EduHack – Hacking Education through eLearning and Open Education

A host of recent policy initiatives, in particular the European Commission’s Opening Up Education communication and related initiatives (such as the Open Education Europa portal), have put a renewed emphasis on the creation and use of digital resources for education. In particular, the research accompanying the Opening Up Education communication found that 50%-80% of students in EU countries never use digital textbooks, exercise software, simulations or learning games, that most teachers at primary and secondary level do not consider themselves as ‘digitally confident’ or able to teach digital skills effectively, and that 70% would like more training in using ICTs. In parallel, within Higher Education, the emergence of Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and other innovative methodologies are increasing the demand for digital learning opportunities. The demand for such opportunities is increased further by its contribution to lifelong learning, with students asking for customisable and flexible study experiences which can be taken along with working responsibilities. In the meantime, despite increasing demand, Europe is suffering from an acute lack of skills within its teaching population to develop digital educational resources and to design ICT-enabled learning experiences. These skills include not only a level of technical competence on educational technologies, but also the ability to coordinate multi-disciplinary teams and adopt open educational practices such as the reuse, modification and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) or the design and delivery of MOOCs.

The EduHack project aims to tackle this problem at its source by:

  • Improving the skills of teachers-in-training and recently-graduated teachers in developing and delivering content for eLearning courses, with particular attention to open education approaches;
  • Networking groups of these teachers in different countries (primarily but not exclusively Italy, Spain, the UK, Belgium and Malta) so as to use ICT-enhanced pedagogical approaches (including OER and MOOCs) to share and combine work and improve cross-border collaboration;
  • Facilitating the matching of skills of teachers with that of other professionals (media-production experts, quality-assurance professionals, web developers etc.), to allow for trans-disciplinary course creation teams.

A consortium of organisations active in eLearning design, teacher-training, event-management and eLearning innovation will tackle the problem through a project designed to:

  • Develop a methodology for a blended course, whereby recently-employed teaching professionals will learn the knowledge and skills necessary for eLearning course (including MOOCs) creation, composed of an online part and a 3 days intensive course, modelled after business-plan competitions, software hackathons and the principles of design thinking.
  • Organise three instances of these “Higher Education teachers’ hackathons” (supported by a previous online learning process) around Europe, in which participants will collaboratively learn specific skills and will create prototype courses, which could be further developed after the end of the project;
  • Set up a European semantic and “connectivist” resource database and network, which would promote the reproduction of these events by new institutions and in new countries, either independently or with the help and expertise of the consortium members.

The organisation of the project hackathons will draw upon methodologies for such events created by industry-leaders such as the Y-Combinator startup accelerators or the TEDx network for independently organised TED events. These methodologies have never been applied to educators’ courses in Higher Education, hence the project will represent a very original contribution to the modernisation of European Higher Education area.

By the end of the project, we will have equipped at least 90 teachers from 15 different institutions with the skills necessary to design and deliver their own eLearning courses, OER and MOOCs – with their competence being proven through the development of a prototype course during the project’s lifecycle.

The European eLearning and open education community will benefit from the project since:

  • it will increase in size, thanks to additional teachers trained by the project;
  • the variety of materials and courses available for re-sharing and re-use will increase, thanks to the materials created by the newly trained teachers, that will be collected in a sustainable semantic and “connectivist” platform;
  • the cohesion and international links of the community will improve thanks to the particular international and innovative format of the ‘EduHack’ events;
  • any institution in Europe will be able to replicate a ‘EduHack’ event, multiplying all the above effects for each event organised.