31 October 2019 • Jos Beelen
THUAS implements IKUDU
In October 2019, the Global Learning research group launched the Erasmus + project IKUDU: ‘Transforming curricula through internationalisation and virtual exchanges’. The project is aimed at online collaboration between students in South Africa and four European countries. After all, there are few South African students who can afford a ‘physical’ exchange at a European university. Online collaboration offers potentially all South African students the opportunity to study together with international students.
IKUDU is aimed at ‘capacity building’, enabling South African institutions to initiate, develop, implement, test and evaluate online collaborations.
Online collaboration has grown over a short period of time to be an important component of an internationalised curriculum. Students gain international learning experiences without having to leave their institution and, consequently, experience internationalisation at home. This form of international collaboration is also popular at THUAS. We normally designate this approach as ‘COIL’ (Collaborative Online International Learning). Several THUAS degree programmes have already introduced COIL. In some of them, students from the same specialisation work together, while others involve interdisciplinary learning practices. The IKUDU project offers THUAS students and lecturers the possibility to collaborate with South African institutions, enabling the programmes to add the South African perspectives that are currently lacking in most cases. IKUDU therefore strengthens the WIN themes of ‘Internationalisation’ and ‘Global Citizenship’.
The European IKUDU consortium comprises five institutions: the University of Antwerp, Coventry University, University of Siena, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and The Hague University of Applied Sciences. All of these schools have extensive experience with COIL. In South Africa, five universities are participating: the University of the Free State and Central University of Technology (both in Bloemfontein), Durban University of Technology, University of Limpopo and University of Venda. Jon Rubin, founder of COIL at the State University of New York, is also involved in the project.
During the three years of the project, training courses are organised (in both South Africa and in Europe), materials developed and pilot projects with students set up, carried out and evaluated. An important advantage of north-south collaboration is that there is no time difference, making it easier to work together in real time than with an east-west collaboration. The project also has its challenges. Some South African academics consider internationalisation a Western concept imposed on former colonies. They argue in favour of ‘Africanisation’ instead. So, the current debate on the decolonisation of curricula is an important component of the project. The outcomes of this debate largely determine the goals and topic of the COIL approach.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, technology is not the problem in this type of collaboration. The topic, learning outcomes, testing and reflection, as well as communication, are the real challenges and largely determine the success of COIL as a learning experience.
Another challenge is therefore to make COIL truly ‘collaborative’ and to create an online learning environment in which students learn through intensive collaboration with challenging content. This type of collaboration is perfect for jointly tackling ‘wicked problems’.
The Hague University of Applied Sciences has extensive experience with COIL and, in 2016, hosted the first European COIL conference. The THUAS project team comprises Reinout Klamer and Simone Hackett, both experienced COIL lecturers, Jos Beelen, Global Learning professor, and Ellen Sjoer, Sustainable Talent Development professor.
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