FOSTERING INNOVATION DIALOGS IN SIX CASE STUDIES AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF VALLADOLID (SPAIN)
Jorrín-Abellán, I. M.
1 , Rubia-Avi, B.
, Anguíta-Martínez, R.
, Ruíz-Requies, I.
, García-Sastre, S.
1 , firstname.lastname@example.org
2 , email@example.com
2 , firstname.lastname@example.org
2 , email@example.com
1 Center for Instructional Research and Curriculum Evaluation (CIRCE). University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign. 190 Childrens´ Research Center. 51 Gerty Drive. Champaign, IL 61820 (EEUU)
2 College of Education and Social Works. Universtity of Valladolid. Campus Miguel Delibes. Paseo de Belén nº
1, 47011 Valladolid (Spain)
The University of Valladolid in Spain is encouraging the development of some pilot innovation experiences with the aim of promoting the integration of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) into its courses. One of the major reasons for this change is compliance with the provisions of the Bologna Declaration, to which Spain is a signatory along with 45 other European countries. In this paper we present the main findings of the evaluation carried out in six of these innovations that were focussed in the promotion of student-centered learning. An outstanding contribution of the evaluation conducted has to do with the set of decisions taken by faculty members in order to carry out their innovations. In this sense, we reflect on the role played by ICT in these experiences, as well as on the impact they had in teaching and learning processes. Moreover, the paper tries to put in dialog the educative characteristics of each innovation with the decisions taken about the on-line technologies to be used in the evaluated settings. Thereby, the project tries to foster connections between pedagogical innovations and technologies. The mentioned evaluation project has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Keywords: INNOVATION, EVALUATION, ESHE, ICT, CSCL
Innovation is intrinsic to human being. It promotes change as well as adaptation to new circumstances. Moreover, It seeks to improve in the most wide sense, at the same time that facilitates the adequacy to vital situations in order to let our society continue in an active and dynamic manner. (West & Farr, 1990) define innovation as the intentional introduction and application within a role, group, or organization of ideas, processes, products or procedures, new to the relevant unit of adoption, designed to significantly benefit the individual, the group, organization, or wider society.
Innovation within education field is much or more relevant than in other spaces of social development. In a changing World (new political and administrative organization, population movements, technological developments, etc.) It is of special relevance for teachers to adapt themselves to these social changeable circumstances. Many times this propitiates certain moments in which educators have to propose imaginative and creative answers. European higher education is nowadays "in the eye of the storm" since it is living a so important moment where the change becomes institutionalized and it is necessary to face new challenges.
The Bologna Declaration of 1999 contains an extremely complex and far reaching set of reforms designed with the aim of constructing a shared higher education area in Europe.
This means the creation of a common higher education setting to widening student access to every university in Europe. As a result, many Spanish university teachers are overwhelmed by the requisites posed by this huge reform, especially with regard to the pedagogical innovations they are supposed to promote in their courses. These requisites arise from the complex legislative and institutional changes that will permit the opening of European
Universities to students from other participating countries. This way, methods of teaching must do better to accommodate students from different countries working sometimes at a geographical distance from their University. This situation demands a common degree structure among the european universities, learning platforms to facilitate the students´ geographic mobility, and the Introduction of a European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) more
based on the students workload required to achieve the objectives of a course. These changes are affecting signatory countries in many different ways. For instance, Spanish university teachers will have to face, during the following two years (before 2010), a significant reduction of lecture hours in their courses, according to the new credit model. For instance, a
50 hour course will have with the new model 30 lecture hours and 20 more dedicated to tutoring hours and work in small groups. This fact implies that a university teacher will have only 2 lecture hours per week (in a 15 week course) instead of the 3.5 hours now. This is a noteworthy reduction of 40%.
Thereby, the Spanish traditional lecture-oriented courses need to change in order to cope with the previously mentioned demands. Because of this, innovative teaching, learning, organizational and administrative approaches are needed.
In order to be prepared to this forthcoming situation european universities are promoting pilot experiences to improve the existing educational methods according to the
Bologna demands. One of the major changes these experiences are stimulating has to do with the integration of ICT to support learning and teaching processes. The University of
Valladolid (UVa) and more particularly the GSIC-EMIC
research team (to which we belong) have been involved in these pilot experiences for the last 3 years. This transdisciplinary research team formed by Engineers, Computer Scientist, Phsicologist and Educators has been working for the last decade within the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Field
(CSCL) (Koschman, 1996) (Dillenbourg, 1999), and is especially concerned with the evaluation of this sort of educational settings.
CSCL is a new educational movement that emerged in the middle nineties among researchers and practitioners in several fields, including cognitive sciences, sociology, and computer engineering. CSCL interest centres on how collaborative learning supported by technology can enhance peer interaction and work in groups, and how collaboration and technology facilitate the sharing and distributing of knowledge and expertise among community members. This field has become of special interest in the European context as we
(european higher education teachers) are looking for new teaching methods to give answer to the challenges posed by the aforementioned Bologna Process.
GSIC-EMIC: Intelligent & Cooperative Systems. Education, Media Informatics and Culture Research Group. http://ulises.tel.uva.es
On the one hand CSCL, as an active method, could help to achieve the goal of widening student access, by providing support to blended learning situations, or even distant ones among the students involved in a course. On the other, the collaborative knowledge construction promoted within the CSCL field could also help university teachers find more suitable teaching and learning techniques regarding the acquisition of high level competencies, while minimizing the lack of community usually ascribed to computer supported educational settings.
As a consequence of the the experience accumulated by the GSIC-EMIC research team in this particular field, the UVa has regularly invited its members to develop a series of training courses for its faculty. These courses are designed in order to achieve the goal of promoting more active and new teaching approaches. Thereby, some courses regarding collaborative uses of ICT to promote student centered teaching were taught in the last years.
Teaching these courses we (GSIC-EMIC members) had the opportunity to meet many colleagues involved in different kinds of innovations in their own courses. The training courses were also of special relevance as they served as a forum to share concerns about the key problems some of these innovations were creating among faculty. The main problems that arose at that moment were the lack of evaluation in the pilot experiences in which they were implicated as well as the challenges to find the most suitable technology to support their innovations.
After having been in touch for a while with almost 4 different groups of these university teachers, we were asked to provide them not only with technological but also evaluative support. At that time we decided to participate in an evaluation project called
E(UVa)LUANDO, sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Education. This project was included in the national branch of projects with the aim of facilitating Spanish professors to design educational innovations in agreement with the 2010 Bolognia convergence. Its aim was to deepen in six different innovations considered as Bolognia pilot experiences, that were taking place at the UVa in order to find a set of shared key issues to be taken into account while designing and enacting this sort of innovations.
To deal with the design of the evaluation process of the six aforementioned innovations we followed a multiple case study approach (Stake, 1995, 2005). There are many purposes for case study analysis: from the most theoretical to the most practical. There are also different types of cases: instrumental, intrinsic and multiple cases. The purpose of an
“instrumental” case study is to go beyond the case. In contrast, a case study is “intrinsic” when the main interest is in the case itself.
In our Project each innovation was understood as an intrinsic case, although all of them helped to better understand, in an instrumental sense, what Stake calls “quintain” or what we truly seek to understand. In this sense, the aim of the
E(UVa)LUANDO Project was to understand if the innovations put in practice at the
University of Valladolid were helping to achieve the Bologna demands, and If so, to deepen in the role that ICT were playing within these innovations. The quintain was initially more focussed on the role played by ICT within the cases but we soon opened it to another relevant aspects appeared during the evaluation process.
According to this, we evaluated during a year and a half six different innovations that were using technology to support teaching and learning processes at the UVa. The evaluated innovations were:
The 7 th semester (out of 10) in 5 different courses in Chemical Engineering.
The 1 st semester (out of six) in 10 different courses in the Primary Preservice teachers program at the College of Education (Soria Campus
The 1 st semester (out of six) in 10 different courses in Social Work at the College of
An undergraduate "Computer Architecture" course in the 7 th
semester (out of 10) in
Three undergraduate courses: "Physics I", "Physics II" and "Physics Laboratory" during the 1st semester (out of 10) in Mechanical Engineering.
2 The University of Valladolid has four different campuses in the cities of Valladolid, Palencia, Segovia and
Soria. Five of the cases were performed at the Valladolid campus and one at Soria Campus.
An undergraduate course on “Information and communication Technologies to preservice teachers” during the 3 rd semester (out of six) at the College of Education
The cases were selected considering the following criteria, which are discussed in
- Relevant to the quintain: the planning of the cases should be consistent with what can help to understand the quintain.
- Diversity across situations to examine different functioning (probably representing different audiences) in which the quintain is manifested, i.e. diversity in the relationships with the quintain.
- Good opportunities to learn: it may represent a trade-off between how typical and how accessible the cases are, i.e. representativeness vs. potential for learning.
- Embraceable: we need to reach an integrated, holistic qualitative comprehension of the cases, so that the multicase should not be too large and diverse.
Figure 1: Multicase Study overview
Considering these criteria, we organized the multicase around the cases shown in Figure 1.
The selected cases are relevant to the quintain since they provide opportunities to examine different functioning (having different relationship with the quintain). Moreover, they represent a trade-off between accessible chances with a good potential for learning and representative experiences. The dimension of the multicase study is embraceable as the experiences are not too large and the quantity of data gathered enables an analysis that can be accomplished by a research team in a reasonable time.
As it can be deduced from the diversity of the evaluated set of courses, there was an intrinsic complexity originated from the combination of the innate difficulty of evaluation as well as from the multiple perspectives and backgrounds involved in the project. For instance,
It was quite difficult to find a common language among the participants with regard to the pedagogical issues touch on their innovations, since Educators, Chemists, Mechanical engineers, Computer scientists, physicists and Evaluators are sometimes far away in their conceptualization of knowledge construction as well as in their way of understanding teaching and pedagogical innovation.
To cope with this wide range of perspectives we used the description model proposed by (Stake, 1995) as a helpful way to structure and summarize each of the cases. Figure 2 shows the graphical representation of a single case. It can be divided into 3 different zones.
The first one concers the main topics of the case (central circle), the context (semicircles), and the conceptual structure (lower rectangles). The smaller semicircles around the main circles constitute the context of the case. The context greatly helps us to understand the case within the particular reality that conditions its realization. The lower side of the circles show components of the set of techniques applied to data gathering, analysis and interpretation processes. In the lower side of the diagram a rectangle can be found. It contains the issue of special concern or importance regarding a case. An issue has associated topics and more concrete information questions that shape the “conceptual structure” needed for designing and interpreting the study. The issue is related to the functioning of the case, reflecting its main purpose.
Figure 2: Graphical representation followed
Each case was analyzed by using a set of five different data gathering techniques.
Even though observation was the principal, interviews, document analysis, web based questionaires and focus groups also helped to build a more thorough picture of the cases. This profusion of techniques was posible because the multiple case was conducted by ten members of our transdisciplinary research team. We also count on with the invaluable help of 3-4 participating teachers on each case, who greatly facilitated the access to the field. Besides this, we defined four transversal topics for the six cases with the aim of focussing energies and facilitaing the data gathering. The topics were: Impact of the innovation in teaching and learning processes; Participation in the experience; ICT supporting the innovation and; global consideration of the innovation and emerging issues.
The cross topics were not defined as etic ones, as they emerged during the evaluation process.
The whole inquiry process was managed by the development of two types of meetings.
On the one hand there were a number of coordination ones among the evaluators in charge of each case and the participating teachers who were helping. On the other, there were also general coordination meetings among the ten evaluators evaluating the six cases. This flow of meetings helped the coordinated development of the multiple case study.
Description of the cases
One of the most relevant aspects of multiple case studies has to do with the variety of perspectives shown around a few issues. The uniqueness and singularity of the cases contribute to the understanding of a more general problem. In this section we describe the six cases that helped us to deepen in the way university teachers were developing their innovations at the University of Valladolid.
The first case study performed is the so-called UVa-Chemical Engineering . In this scenario we evaluated the 7 th
semester (out of 10) in 5 different courses in Chemical
Engineering. Four years ago the professors involved in the penultimate year of this degree noticed the lack of interdepence between the contents taught and the real work students will do in their future work as chemical engineers. To overcome this situation they designed a
Project Based Learning process (Thomas, 2004) where all the courses in the semester were understood as a unique project to be performed by the students. The courses were designed to help students better understand how a real industry works. The evaluated semester was devoted to the development of a project based on the sugar industry. Students assumed the role of Chemists working at a real sugar plant which is very close to the city of Valladolid.
Professors designed their courses (Chemical reactors; Environmental technology; Separation processes; Control and Instrumentation of Chemical Processes and; Experimentation in
Chemical engineering II) in accordance with the goal of providing contextualizad and meaningful experiences to the students, with the aim of helping them to acquire transversal competences (de Pablos & Jiménez, 2007). One of the main challenges of the innovation was the coordination among faculty in order to plan the educational design as well as the timing of the project. The whole process was supported by a website
, a virtual lerning platform
based on Moodle
and a new tutoring program based on pair, group and on-line tutoring hours.
During the first year, teachers involved in the innovation decided to frame their experience within the UVa pilot experiences. This way they obtained the support and institutional recognition of their work.
The second case study regards the evaluation of the 1 st semester (out of six) in 10 different courses in the Primary Teaching degree at the College of Education (Soria 6 ). We called this case UVa-Soria College of Education . In 2005 the director of the College of
Education at the UVa campus in Soria, in conjuction with some other teachers, decided to propose their centre to become one of the Bologna pilot experiences within the UVa.
Nevertheless, Faculty members were involved in a non-trivial period of reflection before applying to include their proposal as a pilot experience, as the application needed the agreement of all the teachers teaching courses in the first semester. At that moment their aim was to motivate the change of teaching&learning approaches to accomplish the 2010 Bologna challenges. To do so, they defined a set of eleven ambitious goals in which they started to work by following an Action Research spiral (Carr & Kemmis, 1986). Some of the goals regarded a better knowing of the Bolognia convergence process, the definition of the portrayal of competencies needed to become a teacher of the 21 st
century, the self-training in active teaching&learning methods as well as in ICT, and the organizational changes needed to coordinate and integrate all the courses to enhance student centered learning.
One of the particularities of the case was the reflective process followed by Faculty, Students and Staff to identify their needs as a community. In this sense, they promoted a series of training courses according to the previously emerged needs. For instance, they were involved in courses on active teaching methods such as Project Based Learning, Inquiry based learning and CSCL. They also participated in some courses to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of different learning platforms such as Synergeia
, or Moodle.
Although they are still making some relevant decisions, we have come to believe that they are achieving the purpose of being prepared for the 2010 convergence.
The third case study is the UVa-Social Work . We evaluated the 1st semester (out of six) in 10 different courses in the degree of Social Work at the College of Education in
Valladolid. In 2004 Faculty members decided that it was time to start preparing the whole
6 The University of Valladolid has four different campuses at the cities of Valladolid, Palencia, Segovia and
Soria. The UVa-College of Education case study was performed at the UVa campus in Soria.
degree for the forthcoming Bologna convergence. Their very first aim was to facilitate the coordination among the members of the community to promote a deep change in Social works studies. The need to be prepared for the ESHE made them develop an ambitious innovation based on a strong tutoring program and in a self-training program as well. In this sense they planned a coordinated process for teaching activities (lecture hours, assignments, work in groups, etc), establishing a follow up dynamics by Faculty, Students and Staff. The main topics of the training courses regard the use of collaboration and work in groups to promote active learning, as well as the use of learning systems to support the innovation. To facilitate the process and the coordination among faculty, a web site
was created. Each course has its own site which promotes the sharing of the contents and activities proposed in the syllabus.
Besides, a virtual learning environment
based on Moodle was also implemented with the goal of providing support to the mentioned tutoring program.
The fourth case is the UVa-Computer Architecture . We evaluated this undergraduate
"Computer Architecture" course in the 7 th
semester (out of 10) in Telecommunications
Engineering. The performed evaluation is deeply based on a previous one conducted during four semesters in the same scenario (Jorrín-Abellán, 2006). The course is made up of 30 lecture hours and 60 laboratory hours. Within the curriculum, the course is the last of a branch on computing topics that covers programming fundamentals, operating systems, and computer architecture. The designed educational program of the course tries to provide contextualized, integrated and meaningful knowledge to promote active, intentional and collaborative learning. The course follows the principles of the CSCL field, and it is defined as a project that develops along the semester, whose objective is the design and evaluation of computer systems according to the needs of different clients.
As the innovation follows the principles of the CSCL , several tools are used to support the aformentioned pedagogical program. Among them we can distinguish BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) ( Appelt & Birlinghoven, 2001) and Quest
(Gómez-Sánchez et al,
2002). BSCW is a well-known shared workspace system based on web interface that was used
for asynchronous document sharing and threaded discussions. Quest is a telematic tool for automatic management of student questionnaires in educational research; It supports synchronous debates in the classroom based on the results of previously submitted questionnaires that are filled by the students with their opinions about the topics under discussion. Both tools were used in order to promote the adquisition of procedures and skills, besides specific contents of the course. Other tools, like e-mail for communication and simulators for the assignments were also used during the process.
One of the most relevant issues concerning the evaluation of this case has to do with the community of practice created around the innovation. They were able to define a set of characteristics, recomendations and procedures emerged after the deep study of this particular experience, that could be used as an experiential and situational guidance to the community of teachers and researchers who want to improve the practice in telecomunication engenieering courses. (Jorrín-Abellán et alt, 2006b).
The fifth case study is constituted by the evaluation of three undergraduate courses:
"Physics I", "Physics II" and "Laboratory of Physics" during the 1st semester (out of 10) in
Mechanical Engineering. This evaluation is centered in the initiative proposed four years ago by the Department of Physics of the Condensed Matter, Crystallography and Mineralogy at the UVa. The main challenge of this innovation lies in the creation of an educational design to promote the development of instrumental, interpersonal and systemic competences in the students (Cebrian et alt, 2007). To do so the innovation is based on the improvement of the relationship between Students and Faculty
as well as in the promotion of practical learning experiences. The whole educational design encourages the work in groups and it is hence supported by different technological tools that promote it. For instance, they have put in practice a virtual laboratory
where students are able to practice after the lecture hours in real problems. The innovation also looks for a more accurate evaluation of the learning process, which was a concern among the students since the very beginning. In this sense, a new on-line system that helps students self-evaluation is available, as well as an on-line database in which many solved problems and practical activities from previous semestres are accesible.
11 Faculty members involved in the innovation felt the need to improve the exixting distant relationship with their students as the basis to promote real changes in the Mechanical Engineering degree.
The sixth case study regards the evaluation of an undergraduate course on
“Information and Communication Technologies to preservice teachers” during the 3 rd semester (out of six) at the College of Education in Valladolid. Two different but complementary approaches were put in practice in the design of the course. Firstly, it is based on the principles of the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning ( CSCL ) (Koschman,
1996) field, using technologies to support the collaborative learning process. Secondly, it follows an Inquiry based Learning methodology (Bruce, 2000). This special mixture offers a
“tasty dish” which can be called “Inquiry (cowiki-) based learning” (Jorrín-Abellán, 2007).
The course is divided into four cycles, each one of them spanning between two and four weeks. During these cycles, the students have to collaboratively create products and reflect on major aspects related with the integration of ICT in the curriculum of Spanish education centres. The students have a real case study as a reference, for which they should generate the required products. This case describes in detail an educative centre, and was designed taking school centres in Valladolid - well known by the teachers - as a reference. The main goal of this teaching method is the transfer the students can make of the procedural contents worked out during the course. Each cycle is divided into five phases, according to Bruce’s model of
IBL: Ask, investigate, create, discuss and reflect. In the “ask” phase teachers pose questions to the students, aimed to trigger the inquiry process; the “investigate” phase consists of work done by the students to collect data on that question, either in dyads or in four-member groups
(depending on the cycle); during the “create” phase the students are required to create a common product i.e. an educative WikiWeb. At the “discuss” phase, students are encouraged to read and comment on their partners' products. At the “reflect” phase, students must generate a justified answer for the questions posed in the initial phase, as well as the new questions emerged during the process.
Although many different technological tools are used to support the process, the most relevant one is a Wiki-based environment
especially adapted for the needs of the course. It is based on MediaWiki, the famous software used by Wikipedia. This learning platform helps faculty to integrate in an easy way all the tools needed to support the course (Web browser, chat, collaborative concept mapping software, Pdf visualizators, etc).
Even though each case provided many relevant findings, we have come to believe that the most “tasty” ones, in relation with the “quintain” (mentioned in the second section), arose from the multicase as a whole. Because of this, the current section is devoted to the findings reached by considering the case as the aggregation of the particularity of the six cases evaluated. Findings are organized in regard with the four cross topics that focused our attention during the evaluation process: Participation in the experiences; Impact of the innovations in teaching and learning processes; ICT supporting the innovations; global considerations of the innovations and emerging issues.
Before going on with the aforementioned topics, it is of special relevance to show that although the creation of a community of practice among the participating university teachers in the six cases was not an initial goal of the project, monthly meetings with all the participants contributed to the creation of a reflective community worried about its own teaching. The analysis of the cases made us think in the need teachers have to share their new ideas regarding the innovations in which they are involved. These communities of practice could connect people who are promoting similar innovations, empowering their innovative educational designs. This way, we have come to believe that the project helped to foster dialogs among the university teachers involved in the evaluation with regard to the decissions taken in their respective innovations. Hence, the E(UVa)LUANDO project has fulfilled the initial motivation of providing support to the group of colleagues that participated in the experience by facilitating a workspace to share concerns.
Regarding the topic on the participation in the experiences we found that many of the participants in the six experiences felt the innovation process was a motivating issue. We also realized that the huge amount of time spent in the design, enactment and evaluation of the innovations can only be understood from the strong initial motivation shown by the participating teachers. As it was mentioned in section 3, the UVa government decided that the agreement of all the teachers involved in a degree was necessary in order to proposed a pilot experience. This previous condition could be interpreted as an evidence that reveals the high initial motivation of the participants. Nevertheless, this situation was hard to overcome in
some of the experiences as it is showed in the following excerpt from the director of the
College of Education in Soria.
“…It was not a piece of cake at the very beginning… before we applied to become a pilot experience we had to convince all the professors teaching in the degree. We negotiated a lot. Sometimes I felt as a salesman. To every excuse they posed I had to propose a contructive solution…At the end, the initial motivation of a small group of professors made the college participate in the innovation… ”
In addition, we also found that Students participating in the innovations felt they were a relevant part of the process, what made them actively participate.
“Last year we had the chance to share our ideas and concerns about the organizational issues of the innovation. For instance we were asked about the best way to schedule the courses or the tutoring hours. I think this motivated us very much and it made us feel part of the change..”
Nevertheless, we must say at this point that the level of motivation and participation was not equal in all the experiences. For instance, students were highly motivated at the beginning of the UVa-Mechanical engineering but it decreased along the course because of the strong workload generated by the innovation, the high number of group assingments and sometimes because of the lack of coordination among faculty.
In conclusion we have evidence that the participation in the six innovations was pretty high, partly because of the favourable atmosphere promoted within them. However, the motivation of the participants in some of the cases decreased along the process as a consequence of the strong workload and also because of some procedural mistakes.
According to the second cross topic analyzed we found that the impact of the performed innovations in teaching and learning processes was quite remarkable. The innovations put in practice new active methods such as Collaborative Learning, Project Based
Learning, Problem based Learning, or Inquiry Based Learning, with the aim of promoting learner-centered processes by implicating the students in contexts similar to those they will find in their future professional life. The following excerpt from a student in the UVa-
Computer Architecture case study illustrates that some of the innovations achieved this goal.
“I believe the most positive thing in the course is the simulation of real work conditions. After this course I have understood clearer the role of an engineer as a professional inside the labour world...”.
Moreover, the innovations in most of the cases aimed for the transferability of the contents taught and learned, emphasizing the development of general competences in the students such as talking in public or synthesizing skills. In this sense, there was a relevant activity within the
UVa-Mechanical Engineering case that can be a good example of the pursued contents transferability. In the mentioned activity students were asked to write a report in groups of 4 regarding one of the scientific topics taught in the course. After writing the report, they were asked to design a poster to be presented to their classmates as if they were in a congress. As it can be seen in the following quotation, students felt that the activity helped them to develop general competences.
“I think the experience has been interesting… I am sure I´ll have to present my work many times in the future. I´m pretty sure these activities will really help me to do so.
Furthermore, I liked the chance to select the topic I wanted to research on… It helped me to be more engaged and motivated with the course..”
Although faculty members made great efforts to promote active and contextualized learning, there are still a lot of reminiscences from the traditional lecture oriented approach previously followed in most of the evaluated situations that interfere with this aim. The following quotations from two students participating in the UVa- Social Work Case Study and in the
UVa-Soria collage of Education Case Study show evidence about it.
“…lecture hours could be a little more engaging. Many times I feel the need to share my opinions and concerns on the topics of the course and I was not able to do it.
They (professors) did not give us the chance!”
“…some professors believe deeply in the innovation project, but others just repeat the same things they were doing before but calling them in a different way...”
However, the impact of the innovations is unquestionable and the effects in teaching and learning can be seen in many aspects. For instance, in the new tutoring systems designed in some of the scenarios. The Uva-College of Education, the Uva- Chemical engineering, and the UVa-Soria College of Education Case Studies implemented tutoring programs to advise students during the learning process. Faculty involved in the first one put in practice a special tutoring system based on thematic tutoring hours where the students were able to decide the topics of a series of tutoring hours to be developed each week of the course. In the same way, another innovative tutoring program within the Uva-Chemical engineering was put in practice. The different groups of students formed to deal with the Sugar-industry project
(described in section 3) had one tutoring hour a week with each of the faculty involved. This way, students were asked to create a portfolio gathering the main ideas and advances reached at the tutoring hours. This helped the guidance provided to the students since it let faculty to easyly follow the flow of the work done. Another similar experience was carried out in the
UVa-Soria College of Education. In this case, Faculty and students decided to schedule all the professor´s office hours in the same time slot from 11:00 am to noon. This organizational change was done in order to give relevance to the tutoring hours as well as to facilitate a more individualized tracking of the students learning process.
Another impact in teaching&learning can be seen in the efforts done in some of the innovations to promote more accurate assesment programs. It is noteworthy the continuous assessment program developed at the UVa-College of Education where Students had the chance to take decisions concerning their evaluation process.
“ I appreciate so much the opportunity the professor gave us to decide about the grading. She proposed us a grading system where a 40% of the final course grade was devoted to the practical activities, another 40% to the theoretical assignments and the final exam, and a 20% to the participation and other activities in the course.
She gave us the opportunity to negotiate it and of course, we did it…”
This proposal made the students feel more motivated with regard to the course since part of the organizational decisions taken in the process were of their responsibility.
Another important issue that remarks the impact of the innovation in teaching&learning has to do with the new coordination strategies among teachers that were used in the innovations. Coordination has been a central matter in the six experiences and many collaboration structures were created to do so. For instance, a series of transdisciplinar work commissions were created, as well as interdepartmental ones. These structures allowed
Faculty, Students ans Staff to reflect on the problems that were affecting the innovations. This can be seen in the following quotation by a teacher in the UVa-Soria College of Education.
“If there is a special keyword in the whole process of achieving the Bologna convergence that must be “Coordination”. It is almost imposible to develop this sort of innovations alone. And it is also a nonsense since the coordination of faculty is needed to promote an integral education of our students... Everything started from the reflection… The commissions gave us the opportunity to reflect on small parts of the big problem… at the end the curriculum was re-designed from this small pieces of reflection”
Other coordination experiences were also found in the Uva-Chemical engineering case where all the faculty members developed a transversal Project through all the courses, or in the UVa-
College of Education case, where four teachers collaborated in the design of the syllabus of the course, the wikiweb platform to support the process, and the tutoring program for their students.
As a conclusion we have come to believe that the new tutoring systems, assesment programs, and coordination processes as well as the previously mentioned active learning
strategies put in practice in the innovations contributed to generate an evident impact in teaching&learning processes.
The third analyzed cross topic has to do with the Information and Communication
Technologies used to support the innovation in the six case studies. As it is mentioned in (De
Pablos & Jiménez, 2007), (Cebrian et alt, 2007) the use of ICT associated to ESHE changes opens new horizons for educative innovation. There are two main factors in the process of
European convergence where the importance of the integration and use of ICT in the teaching-learning context becomes evident. On the one hand, the Introduction of the European
Credit Transfer System requires the use of technologies to accommodate students from different countries working sometimes at a geographical distance from their University. On the other, the Competence Based learning approach proposed by the Bologna convergence defines the set of the generic competences to be to be kept in consideration during the curricula reform for its better adjustment to the ESHE. The Tuning Project
“competence” as “what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of learning”, and makes a proposal of generic competences to be taken into account. There are three types of generic competences: Intrumental competences
(cognitive abilities, methodological abilities, technological abilities and linguistic abilities);
Interpersonal competences (Social skills); and Systemic competences (abilities and skills concerning the combination of understanding, sensibility and knowledge).
This way, the acquisition of some of the three types of competences can be reached by the proper use of ICT. Although the use of technology was not in the corebody of all the evaluated innovations, we can show some interesting conclusions emerged from the study.
One of the most significant aspects found has to do with the reflective process followed by the teachers before selecting a tool to be used in a course. For instance, in the
The Tuning Project aims to identify points of convergence in education systems across Europe. By tuning education systems in this way, and locating simple, common reference points amongst them, the goal is to make recognition of qualifications easier. These reference points relate to general competences, such as communication or leadership skills, and the subject-specific competences a student will have acquired from their particular course of study. The Tuning project addresses several of the Bologna action lines and notably the adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees, the adoption of a system based on two cycles and the establishment of a system of credits. The project is funded by the European Commission and is driven by the participating institutions from across the continent. The third phase of the Tuning Project ended in October
2006 and more details on all phases are available on the Tuning Project website http://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/educ/tuning/tuning_en.html
UVa-Soria College of Education case study, the community of teachers involved decided not to choose a concrete learning platform until having defined the real needs of every course implicated in the whole innovation program. In this sense, there is a big problem in our university because there is not an official learning platform yet. This situation makes professors use the learning tools they want to, but without having technical support from the institution.
Another interesting finding has to do with the many technological possibilities that could be taken into account in order to promote active, distant, blended, or face to face learning to achieve the Bologna goals. New uses of technology as mediational tools were reported in the evaluation such as the use of Wiki-webs to promote collaboration and guidance within undergraduate courses, the use of virtual laboratories to facilitate the practical work of the students, or the creation of virtual learning scenarios. In this sense, we have evidence that students appreciated the efforts done to support the innovations by using technological resources, as can be seen in the following excerpt from a focus group.
Evaluator: ¿What do you think about the technology you´ve been using in the course? Synergeia, Quest, the Wiki platform… ?
Student A: The thing I like the most is the possibility provided by these tools to share your work.
Student B: I agree with you, but they also helped me when working at home.
Everything was available 24 hours 7 days a week… The readings, the assignments…
Student A: I like the Wiki because it is even easier to use than Synergeia. Once you´ve catched the way it works it becomes straightforward.
Student B: I also think that the tools we have used are pretty didactic, I mean, you can follow the learning flow, it is easy to find the handouts and even easier to post a comment to other groups work.
In sum, the evaluated experiences showed that the supportive Technology used in the innovations helped to promote coordination among the participating faculty members. For instance, e-mail and shared websites were of special relevance during the design of the innovations. They also helped to enhance the previously mentioned active learning strategies.
For example, BSCW, the content repository used in the UVa-Computer Architecture case study was crucial to promote collaboration among students, allowing the collaborative writing
of the assignments asked in the course. Furthermore, the Wiki platform used in the UVa-
College of Education case was essential to develop the Inquiry Based Learning approach followed, as it helped the students to discuss and reflect about the work done. Moreover, ICT used in the experiences also facilitated the performance of the developed assesment and
In spite of these positive aspects on the use of ICT in the evaluated innovations, a set of difficulties were also found. The first one regards the lack of technological resources reported by some of the professors.
“I have used the available technological resources in my collage… But, to be honest, we only have a precarious laboratory with 30 computers in our building…
Sometimes it is exasperating. They work bad and my students prefer to bring their own laptops… Obviously, our lab doesn´t meet the minimum requirements expected in a university college.”
Other reported problem regards the excess of availability that technology allows in some circumstances. Some of the professors who used learning platforms and more concretly on-line tutoring systems felt enslaved because their students expected full time availability.
This situation generates strong workload with which professors have to deal.
“…I feel I have a narrow relationship with my students. They are always sending mails. Sometimes when they send a question or a doubt they expect I am going to answer in the following minutes… it is insane, isn´t it? How can we tell them that this is not a 24hours Seven Eleven?”
Other professors had problems in relation with the time spent to train their students in the use of the learning platforms. They had to reduce lecture and lab hours to schedule initial training sessions. Some plausible solutions provided by other participants could be the use of technologies well-known by the students (such as Wikimedia, software used by Wikipedia) or the use of the same learning platform by a number of courses in the same degree.
The last reported problem has to do with the lack of technical support provided by the university to the teachers involved in the use of ICT. Innovations that took place in nontechnological scenarios had much more problems in this sense than the ones taking place at
Engineering, Physics or Chemistry. The lack of technicians in the first ones is notorious. As an example we can say that colleges with 2000 thousand students counts with only 2 technicians.
In conclusion, after having evaluated the role of ICT in the six innovation experiences we have come to believe that there are some practical recommendations that could be useful in order to select the most suitable supportive technology in this sort of scenarios. For instance:
Its use should be easy and efficient.
It should help teachers to organize the course contents.
It should allow the reutilization of resources, structures and contents.
It should allow easily the management of students, courses, groups and roles within the process.
It should allow the realization of collaborative artifacts.
It should help teachers to evaluate the process, and
It should help teachers to provide feedback during the process
The last of the evaluated cross topics regards the Global consideration of the innovation and emerging issues . Within this topic there are a set of strengths, weaknesses and general recommendations that emerged from the evaluated experiences.
The strengths of the innovations can be summarized in the impact they had in most of the learning&teaching processes, with special relevance in the improvement made in the relationship between faculty and students. The creation of communities of practice around each innovation is also a remarkable contribution of this evaluation as well as the implementation of technological learning tools to promote collaboration among faculty and students. The bunch of innovative teaching methods implemented (computer supported collaborative activities, IBL, PBL, etc) was also an outstanding merit of the innovations. To
do so, faculty members followed an intense self-training program that allowed them to perform more creative and assorted teaching activities.
Regarding the weaknesses of the evaluated innovations we have come to believe that there is a deep resistance against the Bologna convergence that generates many problems within faculty. Coordination issues appeared when some professors spent time presuading other colleagues about the necessity of working towards the Bolognia convergence.
A set of general recommendations also emerged from the process. For instance, an interesting emerged issue regards the need to create a preliminary course in order to train students in some fundamental skills needed to the acquisition of high level competencies, such as those promoted by the ESHE. Some of these skills can be summarized in: Basic
Technological skills; Critical reading skills; Critical writing Skills; Critical Thinking and ;
Collaborative learning and leadership.
Another interesting recommendation has to do with the need to create an specific bureau at the university with the aim of helping teachers promoting innovations. One of the specific challenges of this bureau could be guiding and helping teachers to choose the most suitable technologies to give answer to their educational needs.
Conclusions and future work
As a general conclusion we can say that the project has tried to put in dialog the educative characteristics of each innovation with the decisions taken by university policymakers in our university to achieve the Bologna goals. We have realized that higher education institutions should take into account the pilot innovations already put in practice instead of promoting nonsense top-down changes. The report emerged from the E(UVa)LUANDO it is going to be send to our university athorities as well as to the Spanish ministry of education with the naive goal of making them think in other ways of promoting european convergence.
Maybe one of the most valuable achievements of the E(UVa)LUANDO Project is that it helped to foster fluent dialogs among the community of scholars involved in the challenge of reaching 2010 with the guarantee of having been working towards new methods of
teaching&learning. A reflective community of practice was created facilitaing the support among each other.
The Project also showed us that although many professors were deeply concerned with the technological support to be used in their innovations (maybe because they are under a lot of pressure comming from the institutions) in the end it was one more piece of the complex puzzle of this sort of experiences. Nevertheless, a set of different technological solutions have been implemented, what makes us think in the kind of decisions that could be taken in this sense. The variety and complexity of the different learning situations evaluated in this Project made us have enough evidences that universities should not adopt a generic learning platform with the aim of supporting all the courses in the same way. A reflective process made by faculty involved in an innovation is needed in order to find the needs of each specific situation before selecting the supportive technology. In this sense, we do believe that flexible platforms that allow the integration of different services (tools to give answer to the needs of a wide range of educational activities) could be a good choice. There are some works in the literature that are already working in this line such us the proposed in (Bote-Lorenzo et alt, 2008).
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This work has been partially funded by the E(UVa)LUANDO Project. Programa de
Estudios, Análisis y Evaluación. Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación EA2007-0045. The authors would also like to acknowledge the contributions from other members of the
GSIC/EMIC research group as well as the time and effort spent by the participants (Students,
Faculty and staff) in the case studies.