Join the ECCOE open public consultation

Contribute to shaping the future of micro-credentials!

Review our proposed set of quality criteria for credential description as well as a Model of Digital Credential template providing the most important data about the learning opportunity to be recognised by a given credential. Are they appropriate for a valid and successful credentialisation process and the recognition of learning results at your own institution?

You are also invited to test our Model Credit Recognition Agreement (MCRA) tool and experiment with generating sample agreement templates between HEIs with a view to recognising and validating courses between your institution and other HEIs.

Our public consultation is open until 1 February 2020.

Developing Synergies #2

As ECCOE continues to develop synergies with other projects and initiatives, I’m delighted to report on a series of significant events which took place in June. First of all, ECCOE was honoured to be invited to the European Commission’s MicroCredentials Working Group meeting on June 15th. KIC, DHBW and EDEN have attended these meetings in the past, representing flagship projects such as MicroHE, but now – with MicroHE nearing its completion – ECCOE is developing as the key initiative to build on this legacy. To have the opportunity to inform the EC first hand about the latest developments in micro-credential issuing and recognition, both in research and practice, is proof of the quality of our achievements so far and will enable ECCOE to have a much greater impact than we initially foresaw.

Ildiko Mazar and myself also represented ECCOE in the Synergy session at the online EDEN Annual Conference (June 22nd-24th). As always, this was a great opportunity not only to give a short overview of ECCOE, but also to get to know what other projects are doing and to identify ways in which we can engage in mutually beneficial collaboration.

A concrete example of this is ongoing work with eLene4Life, another project AUNEGe is coordinating and which was also presented in the EDEN Synergy session. The soft skills courses and initiatives collected by eLene4Life are perfectly within the scope of what we’re covering in ECCOE, from the point of view of both Learning Opportunities and the actual (digital) credentials these lead to. So a selection of the eLene4Life soft skills courses is currently being run through the ECCOE evaluation process (alongside over 100 other courses, MOOCs and modules!) to establish whether these meet the requirements for our future Online Catalogue of Learning Opportunities.

Among the other projects presented in the Synergy session were RE-SERVES (REsearch at the SERVice of Educational fragilitieS) which aims at deepening understandings of the relations between fragility, vulnerability and education, through analyses and problematisation of existing educational practices in a variety of contexts.

Both eLene4Life and RE-SERVES are producing MOOCs as part of their project outcomes, so these are also possible candidates for the future ECCOE Online Catalogue of Learning Opportunities.

Sometimes the synergies were not directly related to ECCOE, but between the other projects. As eLene4Life focuses on active learning methods for soft skills development, the COLED project (Collaborative Learning Environment for Engineering Education) could contribute a scenario for the eLene4Life Dynamic Toolkit and the NEXUS project on civic engagement for migrants (coordinated by UNED, a partner in ECCOE) was invited to contribute to a forthcoming eLene4Life blog post on service learning.

We also learned about ERICENA, a Horizon2020 project aiming at the establishment of the European Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence in China.

Finally, ECCOE can contribute to several of the areas which the University of the Future Network is focusing on in order to define models for integrative, boundary-crossing and collaborative institutions. Here, the development of trustworthy solutions for the recognition of credentials, including those relating to prior learning, will be vital to the success of this initiative, in the same way that we hope to support the whole community of European Universities.

As the identification and take-up of synergies is part of our DNA in ECCOE, you can expect to find more accounts of how we’re working with other projects and initiatives as part of this blog series. In the meantime, we invite you to delve deeper into ECCOE work and that of the other projects mentioned here, and to develop your own synergies, with us and with others! Let us know in the comments below if what you’re working on could be interesting for us, or if you want to know more about how our work could be useful for you.

Watch the session recording by clicking here.

ONLINE TRANSNATIONAL PROJECT MEETINGS – the ECCOE experience

The ECCOE partners have just run an intense three-day online project meeting, from Tuesday May 5th to Thursday May 7th 2020. This meeting should have taken place in Milan, but obviously due to the lockdown situation across Europe this was not possible. We had several options: postpone, run a series of shorter meetings over a longer period, or concentrate the work over the days initially scheduled for the face-to-face meeting. We chose the latter as a) the project is at the stage where we really needed to focus on key issues, b) people had already blocked those dates in their diaries and c) at the time of making the decision certain partners anticipated heavy workloads within their institutions in the coming months.

By the end of the third day we were all naturally very tired, but felt it had been a great success. So the aim of this blog post is to take a look at why and how it worked, with the aim of helping others who have to organise such meetings. This may become more and more the norm, as travel restrictions are not yet lifted, and even once they are, people may want to reduce the carbon footprint of such transnational project activity.

So, why did it work so successfully? We look at a few key points…

We decided together

The decision was made collectively, after gathering insights from similar experiences where partners had been involved in online transnational project meetings as participants or organisers. We weighed up the pros and cons of each option, discussed them and then agreed on duration and format.

We set the basic principle of a three-day meeting, focussing sequentially on each of the four ongoing Intellectual Outputs (IOs). The question of whether to run this in parallel groups was envisaged but rejected in favour of the sequential approach, as one partner put it:

“We… believe that although the Zoom breakout rooms sound very useful, since we have a small enough partnership where probably everybody would prefer to be engaged with all planned discussions, it would be preferable to have the group meetings in sequence and not in parallel.”

We prepared thoroughly

We set up a detailed agenda as a shared, editable document. We do this for all meetings, but the key to success here was in the level of detail, with explicit instructions for each of the key points to be covered. These included
• Goal to be achieved
• Time needed
• Way of working
• Key documents and resources
Each partner responsible for a given agenda point was free to decide on the most appropriate approach, and all key resources were linked to from the agenda, meaning that everything was accessible from this single reference document.

We divided up the responsibilities

In addition to those in charge of running a particular session, we had time-keepers and note-takers, and one partner in particular emerged as the ‘break requester’!

In the preparation stage, we took into account the lessons learned from previous experience:

“We didn’t get a lot of help with the collaborative minutes since people were focussing on the Zoom session. Understandable, I guess. I found it easier to take my notes by hand, for the same reason, and add them subsequently.”

 

“We should learn from [A]’s experience and prepare for minute taking, maybe identifying a main note taker (I, [B], nominate [C] :-), who is an excellent note taker and who may not be under so much pressure as the other IO leaders whose work will be discussed) and one or two supporters.”

We kept to task

The detailed agenda proved an excellent guide, in particular with the focus on goals, ways of working and listing of key documents. The one adjustment we made was in integrating the relevant findings of the recent quality review at the start of each session, so we could focus on successful aspects, challenges and suggestions for improvement, before launching into the discussion. We came back to the goals and the quality review at the end of each session to check whether we had addressed them, and also took the time to review the note-taking.

Again, this was in response to previous experiences shared by partners:

“I think it requires a lot more discipline than in a F2F meeting, and it puts a lot more stress on the organiser to be polite but brutal with time management!”

 

“Keeping the time schedule was really important, we constantly checked with agenda and time to not lose the time too often. People are not robots, it is impossible to fulfil the agenda perfectly due to discussions, but constant reminders helped stay on track.”

We all agreed that we had achieved a great deal, especially in terms of improved overall understanding. This was thanks to the fact that we put the emphasis on discussions and collaboration, rather than a succession of presentations.  And we had numerous breaks!

We had the right attitude

We demonstrated empathy, trust, respect and flexibility. In the preparation stage, we understood that some partners might have family commitments not compatible with the meeting schedule, and adapted where necessary. We discussed the implications for people in a different time zone. During the meeting itself, we listened attentively, and collaborated fully in the work that was set by each of the output leaders. We paid attention to surfacing different visions and addressed these respectfully. As one partner said:

“Our disagreements are soooo constructive!”

All in all, it was a very successful meeting. Of course these online meetings are challenging and tiring, and we miss many aspects of what a face to face meeting brings. Although we did have an informal social moment in the form of an optional online aperitif on the second day, we already knew from the experience shared in the preparation stage that some aspects would be a challenge to replicate in an online meeting.

“Obviously there is nowhere near so much quality time for reflection and gentle discussion, like you would have in a F2F event (not so much the event in itself but the coffee breaks, lunch times, etc.).”

We’d like to hear from you!

Have you recently run such a transnational online meeting? Does this reflect your experience? What other tips and suggestions would you propose? And if you are planning such a meeting, what additional advice would you like, from us or from others? Feel free to contribute in the comments or engage with us on social media, via the @EccoeProject Twitter account and/or with #EccoeProject.

 

First transnational partner meeting in Heilbronn

From October 8th to 10th 2019, the ECCOE partners came together in Heilbronn, Germany for the kick-off meeting of the ECCOE project. The meeting was hosted by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg / DHBW).

This meeting was the first opportunity for partners from France, Malta, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Germany to meet face to face. We had already held an online meeting right at the launch of the project in September, but even though we’re all experienced in remote working, and many of us have worked together on other projects, a physical meeting is vital for more in-depth discussion, and of course to develop group cohesion around a common goal. Indeed, forging and fostering interpersonal, working relationships is vital to a project’s success, and we all felt that, by the end of the three days, we had succeeded in refining our shared understanding of what we want to achieve in ECCOE, and in determining how we would work together over the coming three years.

The partnership brings together a wealth of expertise in digital credentials, and in open, online and flexible education. Some of the things we covered were:

  • who are the main stakeholders concerned by digital credentials?
  • what should a digital credential look like?
  • what are the processes from the point of view of learners, higher education institutions and employers?
  • what are the barriers to greater uptake and how can we overcome them?

We’re obviously just at the start of the project, but as I write this post I can see that we’ve made impressive progress over this short period. We look forward to sharing intermediate results as they become available, and to gathering feedback from the wider community through our public consultations and open peer review.

I would thus like to take this opportunity to thank all the ECCOE partners for their enthusiasm and commitment to the project, and also thank the people we’ve met who have expressed interest in and support for ECCOE. You can expect to hear more from us very shortly!

Deborah Arnold
ECCOE coordinator
National and international projects coordinator
AUNEGe – digital university for management and economics, France