Outcomes of the DigiTeL Pro project

Building a strategic partnership for digital education responding to the needs of universities during the Corona crisis and beyond

The objective of the DigiTeL Pro Strategic Partnership was to reinforce the ability of education institutions to provide high quality, inclusive digital education, responding to the needs of universities during the Corona emergency crisis and beyond. The Open Universiteit connected with the needs of universities experiences in the first and second waves of Covid-19 and solutions adopted to overcome the challenges. The Open Universiteit also reported on institutional strategies to cope with the situation by digital education. These elements were evaluated by the experts of all partners, preparing courses for capacity building, focusing on three main distinct, but connected scenarios: (synchronous) hybrid, blended and online and distance education.

Report on mapping (post-)COVID-19 needs in universities

The partnership investigated and forecast the educational needs of teaching staff and learners within and after COVID-19 by a meta-analysis of relevant documents and reports:

  • The May 2020 surveys of the European Commission on the impact of Corona on higher education.
  • National surveys, reports, and guides, eg from VSNU (NL); VLIR, VLHORA (BE), IUA (IE), CPU (FR), CRUI (IT)
  • Institutional reports and guides, eg from partner universities and associates:
  • The teachers’ experience, (eg Irene van der Spoel, Omid Noroozi, Ellen Schuurink & Stan van Ginkel (2020)
  • The students’ experience, eg from partners, and national and European student organisations.

Experts participated in the meta-analysis, which led to a mapping of the needs and expectations of teaching staff and leadership.

A compendium on (patterns) of good educational practices in the COVID-19 context

In this document the Open Universiteit experts analyzed patterns of emergency and post-emergency practices in teaching and learning in the partnership as anchoring points for improvement. Five best practices of course design in the COVID-19 context per institution were e analyzed. They can cover different formats: synchronous hybrid, blended and online and distance courses; continuing education courses, international courses and virtual mobility, etc.

Design, development and implementation of continuous professional development for synchronous hybrid education

Throughout the DigiTeL Pro project the imec research group at KU Leuven, developed and implemented a CPD course for synchronous hybrid learning, based on the work on Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Learning.
Synchronous hybrid education is based on settings that have in common that both on-site or ‘here’ students and
remote or ‘there’ students are simultaneously included during learning activities. The challenge in the research studies was to make synchronous hybrid teaching and learning as effective as teaching in real-life.

The objective of was to design, develop and implement a CPD course to enhancing synchronous hybrid teaching and learning , making use of R&I and practices developed already during the COVID-19 period. The course also connects with institutional change.

An open accress report on the state of the art research, innovation and good practices of synchronous hybrid learning

This report is a synthesis of contemporary research oriented to the design and development of synchronous hybrid learning in an emergency situation and conditions for change management. This limited analysis refocusses the conclusions of existing reviews and intervention studies on the COVID-19 needs (A. Raes e.a., 2019, 2020; Zydney e.a., 2019) and of studies on interactions and collaboration in virtual classrooms and hybrid learning environments (Raes e.a., 2020; Butz e.a., 2017; Szeto e.a, 2016).

A compendium of selected best practice training materials and or resources for CPD

This document details the best practices and resources within KU Leuven to allow for a better understanding of their operations within a synchronous hybrid educational background. 

A final CPD programme for digital eduation, focusing on the three teachign and learning scenarios, students readiness for online learning, and institutional change

This report is set up as a teacher manual guiding you through the objectives of the course and the design of the course. The manual described in a detailed way all the course materials and worksheets which can be used for CPS on synchronous which have been made available as a result of the Digitel Pro project. It will provide you with a plan of action or roadmap to teach the course yourself within your institution. Of course, you can adapt the program to what your students or colleagues need or to the needs of your institution.

Design and development of continuous professional development for blended education and teaching

The TU Delft developed a course for blended teaching and learning. Blended learning is a course design with a deliberate combination of online and offline learning activities. The course is based on recent research, innovation and good practices by the expert group (TU Delft, KU Leuven CIPT). After the first COVID-19 wave, many teaching staff and universities started with rethinking education, keeping students on campus for face to face education, but combining this with online learning to meet the constraints of physical space and distance. Many institutions were already experimenting with blended scenarios.

The TU Delft designed, developed and implemented a continuous professional development (CPD) course to enhance blended teaching and learning, making use of the EMBED maturity model and guidelines and connecting with institutional change.

Design and development of continuous professional development for online and distance education

Online and distance univerisities; The UOC, The Open Universiteit and UNINETTUNO, developed a CPD course for the scenario of online and distance education, suitable for a total lockdown scenario due to COVID-19. In online and distance education, learners are free from the constraints of time, pace and place of study. Various technologies are used to facilitate communication. In the European context, online and distance education was up to now mostly targeting non-traditional students.
The appearance of MOOCs has changed the attitude to online learning in the mainstream. Even when they taught before already online courses or MOOCs, universities experienced that their expertise in online and distance education was not enough developed to cope with the COVID lockdown. But there are seeds to grow. Even when first practices were difficult, universities and staff got aware of the opportunities of online education. Also after COVID, online and distance education will be a solution for some issues, eg for part-time and adult students, continuing education, international education and mobility. Online and distance education is high quality, accessible, scalable and cost-effective when it is professionally developed. The open universities are experts in this field and prepared a DigTeL Pro CPD course for online and distance teaching and learning.

An open access report on the state of art research, innovation and good practices of online and distance education

This report is a synthesis of contemporary research oriented to the design and development of online and distance learning, taking into account the needs in an emergency situation and conditions for change management.This is a limited analysis completing recent literature reviews (2019, 2020) and refocusing the conclusions on the COVID-19 needs.

A compendium of selected best practice training materials and or resources for CPD for online and distance learning

This document details the best practices and resources within the Open Universiteit, the UOC, and UNINETTUNO, to allow for a better understanding of their operations within an online educational background. 

The design of course modules to enhance students’ readiness for digital learning

A preliminary condition for a successful digital learning experience is that students are ready for digital learning (student readiness) and that their learning experience throughout the course is continuously supported. This is the focus of DCU experts, strengthening the nexus or reciprocity between teaching and learning. In DigiTeL Pro, the focus is not only on the teaching staff but unambiguously also on students’ study readiness and learning experience in which interaction and conversation play a vital role. 

An important condition for student readiness is for example related to the right places and spaces for learning. In COVID-19 times, many students feel this as a burden as studying at home happens under different social conditions. To optimize collaborative and blended education, many universities organize already rich learning environments for hybrid and blended learning: learning spaces with facilities for individual or collaborative learning where students have all tools at hand. Even when lectures are closed, these spaces create a convenient place of study. The CDP programme will show good examples of such spaces, which enable students to upgrade their learning experience, even in Corona times. Rich learning environments are more than a LMS, it is also about the architecture of a university.Important for a positive learning experience is that students are harnessed with digital tools. In course and programme design, digital education has to assure that the course connects with these tools and leaves nobody alone, e.g. because of social reasons. Programmes have to make sure that provisions are made for training digital (learning) skills.

DCU developed course modules to enhance students’ readiness for online learning, based on recent course material and crowdsourced learning experiences of students in digital learning. They also harvested and synthesized expertise and good examples from the partnership on enhancing the learning experience in (synchronous) hybrid, blended and online and distance learning.

Student Readiness for Digital Learning

This article is a synthesis of contemporary research oriented to promoting students’ digital readiness for online learning, including harvesting key lessons from existing innovations by the three groups (synchronous hybes, blended and online education). This output reflects a strong student-centered perspective.

An updated offering of a MOOC on the FutureLearn platform to promote studens' digital readiness for online learning

Developing, enhancing and delivering another iteration of “A Digital Edge: Essentials for the Online Learner” through the FutureLearn platform. Notably, the first offering of this MOOC was co-designed and co-facilitated by students and formally supported by the DCU Students’ Union and the Irish Universities Association (IUA). The MOOC was specifically designed to promote student digital readiness anchored around the Lifecomp Framework (European Commission, 2020). This updated offering incorporates key lessons based on the first iteration.

A CPD programme for teaching staff, staff support services and leadership, focusing on the three teaching and learning scenarios, student readiness for online learning and institutional change

This report shows how student digital readiness was incorporated into each of the three CPD courses. 

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