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|Annex 1: Case studies on VCSE e-courses’ development|
|Short Description of VCSE e-Courses|
|VCSE e-course:||European Virtual Seminar on Sustainable Development (EVS)|
|Challenge / Obstacle to be faced:||In EVS, students with different national and disciplinary backgrounds work together on case studies. The ultimate challenge of the EVS is to create a dialogue on sustainable development issues in Europe among these geographically dispersed students in a learning community.|
|Approach/ methodology / medium used:||The educational format for the EVS supports collaborative learning and consists of geographically dispersed student teams, their tutors and subject matter experts, a learning content that consists of topical scientific or societal problems triggering collaboration between students, and a learning process that supports collaboration between students of different nationalities and from different cultural and disciplinary backgrounds. The learning technology is based on modern ICT and the Internet, and facilitates collaboration, communication and interaction between students. The organizational model for the EVS is a bottom-up network approach with distributed responsibilities, operating without formal, top-down institutional arrangements or external funding. The institutions participating in the EVS share their expertise and invest staff time and other resources, such as server space to host the electronic learning environment. The distribution of tasks and responsibilities over the partners is differentiated, as institutions can become partners in an EVS run at three different levels.|
|Achieved outcome / results:||In the EVS run of 2007-2008 under the umbrella of VCSE, 22 students enrolled (Open University of the Netherlands 3, University of Amsterdam 6, University of Luneburg 5, Charles University in Prague 7, and Karl-Franzens University Graz 1). However, 9 students did not start at all, and they were removed at the end of the 1st stage in EVS. From the 13 students enrolled into the next stage of EVS 4 did not complete the course or were removed by the staff before the end of EVS (3 of them from the same group, so that the group collapsed). 9 students passed for EVS (4 with mark 9; 2 with mark 7; 2 with mark 6). In this EVS run 3 student groups were compounded, from which 1 group failed. 3 different case studies were offered (Communication, Water, Decoupling) and 4 tutors were involved (Charles University Prague 2x, University of Lüneburg; Karl-Franzens University in Prague). Central coordinator is the Open University of the Netherlands. The group reflection reports delivered by the student groups provide useful and interesting information about this EVS run and give the staff some ideas for further improvement of the EVS.|
|Lessons learned / Recommendations for other virtual campuses:||Strengths of the EVS course design:
Weaknesses of the EVS course design:
|Food for thought / Challenges still to be met:||Improvements to realize:
|Short Description of VCSE e-Courses|
|VCSE e-course:||Corporate Sustainability and Natural Resources (CORSUS)|
|Challenge / Obstacle to be faced:||General
The design of an introductory e-course on a very specialized subject such as “Environmental Economics and Management” addressed to undergraduate students from different nationalities, disciplines, institutions (and most probably with no academic background on economics or business studies).
The main challenge faced was on how to set up a module incorporating in its final expression all the expectations and limitations present. The course should meet certain teaching objectives related to its content as well as to its teaching methodology. Quality expectations initially set were quite high and so were the demands placed on students. Lack of a common cognitive background, variety in the approaches of the teaching systems of different countries, lack of prerequisites, and the necessity to upload all the material in an electronic platform which would allow the visiting students to have an easy and accurate understanding of the posted content made the design task a rather complicated one. More modest expectations, a clearer understanding of certain norms and available tools, and trial-and-error approaches have led to a re-engineering of the VCSE course to better fit the students’ needs and abilities when offered in the future.
|Approach/ methodology / medium used:||General
The Moodle learning management system provided the platform (and the limitations) for the learning environment and management. The use of an open source program was representative of the philosophy of the free access characterizing the VCSE project.
A careful choice of environmental management issues was made with the emphasis lying in the comprehensibility and complementarity of the content as well as in the avoidance of overlapping with the courses offered by the rest of the participating Universities. Each chapter topic presented state-of-the-art knowledge in its field and provided links to official sites with disclaimer of rights to their content (OECD, EU, UNEP etc) to allow the students access to extensive information. Small flicks and recorded interviews escorted the Power point presentations which were assigned the role of the main tool to structure and deliver the content of each chapter. Articles published on each topic as well as articles written by the lecturers for the specific course were provided to the students to gain further knowledge, while each chapter included a glossary to set a common understanding of the concepts used as well as self-test questions.
Achieved outcome / results:
The foreseen outcomes for the successful student participants were:
The result was quite ‘catchy’ since it provided attractive, alternative and integrated ways of gaining knowledge on specialized, highly demanding topics in a scientific, yet plain way. The step-structure of the material delivered allowed each student to adjust his/her approach to the depth preferred. So one could restrict oneself in reading just the basics on a topic or proceed to an in-depth wider understanding of the issues involved in it.
Nevertheless, the 7 participating students in the pilot run of CORSUS (3 students from VCSE-partners' universities and 4 students from UOM) barely reached the minimum expectations of the CORSUS. According to the internal evaluation of the course, the participating students considered CORSUS as too demanding with high level of academic expectations.
Lessons learned / Recommendations for other virtual campuses:
The Scientific Team of CORSUS considers that they have been rather over-optimistic in their original expectations, thus they are planning to re-design CORSUS in a more simplified manner. Even though the CORSUS educational material comprises a very extensive compilation of high quality academic reference material, most of the participating students were intimidated by the academic articles on environmental economics (including demanding statistical data and mathematics).
Food for thought / Challenges still to be met:
|The main challenge of the next run of CORSUS will be to find the “golden compromise” between pure academic knowledge and appealing transferable know-how for beginners.|
|Short Description of VCSE e-Courses|
|VCSE e-course:||Syndromes of Global Change|
|Challenge / Obstacle to be faced:||The main challenge of designing the course was to translate an already existing blended-learning approach in an e-learning course. Thus, we had to find ways to support a highly interactive and collaborative phase of learning without meeting physically.|
|Approach/ methodology / medium used:||The basic idea behind the course is a focus on self dependent, self-directed learning with a social-constructivist approach. The main focus is on the support of the development of key competencies relevant for sustainability. Thus the course is offering:
|Achieved outcome / results:||The Syndrome Course has been evaluated, re-designed and implemented for the winter term 07/08, during which it ran with 18 students from all 5 partner-universities. In winter term 08/09 24 students participated.|
|Lessons learned / Recommendations for other virtual campuses:||The evaluation of the first run showed some aspects worthy of being recommended as well as other aspects that point to the need for further improvement:
|Food for thought / Challenges still to be met:||While the overall impression of the course is positive, the relatively low number of participants and the difficulties in collaboration processes will be the most important aspects to work on.|
|Short Description of VCSE e-Courses|
|VCSE e-course:||Sustainable Spatial and Regional Development|
|Challenge / Obstacle to be faced:||Thinking of the course design, we faced five major challenges:
|Approach/ methodology / medium used:||The e-course “Sustainable Spatial and Regional Development” was offered by the Institute of Geography at the University of Graz.
The e-course is based on a combination of three learning theories in order to enhance the learning process, namely behaviourism (“know that”), cognitivism (“know how”) and constructivism (“know-in-action”).
With these learning theories in the background, we decided to focus on a methodological approach that combines problem-oriented as well as task-based learning. Learning outcomes are higher when students get actively involved right from the start by putting the knowledge acquired through the modules into practice by means of selected activities.
Taking into account that the participants have a varying level of previously acquired knowledge in the field and have different academic backgrounds, the selection of the contents, structure, learning technology and activities had to be made in a a careful and thorough manner.
Content: The course aimed at helping students to acquire knowledge on sustainability issues in regional development and planning, with a focal interest on the European perspective. Apart from a general introduction to sustainability, an insight into the history of planning as well as current developments in the field were given. The main didactical tool in this respect was that of case studies, giving examples of new developments and various sustainability approaches. The overall content of the course gives a future outlook on sustainable planning.
Course structure: The course is divided into ten modules, each including the following parts:
Learning technology: We worked with the VCSE learning platform Moodle. This offers a variety of features and educational tools useful for virtual courses as well as appropriate for the objective of this particular e-course (e.g., resources, forum, glossary, grading function, administration block, etc.) Apart form the online tools, we decided to use the medium of videos to make the contents more accessible to different learning types.
Task-based assignments: There were 9 activities in the context of which students had to do research and thus develop selective research skills (e.g., Case Study Research), practice their critical thinking and problem-solving skills (e.g. waterfront design) as well as enhance self-directed learning skills.
Communicative activities: These were achieved through a forum discussion in which students were encouraged to post and reply to comments. Furthermore, there was a general course forum aimed at general, administrative questions. The chat was considered to be a weekly opportunity to discuss results of assignments and ask questions related to the course as such and to its contents.
Assessment: This was based on the assignments within each, module as well as on two exams (middle and end of term) which consisted of 25 multiple-choice questions each, testing the students’ basic knowledge of the module’s content. Thus, both theoretical and practical issues were assessed.
|Achieved outcome / results:||
The achieved results were exceptionally satisfying for both students and e-tutors. 7 out of the 9 students who participated actually completed the course, with two students dropping out in the first half of the term. The overall performance of the students who completed the course was good and they got very good grades. Most of the submitted tasks showed a high level of critical thinking and corresponded to the requirements that were set in the task descriptions. The students in general showed a good level of self-directed learning, handing in the assignments within set deadlines and participating well. The only drawback recorded was the chat participation. It was not compulsory to take part in chat sessions and after a couple of weeks the interest in participating was not satisfying. This could also be due to the fact that the chat sessions had the form of ‘office hours’ where questions about the course could be directly discussed with Prof. Zimmermann; non-participation can be either seen negatively, as a dysfunctional aspect or positively, as an indication that there were no questions to be asked and everything worked well.
|Lessons learned / Recommendations for other virtual campuses:||
Despite the fact that the course concept worked well for our first run, we still have to intensify our focus on using more collaborative activities and integrating the previously acquired knowledge and inter-cultural background of the participants into the course. We have also learnt that the production of videos and other material is a very time-intensive task and requires a lot of skill on the part of the teacher; as it is hardly possible to do all that as an individual, the teacher needs the support of a team. However, the “recycling effect” of the course is very important in our opinion. The opportunity to re-use at least parts of the material produced as well as the methodological concept makes a virtual setting like this worth the effort that is put into it.
Our experience allows us to recommend the additional use of short video presentations to the other virtual campuses, as the students seem to react positively to them.
We have also noticed that the results of the assignments vary in success depending on the quality of the assignment descriptions. Our pre-testing of the descriptions with the students in our test course worked out very well.
|Food for thought / Challenges still to be met:||In overall, we are satisfied with the course outcomes as we were able to see that the original concept worked out well for our course objectives. However, we still have to face some challenges for the future running of the course, such as:
|Short Description of VCSE e-Courses|
|VCSE e-course:||Multiple Approaches to Globalisation and Sustainable|
|Challenge / Obstacle to be faced:||The traditionally taught blended learning Czech course “Globalisation and Global Sustainability Issues” was extended to the fully electronic version so as to be applicable in a more diverse international environment; this change entailed a range of challenges/obstacles in terms of our having to:
|Approach/ methodology / medium used:||The multi-disciplinary e-learning course has a twofold objective: 1) to develop the students’ capacity for critical thinking in exploring the complex reality of the globalised world, as well as their ability to work in a heterogeneous environment 2) to foster the development of powerful skills, crucial for everyone in an academic environment and beyond, such as clarity in the presentation of ideas, structured argumentation and critical analysis of texts. Students choose a particular area of interest which serves as a background for the completion of specific assignments aimed to develop critical and writing skills. The learning environment supports the cooperation of students in exchanging ideas on global problems or case studies.
Summary of pedagogical objectives
The course is grounded in constructivist approaches: active learning is used to meet the pedagogical objective of developing critical thinking. At the same time, the work of the students is ultimately translated into a ‘tangible’ and practical learning-tool –a Wikipedia educational resource– that may serve as a common knowledge base and resource for future students and other members of the academic community. Teaching method:
The course leads step by step from 1) reflecting on texts, 2) to the reconstruction of texts, 3) to the more advanced and comprehensive ability to make an original contribution to the theme of the texts, while meeting basic academic demands. In each step, skills in formal procedures of scientific writing are taught and students build a sense of confidence in coping with complex issues The teaching method involves the thorough preparation of course materials (learning materials such as course texts, the Moodle learning environment and the students’ Wiki space) and proper guidance in a sequence of simple tasks. This assistance provides the students with an opportunity to concentrate on tasks that require a “higher order of thinking” in terms of the analysis of the contents and qualities of the texts studied, which leads them to the first experience necessary for their own writing.
The e-learning modules are based on a combination of 2 electronic environments. In the Moodle version, students receive basic instructions, they study online resources and get guidance for developing ICT competences, they communicate with teachers and other students, they deliver their assignments and receive assessment results. They are also provided with texts that are focused on problems of Globalisation from various disciplinary perspectives. In the common Students’ Wiki Space they are required to contribute to their chosen topic through their assignments - here they are able to continuously develop and improve the text collaboratively (with the teacher and other students), see the progress in History and discuss the content.
|Achieved outcome / results:||As a result, the students produce an article that is prepared so as to merit publication. During the course, students are expected to go through a peer review process which enhances their writing and publication skills. In our course, the final article produced was reviewed by experts in a given field and it was then rewritten so as to feed the requirements of some reviewed journal. It had a very up-to-date topic on Gender issues in a post-communist country (Slovenia).|
|Lessons learned / Recommendations for other virtual campuses:||Concerning content, the virtual environment is supportive for the understanding of complex issues as it gives access to diverse resources and offers the possibility to interrelate and reflect on different information.
Concerning the teaching method, e-learning provides an opportunity to fulfill pedagogical objectives appropriate at a university level –develop knowledge independently by researching relevant resources and working with texts and materials in a process of reflecting on and re-formulating ideas, developing and refining them by their own contribution. That is a core academic skill which often is not practiced in the context of the university curriculum. The first run of the course was positively evaluated, but the workload was heavier than anticipated. Over the summer we re-developed the course to lighten the workload. One issue we faced was how to “teach” Globalisation. Introducing the issue through disciplinary perspectives to students who may be absolutely unfamiliar with most of those disciplines, and then asking them to work with this approach is too much of a challenge for them. In the future run of the course we will concentrate on a more “user friendly” approach and understanding of the different aspects of the Globalisation process (other than the one offered by disciplinary approaches) and we will also provide an opportunity to introduce personal experience with its consequences (a good starting point for students discussion and for the purpose of familiarizing the students with qualitative research). Writing skills (structure, clear argumentation, evaluation of resources, proper citation etc.) will remain a strong component of the course. The course used the Wiki strategy and students were encouraged to start building their own Wiki Space – see http://stary.czp.cuni.cz/vcsewiki/index.php/Student_area. It was a relatively easy task for them with a visible outcome so that the students feel that their work is not wasted but will serve in future runs of the course. Our proposal is to promote the building of such Wiki spaces through the other VCSE courses – thus we will create a common “knowledge base” where students will be able to share the results of the work being done in other courses.
|Food for thought / Challenges still to be met:||In the process of assessing the course as a whole, we are considering the following issues:
|Annex 2: VCSE Dissemination activities|
1. Project website http://www.vcse.eu
2. Publications (conference proceedings, journals, books; printed and/or online)
- VCSE e-learning case study is included in the UNECE Strategy for education for SD – database of case studies developed by the Expert Group on Indicators (more information at: http://www.unece.org/env/esd/SC.EGI.htm).
- EVS was extensively discussed in “Crossing Boundaries – Innovative Learning for Sustainable Development in Higher Education”, Eds. Joop de Kraker/ Angelique Lansu/ Rejte van Dam-Mieras, 2007 VAS.
- Peer-reviewed chapter on VCSE in a book on best practices in virtual campus development: R. Cörvers & J. de Kraker (in press) ‘Virtual campus development on the basis of subsidiarity: the EVS approach’, in: M. Stansfield & T. Connolly, Institutional transformation through best practices in virtual campus development: advancing e-learning policies. To be published by IGI Global.
- VCSE best practice case-study included in European Publication, which will be used to inform the preparation of the next Progress Report on the EU Sustainable Development Strategy in Education.
- Dlouhá, J. (2008): Networking European Universities through e-learning Envigogika (1/2008) Online www <http://envigogika.cuni.cz> ISSN: 1802-3061
3. Conferences and symposiums (national, international)
- Two parallel national Eco Forums during the “Thessaloniki International Fair (HELEXPO)”: (a) The Eco Forum (Local/regional authorities and Environment) and (b) Eco2 Forum (Business and Environment), between 7-9/09/2008 in Thessaloniki.
- Poster Presentation at the 4th International Barcelona Conference on Higher Education: new challenges and emerging roles for human and social development in Barcelona, held by GUNI - The Global University Network for Innovation, in Barcelona, from the 31/3 – 2/4/ 2008 (http://www.gunirmies.net/k2008/).
- VCSE-promotion during the national conference “Society and Environment: Climate Change and its consequences”, organized by the Greek Economic and Social Committee, 16/02/2008, Thessaloniki.
- The project information was disseminated by CUEC at the third meeting of the UNECE Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development at Geneve in March 6-7 2008, and at the International Sustainable Campus network Conference, held 23rd to 25th April at ETH Zurich.
- Promotion of the VCSE Project at the international Conference EMCSR March 08 (in Vienna). (19th European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research).
- Promotion of the VCSE Project at the International Business Summer School in Lublijana, July 2008.
- Promotion of the VCSE Project at the ITdNet Meeting (International Transdisciplinary Network) in July 2008.
- Promotion of the VCSE Project at the IRDO Conference June 2008 (Social Responsibility and Social Challenges) in Slovenia and plan further activities with IRDO.
- Leading the workshop of North-German Universities dealing with Higher Education for Sustainable Development, provided opportunities to LU to inform about the project and resulted in the invitation of two participants for the 2nd Central Demonstration Workshop.
- CUEC joined the consortium of the proposed COST action “Sustainable Universities – increased efficiency and reduced consumption”, coordinated by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, University of Maribor, Slovenia. A member of the University of Maribor attended the 1st VCSE demonstration workshop and joined the VCSE partnership.
- CUEC also networked with the PASDEL project (PrActising Sustainable Development through E-Learning) funded under the Leonardo da Vinci programme, member of which and attended the 2nd Central Demonstration Workshop in Prague. Ideas on how to network the outcomes of the 2 projects were discussed, particularly in terms of VCSE work group 4 learning activities in national language which can be networked with the Pasdel project, and
- Pasdel project outcomes targeted at university level, which, providing funding becomes available might be translated into English and made available on the VCSE platform.
- 4th World Environmental Education Conference, Durban (July 2007)
- Education for Sustainable Development Conference, Berlin (Feb 07)
- Moodle Conference, Dusiburg (March 07)
- European Distance and E-Learning Network Conference, Naples (June 07)
- Workshop “Higher Education for Sustainable Development”, Hamburg (Oct. 07)
- Workshop “Transdisciplinarity in Teaching”, TU Darmstadt (Feb 08)
- 4th International Barcelona Conference on Higher Education, Barcelona (March 08)
- 5th EMSU Conference, Environmental Management for Sustainable Universities, Barcelona (Oct 08)
- Working together for Sustainability: On Campus and beyond. Congress of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), USA (November 2008).
- International Advanced Research Workshop on Higher Education for Sustainable Development, Slovenia (March 2007)
- Sustainable Development: ideology or vision, Prague (December 2007)
- 4th International Conference on Environmental Education, Ahmedabad, (November 2007)
- -SCO (Shareable Content Objects) 2008: 5th Annual Conference on electronic teaching support, Brno (June 2008)
- 6th International Conference Sustainable Development, Culture and Education, Eskisehir, Turkey (June 2008),
- ECEL 2008, 7th European Conference on e-Learning, Cyprus (November 2008)
4. Networks (mailings; informal ptp contacts, discussions, meetings, e-newsletter, incl. Best Practice Guidebook)
- EADTU (Task Force on Sustainable Development)
- DHO (Dutch Foundation for Sustainability in Higher Education)
- Informal professional networks
- NUN AG (North German University Network)
- AG Hochschule, UNESCO Decade
- Prague University Co-operation Agreement to Introduce and Conduct Sustainable Development and Environmental Studies (network of 5 Prague-based Universities)
- Forum for University Teachers of Environmental Education
- International Sustainable Campus Network
- Charles University – faculties and Erasmus service
- Regional Centres of Expertise
5. On-site workshops (also on VCSE-universities)
Nine (9) materialized already and more planned to take place during 2008-2009. As a result as the on-site demonstration workshops six highly motivated invited universities attended the VCSE CDWs and subsequently joined in or expressed their interest to join the VCSE Network. More specifically:
- Universities of Antwerp, Belgium
- University of Leuven, Belgium
- Prague Universities Agreement on Cooperation in Sustainable Development, Czech Republic
- University of Oldenburg, Germany
- University of Santiago de Compostela
- University of Bremen, Germany
- University of Potsdam, Germany
- Forum for University teachers for Sustainable Development
- Sustainable Development 2008 conference (EESD) (September 2008)
Furthermore, the future on-site demonstration workshops are due to take place at the following universities/networks:
- University of Amsterdam, Dutch Network for Higher Education and Sustainable Development (DHO), the Netherlands
- Technical University of Hamburg, Germany
- Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
- Open University of Greece, Patras, Greece
- Aegean University, Lesvos, Greece
- Technical University of Graz, Austria