Technology Educational Institute Crete and Destiny

Last week we caught up with Dr. Konstantinos PetridisAssistant Professor, PhD (University of St Andrews) and Department of Electronic Engineering at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete. The University based in Crete, Greece, are involved in using the Destiny MOOCs to enhance learning and improving transversal skills in the engineering sector. 

Why do TEIC want to become a partner in the Destiny MOOC project?

The Technological Educational Institute of Crete and more specifically the Department of Electronic Engineering is interested in this project because among its strategic priorities are (a) the provision of course curriculum that meets the market needs and (b) to secure to its graduate students high employment rates. However, the reality is that most degrees face time constraints and for this reason most academic staff make the decision to teach content that focuses on developing professional competencies and leave aside transversal competencies. Our engagement in the DESTINY project allowed us to realise (a) what are the market needs regarding the hard and soft skills requested from a modern electronic engineer and (b) interact with the other consortium partners and learn how to teach soft skills via our courses by viewing their modules.

Thanks to the DESTINY project our students learn also the multiplier power the MOOCs provide to extend and enrich their knowledge to fields that are not covered by the offered standard curriculum.

What is going to be the role of TEIC within this project?

The TEI of Crete and more specifically the Department of Electronic engineering has analysed the skills requested from the business world in the electronic engineering sector regarding staff. Via a series of surveys and interviews with directors of human resource, technical staff and CEOs, businesses were asked to specify the capacities that staff should possess in order to perform their duties efficiently. On top of this a survey launched in order to identify the impression of the Work Seekers regarding their skills and how these can tackle the market world challenges. Both the employers and the work seekers generally agreed to the skills that they are missing and that MOOCs are a vital tool to teach the identified missing skills.

  • Data was gathered at a local level (Crete) and national level (Greece).
  • The TEI of Crete focused on the electronic engineering sector since this matches with the department profile and scope of offered studies.

It was then possible to identify where businesses believed there to be a lack of training: hard and transversal competencies. Due to its statue, as the stronger employer among our graduate students, it was selected to develop an online module in optical communications, the module entitled “An Introduction to Optical Fibers”. Once identified, a methodology was designed to teach these competencies online using MOOCs in order to reach the largest number of individuals possible.The module it was offered to the Department’s students during its test phase as a part of a compulsory course. The related videos, evaluation tests will be available to anyone through the Destiny Project website.

The TEI of Crete designed a MOOC lasting 10 weeks. Its duration is much longer than the other MOOCs in the consortium, due to its technical character. It is the only one that targeted a hard skill to develop whereas the others were called to cultivate soft skills. This was the 1st attempt from a staff member of the Department of Electronic Engineering to develop an online module. Training and great help was offered by the ULL and DOBA staff members. In other words, the ULL & DOBA provided information on MOOC creation that covered both the technical and pedagogical aspects of creating MOOCs.

How do you think that technology is changing the way young people learn?

DESTINY has been introduced to our students and members of staff (two multiplier events have taken place in our facilities) and created the potential for more complete education and training. We believe that this has given rise to a new type of educational model that will be widely used until supplanted by future advances. Thanks to DESTINY, a new way of teaching, the hybrid one, has been introduced to our young undergraduate students. MOOCs are a useful tool for their life long learning effort during their professional career. This type of training is incredibly convenient as it can be used at any time of day or night from anywhere in the world, using a computer or portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops. Furthermore, it is delivered in bite-sized pieces in the form of “video-pills”. Just as a pill from your doctor helps alleviate a problem, so these video “pills” help address a problem, that being a gap in knowledge.

What are your best hopes for the project?

Our vision for the DESTINY project is to act as a lighthouse regarding the characteristics the future curricula of the Department should attain to: to be reached by anyone, anywhere, anytime and to be updated in a very fast pace in order to meet the technological advances. Our hope is that large telecommunication and technology companies in Greece and in Europe will join us to develop short online modules that will be used for our students and companies’ staff training. The ideal scenario would be for them to use our MOOC platform to deliver online training to their staff, no matter where they may be based globally. The Department aims to use the rest of the DESTINY project modules for the transversal skills development of its staff and students.

How is the project progressing?

The MOOC in Optical Communications has been developed and will be tested at undergraduate level. Due to its technical character there was time only for one execution run. Its methodology (blending teaching) was tested. The module study club was the lecture room where the students and the lecturer were meeting and discussing the material released the week before. The teacher would provide targeted advice and personalised attention helping the student to develop a study pathway that would enable them to identify suitable courses relating to their chosen speciality. An online questionnaire has been released and filled by the module participants. The received feedback will be assessed and future plans will involve modifications indicated by telecommunication companies to be offered as a technical tool for new employees.

Have their been any significant events that have shaped the project or introduced it to academics?

Two multiplier events have been planned by the Department to disseminate the main findings of the DESTINY project. One such event was organised in parallel with an International Conference entitled Transparent Conductive Materials 2017 and an intensive program entitled “Electronics Beyond Silicon Era” both of them held at the same period in Chania, Crete, Greece. More than 100 participants passed over the Destiny stand and were informed how this project matches MOOC material with current technology changes. The 2nd event was organised during the 4th Erasmus Week organised in the Department’s facilities with the participation of academics from Europe, Africa and Israel. A specific educational session devoted on the academic objectives of the DESTINY project (online education, cultivation of soft skills, entrepreneurship, the role of MOOCs for higher employability) was organised. Among the lecturers were DESTINY members of staff and among the participants were people from the local business world, undergraduate and postgraduate students and participant academics.

I presented the Department’s findings into three International Educational conferences:

  1. “The impact of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education and in youth higher employability: from the perspective of Higher Education students and member of staff”, ERACON 2015, Porto, Portugal
  2. “The impact of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education and in youth higher employability: from the perspective of the Business World” NHIBE 2015, Skiathos, Greece
  3. “How to connect market needs with offered standard curriculum modules: the case of the Destiny project”, ERACON 2017, Maribor, Slovenia

These were events with more than 200 participants and it was an opportunity to discuss our findings and check the options for future development.

Beyond the aforementioned multiplier events and conferences that made known the project beyond its consortium, during the surveys implemented among the academics, employers and work seekers in National level and for the Engineering field, useful conclusions were identified. These were:

  1. Almost 55% of the employers in Greece (with an unemployment rate in youths higher than 50%) has replied that is very difficult to fill the occurred vacancies due to lack of the requested hard & soft skills
  2. 70% of the employers mentioned the importance of the hard skills in the engineering sector
  3. The most vacancies occurred in Optical Telecommunications (60%)
  4. 75% of the interviewed students believed that MOOCs are very important for their lifelong learning and for their higher employability
  5. 5% of the interviewed Academics agreed that MOOCs should be introduced parallel to the standard offered course curricula in the HEIs

What’s the next step for TEIC with the Destiny project?

To adopt the knowledge acquired from the DESTINY project and apply this to the next stage of our offered course curriculum; for example which new modules should be introduced to face the market needs, how to make an online module and how to apply hybrid teaching methods. In private conversations with the DESTINY coordinators initial plans for the continuation of the DESTINY project have also arisen.

For more information about Dr Konstantinos Petridis please click here.

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