VCSE Guidebook/Enlargement of the Virtual Campus for a Sustainable Europe/Follow-up of newly-joined partners

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4.3. Follow-up of newly-joined partners

It was anticipated that before joining the partnership as partly active or full members, potential new partners would take advantage of the “observer” phase. This phase was conceived as a trial period to give potential partners time to look through the VCSE courses at their leisure. Potential partners were offered a user name and password to access the courses and it was anticipated that based on this experience, they would then decide whether to join or not. However, although new members preferred to join directly as partly active or full members, the number of students from new partner universities was low. New partners provided feedback on what they need so as to be encouraged to be active in the network:

  • (1.) clearer orientation and communication flows with regular updates about course information, and also information about tutors
  • (2.) a timeframe of increasing commitment to network activities
    • 0 – 2 years: Observer status – partners explore the online courses
    • 3 – 5 years: partly active member – should ensure that students from the home institution are actively encouraged to join VCSE courses
    • 5 years < contribution to VCSE by offering staff time in course development or as a course tutor on joint courses
  • (3.) more opportunities for collaboration on course design: collaborative opportunities in course development, tutoring, assessment and evaluation would better engage new partners and support those for whom e-learning for sustainable development is relatively new. Negotiation will potentially be required when discussing course development to avoid a situation where there are similar and therefore “competing” courses.
  • (4.) development of an interactive Frequently Asked Questions tool: it was suggested to implement the Moodle “hotseat” function for a limited time after a new partner joins. Hotseat is a virtual space to ask and answer questions – it has the advantages of direct dialogue in that any question can be asked (without the disadvantage of the inflexibility of a predetermined FAQ section), and the advantage of being visible to all and potentially useful for other partners.

As suggested in Chapter 5, follow-up in the form of Local Demonstration Workshops might be a more persuasive model in terms of engaging new partners in active participation of VCSE.