Development of competence has been one of the major issues and goals of modern academic design and engineering education. Nevertheless, our literature study revealed that we are still far from a common interpretation of design competence. There are different views on it which we called reductionist and holistic. In the reductionist view, design competence is considered to be not else than a set of low level competencies such as drawing skills, spatial vision, specialized knowledge, intuitiveness and creativity, verbal communication, and technical writing, which have been typically addressed disjointedly. In the holistic view, design competence is a synergetic construct of some generic capacities. We followed this latter view in our work. We studied the implementation opportunities and manifestation of holistic design competence at the development and conduct of our recent European Global Product Realization course. Based on our past experiences and the information from the literature, we assumed that holistic design competence is a construct of five generic capacities: capabilities, attitude, knowledge, skills, and experiences, and can be efficiently developed by concurrently focusing on each of these, respectively. The professional content and didactic approach of the course were designed accordingly. An academic virtual enterprise was formed with the involvement of an industrial company and universities of five countries. The course included two instructional streams, which have been called professional navigation and industrial project. This paper presents our interpretation of holistic design competence, the didactic aspects of developing the underpinning generic capacities, and their manifestation in the European Global Product Realization course. A qualitative research has been completed with the involvement of 46 students to make out how our approach contributed to the development of the elementary design competencies. The conclusion has been that our approach equally well supports the development of both the holistic design competence and the elementary design competencies that are needed by product designers to be able to successfully operate in geographically dispersed virtual enterprises. The students’ opinion has been that the course was challenging but rewarding from the point of view of their future carrier as product designers.

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