VCSE Guidebook/Creating regional (e-)learning networks/Recommendations and reflections for the future
6.9. Recommendations and reflections for the future
Primarily, regional learning networks cannot be established overnight but they should start small by using already existing networks or face-to-face contacts and develop with an increasing number of participants. Thus, multiplier effects are automatically activated due to several interweaving networks, and partners can profit reciprocally from additional expertise.
Secondly, they should aim at satisfying the specific needs of selected actor groups. Various indispensable preparations and investigations have already been underlined above, although it is a complicated undertaking to address all key actors’ groups at the same time. Also, the VCSE partners tried to be proactive towards regional actors in different ways.
Summarising the VCSE dissemination activities on regional or local level, the partner universities firstly focus on regional authorities and decision makers and secondly on the educational sector such as schools. The weaker point in this context is that enterprises and the broad public as part of the “Other regional actors” could not be addressed.
On the one hand, most partners do not have a wide e-learning experience so far and were busy developing their first on-line courses. On the other hand, when addressing enterprises and the general public, sophisticated and elaborated stakeholder value concepts are needed to convince these target groups of the benefits.
In order to establish a sustainable regional (e-)learning network, it is necessary to use a participatory approach. Firstly, it is important to listen to actors to find out real concerns. Secondly, there is the need to engage in an active dialogue and address concerns in a constructive manner. The basis for such a development is to work together with a common vision, having in mind a long-term perspective –with the option of redefining these concerns.
Universities and regions follow different logics, they speak different languages, have different time structures, cultures and mentalities. New informal ways of communication will be needed to have the practical experience of actors and the scientific knowledge of universities at one level, to make them have multiple and mutual benefits on both sides. At the OUNL, good practice examples of integrating professionals and joined learning have already proven to be an advantage for this process.
Another question which is food for thought for the future is that concerning language: the VCSE is in English and each partner university has to individually decide on the needs of actors in the respective region, thus adapting contents, methods, etc. It is an advantage to have both English and the language spoken in the region at disposal; but the awareness about the use of language needs to be raised for satisfactory exchange of expertise and for the purpose of reaching regional actor groups. The main focus should be to open up to a wide public in the region, which mainly uses the language spoken in the region.
The aforementioned initiatives uncover the respective regional networking structures. In this context, the relevant regional networks become evident. For instance, the University of Graz takes advantage of its teacher training as well as RCE interfaces, because both the Regional Center of Teacher Training as well as the RCE are head-quartered at the Institute of Geography and Regional Science. Similarly, the OUNL takes advantage of its network connections in addressing a variety of regional actors and other higher education institutions, but is also making efforts to reach non-academic public.
UOM goes back to long-standing links with the Region of Central Macedonia and the Municipality of Thessaloniki. CUEC predominantly cooperates with professionals or NGOs in the field of sustainable development, whereas LUE has well-established networks with the large educational sector and regional authorities.
As far as the use of educational technology is concerned, the partner universities focus on the use of web-publishing and the delivery of blended or e-learning courses through LMS or CMS. The approach of CUEC with the introduction and use of Enviwiki goes beyond the educational context and addresses also other regional actors in the field of the environment. The main challenge for the future seems to bring e-based applications for regional learning networks on rails. A series of e-learning tools are at disposal, which can be useful in regional learning and networking activities as well. Despite the closeness and possibility of face-to-face meetings, e-learning could provide a valuable additional value to existing activities. Pod-casting, general forum use and RSS-feeds are elements that the VCSE should explore further for use in regional learning and dissemination strategies. Last but not least, alternative methods and approaches to learning should be considered for enhancing regional and trans-regional learning networks on sustainable development