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N. Rojo, G. Gallastegui, A. Elías, G. Ibarra, A. Barona

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
“You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb himself” (Andrew Carnegie). Motivation is probably the most important challenge that educators face in order to engage students in their learning process (up the ladder). Nevertheless, carefully designed courses and well-structured and balanced learning activities eventually encourage university students to become individually committed to their learning process. Those teaching activities focused on industrial-scale processes successfully motivate students, as they feel they are being trained for their professional future.

A combination of several teaching methodologies was selected for implementation at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU). The target subject was Biotechnology (6 ECTS), which is a compulsory, core discipline studied within the degree programme in Environmental Engineering.

Considering that the study of enzymes is gaining in importance worldwide due to their growing industrial applications, the topic “Enzymes: fundamentals, kinetics and industrial applications” was selected from the subject’s syllabus for the implementation of several teaching resources.

Thus, four methodological approaches were used to enhance student learning and comprehension of the topic.
1. Proactive lectures. The fundamentals of enzymes and enzymatic kinetics were explained in several lectures. The explanation of the basics and the resolution of related numerical problems were alternated in these lectures.
2. Teamwork. The main applications of enzymatic reactions were addressed through teamwork. The aim of this activity was for students to gain knowledge on the industrial-scale applications of enzymes, as well as reinforce mainstream skills such as self-learning, peer-learning, information gathering, and oral and written communication. The activity consisted of three consecutive oral presentations per group and the delivery of a short report summarizing the most important information and conclusions.
3. Laboratory session. The kinetics of the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) hydrolysis reaction was studied by using catalase as catalyst. The main objective of this laboratory session was to obtain experimental data for the students to determine the reaction order and its kinetic parameters (KM and Vmax). Thus, the enzymatic reaction was carried out in a batch reactor, and the H2O2 concentration was analyzed over time by titration using potassium permanganate (KMnO4). The results and the main conclusions were summarized in a brief report to be delivered one week later.
4. Industry visit. A visit was arranged to a company that uses enzymes in its production process. Students thus gained first-hand experience of the industrial significance and application of their theoretical studies. The students were able to understand the requirements and demands of working in an industrial environment.

Finally, a student satisfaction survey was conducted. The preliminary results showed that all the students performed better than expected, regardless of their individual background.