Lessons learned about pedagogical cooperation in European Higher Education

"EIT Digital has achieved a deep level of pedagogical cooperation within a large network of European universities and developed know-how, methodology and associated tools and services for this purpose", says Frédéric Renouard, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Education Lead at EIT Digital.

EIT Digital has been developing a pedagogical cooperation strategy, based around the creation of a teachers’ practice community, to develop and disseminate Entrepreneurship & Innovation (I&E) education programmes within a network of top European technical universities. As a result, the EIT Digital Academy can now share the practical lessons it has learned about change management in the European Higher Education system. These include the benefits of using blended learning based on online courses and blending models like flipped classrooms. The aim is to facilitate pedagogical cooperation and ultimately improve education quality across the universities network.

Results of this pedagogical cooperation strategy were presented during the 10th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies (EDULEARN) in Spain and the 13th International Conference on e-learning 2018 (ICEL) in South Africa.

Blended learning strategies

The conference presentations were based on two papers co-authored by the partner universities and EIT Digital. EIT Digital has been collaborating with 18-20 top technical universities across Europe for over three years, building an international community of teachers of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at masters and doctoral school level. During this time, EIT Digital has implemented a blended learning strategy – producing online content and using different blended learning models – as a way to harmonise and disseminate I&E programmes across their large network of universities.

The paper Towards blended learning implementation of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) education within EIT Digital: the models and lessons learnt, was co-written by authors from the Università di Trente, Agoranov, Sorbonne University, EIT Digital, theUniversité de Rennes 1, Aalto University, and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Their case study contributes to an understanding of how blended learning can be diffused and adopted widely within networks of universities. The models implemented are flipped classrooms, blended online courses, online starter kits, independent levelling-up and Online repositories.

Galena Pisoni, a member of EIT Digital's I&E team, says that different models are needed in different situations. “Online starter kits work best for courses with project work. They help participants get started at the same knowledge level. Independent levelling-up and online repositories are more relevant for universities with a longer track record in I&E education. They are also a quick solution to get started with online blended learning in I&E if a university is not ready yet for full deployment with a Flipped classroom, which is the preferred model.”

In a Flipped classroom, the content is delivered online, before the actual class takes place. The teacher and students then discuss the online materials in class. Implementing blended learning models requires effort from universities and a change in approach for teachers. For the Flipped classroom model, for example, teachers should be familiar with the contents and feel comfortable to follow up on them in the class together with the students, the paper concludes.

Change Management

The paper Change management: blended learning adoption in a large network of European universities was co-written by authors from Aalto University, Agoranov, EIT Digital, the Université de Rennes 1, KTH, Sorbonne University, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and the Università di Trente. According to Frédéric Renouard, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Education Lead at EIT Digital, the paper stresses the added value of EIT Digital as a unique pan-European 'testing ground' for large-scale experimentation of blended learning and pedagogical cooperation. "We have achieved a deep level of pedagogical cooperation within a large network of European universities and developed know-how, methodology and associated tools and services for this purpose. This enables our teacher community to co-design, co-develop and co-execute courses and content.”

In this paper, Renouard says, EIT Digital reports on a successful multiyear endeavour within its community. "e-learning has been an enabler for developing pedagogical cooperation in our network of universities with a real impact on quality. It is a key part of a methodology we developed to achieve true cooperation within our I&E teachers’ community, leveraging the richness of our European network. It is all about change management. This methodology may be relevant in other situations as a way to effectively involve teacher communities in higher-education change management initiatives. One example is the future European Universities Networks initiative .

The authors also assert that consensus is needed on how online and offline learning should be comparatively valued within the current European system for accreditation of higher education (ECTS).

EIT Digital's blended learning strategy forms part of its mission to educate tomorrow’s leaders in the digital economy. Achieving this mission involves training IT graduates at Masters and Doctorate level with strong I&E competencies.

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