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RAT Challenge

In the Replacing Animal Testing Challenge, third-year bachelor and master students were made aware of the use of millions of animals for scientific purposes. In this CBL course of 7,5 ECTS, learners worked in multidisciplinary teams to tackle the questions:  

“Is the use of animals for our product and medical safety important or could we do without? If we stop animal testing today, what would the world look like?”

The Netherlands is making efforts to phase out the regulatory required animal testing, but vaccine batch control involving animal testing is still mandatory for certain vaccines. To phase out animal testing, animal-free methods must be developed. What have we learned from situations such as the covid pandemic? What are the obstacles? What are the opportunities? How should industry, research institutions and control authorities collaborate to accelerate the introduction of animal-free methods? 

In this course learners were required to develop improved healthcare and food safety testing research methods. Working as a team, the learners had to identify how our world would look if lab animals were no longer used. 

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course learners were expected to be able to: 

  1. Analyse the context of a real-life problem and distinguish the most relevant elements for designing a solution.
  2. Assess opportunities offered by the existing state-of-the-art technologies, methods and solutions and identify areas for innovation relevant to solving a real-life challenge.
  3. Gathering, selecting and analysing information, tools and techniques and integrating this into final project deliverables in terms of process and content at an academic level.
  4. Discuss and defend their viewpoints and conclusions in a professional and academically correct way.
  5. Set and reflect on personal learning goals based on their expertise and that of other members and stakeholder, in a cyclic manner leading to future reflections and actions.

Learning journey

Learners worked with a non-academic challenge agent (Proefdiervrij), the first important stakeholder. The course schedule was not set in stone, as the learners had responsibility for their learning journey. In the first 5 to 8 weeks, foundational training was offered and organised by the course coordinators. Still, the learners were responsible for exploring the knowledge domains and expertise within the team and defining their knowledge gaps. They had to involve stakeholders and include different ways of knowing (academic and non-academic), perceptions and experiences to develop a viable solution. To help the learners get started, several tools and workshops were offered. For example, the learning kicked-off with an interdisciplinarity workshop event, and the learners, from the start, were supported by a coach. Throughout the weeks, expert sessions and workshops were scheduled, primarily until week 8, when the emphasis turned more to group work. 

The table below summarises the general idea and structure of this course.


The final assessment was divided into a number of group and individual deliverables

  • The group deliverables (proof of concept and advisory report) were reviewed per team, accounting for 70% of the final grade
    • Proof of concept
      The aim of a proof of concept is to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed solution. A proof of concept should be a visual demonstration of the idea. Appropriate means should be used that prove to the challenge agent the feasibility, scalability and practical potential of the concept. It could be a physical prototype, simulation, video, PowerPoints, movie, model, etc.
    • Advisory report
      The advisory report should document the research process and results, and contain a detailed description of the solution, its properties and implementation plan. This report is a product that the assessors can use to determine whether the suggested solution is innovative, feasible, viable, and desirable to the user. The report should be c. 10 A4 pages and required to address essential points and contain specific elements. Learners should bear in mind that there is specific information that the challenge agent expects to see in the report. This includes a problem definition, target group, existing solutions or technologies that would be an opportunity, argumentation for the chosen solution, the potential or further development of the current solution, financial analysis, SWOT analysis, an implementation plan, involved parties, proof of concept description and validation process. 
  • For the individual assessment (30% of the final assessment) the learners set their own learning goals, with support from a coach. They chose what evidence they assemble to support their progress, and when to have feedback moments. During the course, time was allocated for 4 times 30 minutes individual feedback sessions with the coach. These sessions focused on supporting and guiding the learners throughout their learning process. The first session was about defining the learning goals. The following two were for feedback and update; the last session was a checkout point. Every learner created an online portfolio, where they collected written (peer)feedback and add personal reflections. These reflections also served as input for coaching meetings. The coach moderated the reflection cycle to ensure students experienced growth based on new insights from their reflections. During these meetings, the learner took the lead in discussing the topic. The coach provided feedback, entering into a discussion and exploration of the follow-up actions needed for the learner to meet their final learning goal(s).  

General information and contact details of this CBL course can be found on the EWUU website.