By Alun DeWinter
Hello and a warm welcome to the GLEA blog. This is actually my first every blog post I have ever written, so I hope that this will be of as much interest to you as it is a learning curve for me! To briefly introduce myself, I am Alun DeWinter, an early career researcher in GLEA working within our internationalisation, intercultural education and transnational education theme. This is quite an exciting time for me as I joined the GLEA team last year around about the same time as completing my PhD. I joined the research centre after having worked in a centre in the professional services which focussed on internationalisation and intercultural competences. With my academic background in international relations and peace studies, GLEA offers me a great opportunity to link up the sum of my experiences and conduct high-quality research that will hopefully make a positive impact to those involved with internationalised teaching and learning.
One of my current projects, (the very first major project I have been involved with here, in fact) is JOVITAL and is a perfect example of the type of project I enjoy working on and perfectly encapsulates the type of research that GLEA is seeking to specialise in.
JOVITAL, or Jordan opportunity for virtual innovative teaching and learning to use its full title, is a an international cooperation, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Capacity Building in HE programmes of the European Union. Coventry University is working with three other European institutions and five Jordanian universities with an overall aim to foster academic exchange using virtual mobility, which includes offering learning opportunities to academic staff, university students and disadvantaged learners in Jordan. Further information on the project and its partners can be found here: https://jovital.eu/project/
We in GLEA have been most heavily involved with a research-focussed work package which looks at the current landscape in the Jordanian Higher Education context and what is considered ‘state of the art’ for online learning and online international learning. This research has been very interesting as Jordan faces a number of unique factors in terms of its current situation. Firstly, the socio-political issues of Syrian refugees introduces a challenging dynamic to higher education and inclusion. On top of this, there is a governmental cap on the amount of degree content that can be taught online and the technological provisions available to students vary from country to country. Pedagogically, tutors and students are also not generally well versed in using online learning as a serious tool for education. Our research delves into these issues and highlights what other universities are doing around the world to more fully incorporate online learning into the higher education provision.
The JOVITAL project’s goal is to improve the quality of teaching in Jordanian Higher Education Institutions by introducing innovative collaborative tools and methodologies and by fostering academic international exchange. At present, a number of training sessions is taking place, led by other partners in the JOVITAL consortium and further research and evaluation is taking place, with an ultimate goal to publish the findings once the project has completed. Myself and two of my colleagues are going to Italy in March for a full consortium partner meeting, which will not only be invaluable in discussing and assessing the project mid-way through but an important arena to meet our colleagues face-to-face who have been working on various aspects of the project. We have also recently submitted a paper to present our work-in-progress research which we hope will be accepted so that we can present our findings to the world.
Overall, I really hope this project will make a difference for Jordanian intuitions and that our research will be of benefit to anyone who is interested on online learning and online international learning. If anyone is interested in this research, or any other research related to the internationalisation of higher education, please do get in contact!