going to the fields and carrying out activities as planned in the day time, discuss on the day’s activities and summarize outcome of the day in the evening. The data were collected through structured questionnaires, interviews with community members and other stakeholders, focused group discussions, photography and videography. Total 37 interviews and 6 focused group discussions were conducted, and over 3,000 photographs and 3-hour long videos were shot during the students’ field work at Dhungentar.

The team travelled back to Kathmandu on Feb. 26, 2019. Then the students compiled, analyzed and interpreted the collected data on Feb. 27. The students presented the preliminary results of the field works in an information dissemination event at Hotel Greenwich Village, Lalitpur on Feb. 28 organized by Sagarmatha Engineering College. All the partner HEIs from Nepal and Bhutan attended the event in Greenwich Village. Participants from other academic institutions in Kathmandu were also invited in the dissemination event while Shakuntala Acharya was connected to the event through a video link.

Picture 1: Aalto and AITM students discussing on their themes for the students’ first pilot case at AITM on Feb. 18, 2019.

Picture 2: Ms. Riina Subra (Senior Manager, Aalto Global Impact) addressing the audience in the students’ pre-field visit presentation conducted in AITM seminar hall on Feb. 19, 2019.

Picture 3: A glimpse of the students’ pre-field visit presentation conducted in AITM seminar hall on Feb. 19, 2019.

Picture 4: Another glimpse of the students’ pre-field visit presentation conducted in AITM seminar hall on Feb. 19, 2019.

Picture 5: Students in group answering questions from the audience in the students’ pre-field visit presentation conducted in AITM seminar hall on Feb. 19, 2019.

Picture 6: A group photograph with the students participating in the students’ first pilot case after their pre-field visit presentation at AITM on Feb. 19, 2019.

Picture 7: Students and their mentors travelling in a bus from Kathmandu to Dhungentar on Feb. 20, 2019 for the students’ first pilot case.

Picture 8: A snapshot in front of the multi-purpose community center at Dhungentar.

Picture 9: A glimpse of a focused group discussion conducted by the students at Dhungentar, Nuwakot.

Picture 10: Another glimpse of group discussion with local residents of Dhungentar conducted by the students.

Picture 11: Students discussing their plans and activities for the day at their residence in multi-purpose community center, Dhungentar.

Picture 12: Another glimpse of the students discussing their plans and activities for the day at their residence in multi-purpose community center, Dhungentar.

Picture 13: A glimpse of students presenting preliminary results of their Dhungentar field work in the project dissemination event held in Hotel Greenwich Village, Lalitpur on Feb. 28, 2019.

Picture 14: A glimpse of the audience in the project dissemination event held in Hotel Greenwich Village, Lalitpur on Feb. 28, 2019.

Picture 15: The students answering questions from the audience after their presentation in the project dissemination event held in Hotel Greenwich Village, Lalitpur on Feb. 28, 2019.