"Digitization is a Key Mission"Vice-President Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Bürkle is committed to ensuring that students are well prepared for a digital future

Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Bürkle, Vice-President of Aalen University, was recently re-elected in his office for another three years. It is important to him to prepare students for the ongoing digitization in the professional world. Photo: Saskia Stüven-Kazi

Mo, 10. January 2022

Right before the day ends, heaters turn on at home, fitness bracelets provide information about current blood pressure, conferences takes place virtually and the factory of the future is networked: the digital world has been undergoing a revolutionary transformation process since before the corona pandemic. “Digitization is a cross-sectional technology that will permeate all professional fields in the future. It is therefore extremely important that young people acquire the relevant basic knowledge while they are still studying,” emphasizes Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Bürkle. Since 2010, the expert in communications technology has been Vice-President of Aalen University, and as such, pushes specific topics related to digitization and artificial intelligence. This also applies to teaching: "We have achieved a lot with our successful concept of hybrid teaching and are therefore in very good standing, especially in times of the pandemic," emphasizes the Stuttgart native, who grew up in Remshalden and still lives there.

Service Orientation

While other universities have already completely switched back to online teaching, Aalen University continues to rely on a mix of online and in-person events. "We have created a very good basis here in the past semesters and will continue to use the hybrid elements even after Corona. We also think service-oriented when it comes to our students," says Vice-President Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Bürkle. Because teaching takes place on-campus, and is streamed at the same time, students can take part in the lectures in-person or connect online from anywhere. "This enables the greatest amount of flexibility," says Bürkle: for example, when students are unable to attend an in-person event or an exam for health reasons. He adds earnestly, “we can go from 0 to 100 percent attendance as needed without having to fundamentally change anything in the course of study. That will also be important in the future, for example, when it comes to balancing study and family life.” Virtual participation must be just as easy as attending in person.

Innovative Degree Programs

"The corona pandemic gave us the energy to further advance the digitization of university teaching," says Bürkle. In general, the 57-year-old is convinced that progressive digitization is one of the most exciting topics of our time. "The topics related to digitization and artificial intelligence will shape our future world, and we have to learn to deal with them." As Vice-President, it is very important to him that Aalen University is well equipped here, and that its students are well prepared for a digital future. "Digitization is a key task that we are actively addressing, and where we also have to train the appropriate specialists. Therefore, the range of courses is always adapted to the current challenges,” says Bürkle, referring to courses such as IT security, computer science, data science, machine learning and data analytics, digital health management, business analytics or digital product design and development, which Bürkle helped develop and which is taught in cooperation with the University of Design in Schwäbisch Gmünd.

With Momentum into the New Office Term

What Bürkle likes most about his position as Vice-President at Aalen University, for which he was recently re-elected for another three years, is to help shape the framework conditions that allow people to develop, "also for the benefit of the region and beyond." The university has developed enormously in recent years, and it fills him with pride to be a part of it and to be able to set trends. "Advancing digitization, getting involved in the Center for Machine Learning and the AI workshop for medium-sized companies and supporting it’s transfer to business, all of this appeals to me very much," says Bürkle, adding light-heartedly "I'm starting the new term of office with enthusiasm.”

Alarm System for the Bedroom Door

Bürkle has been teaching at Aalen University for almost 20 years and was Dean of the electronics and computer science department before he was elected Vice-President for the first time in 2010. He played a key role in setting up the Base Knowledge Center, whose employees take care of supporting students in basic subjects such as mathematics and physics. In his home region, the father of three is committed to the Schorndorf Pupil Engineering Academy. “It is important to introduce the youngsters to science and technology as early as possible,” emphasizes Bürkle, who was interested in electronics even as a small child and always had various projects in the works: be it putting together a radio receiver or a house alarm system. “It was intended more for my own bedroom door, so I was always warned straight away when my parents were on the way to my room,” says the Vice-President and laughs heartily.

To make Others Bloom

Bürkle graduated high school at the Remstal-Gymnasium in Weinstadt, where the advanced physics course completely convinced him to study electrical engineering. After studying and doing his doctorate at the University of Stuttgart, he worked for several years in corporate research at Alcatel before he was appointed professor at Aalen University in 2003. "Working together with young people and further developing topics that will shape the world in the future, that's just a great job," says Bürkle happily. Professionally and also on a voluntary basis - in addition to the Pupil Engineering Academy in Schorndorf, he is also involved in the evangelical community SV-Schorndorf. His guiding principle is: "Bringing others to flourish, that's exactly my thing".