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Redesigning educational curricula and digitally-afforded collaborations to promote multimodal learning experiences
Start date: Nov 1, 2016, End date: Apr 30, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In “The digital world in 2030: what place for Europe,” the European Internet Foundation: Political Leadership for Network Society, and the European e-Competence Framework, which is a component of the European Union’s strategy for the development of e-Skills in the 21st century, there is an explicit call to educators to address through their curricula the growing imperative for the development of e-skills. It is estimated that 90% of all jobs across different sectors will require some form of high tech skills. However, the “digital capability gap” in Europe has become “a problem of epic proportions because technology literacy, capability and skills are critical for all industries” (“e-Skills Manifesto,” 2012). The EU has set the development of digital skills as one of its seven top priorities (Digital Single Market, 2016). Even though college students use technology on a daily basis for social networking, gaming, and multiple other personal purposes, they are not given equal opportunities to use digital tools for learning, digital collaboration, and transnational exchanges across academic institutions and geographic locations (Arnold & Ducate, 2011). Further, models of traditionally delivered lectures are still promoted, restricted to the institutional boundaries and requirements. Consequently, curricula need to be redesigned to promote digital collaborations, e-skill development, immersive, and personalized learning that expand beyond the institutional boundaries. Students and instructors across Europe need to be exposed to the curricula of other academic institutions, identify common grounds for transnational collaborations, digital skills development, task-oriented activities, an collaborate with students and faculty members from other cultures and linguistic backgrounds.In this context, a pool of highly experienced educators, researchers, and professionals in technology enhanced lifelong learning in diverse disciplines will collaborate to redesign curricula around digitally participatory learning and transnational collaborations afforded by a digital platform and other Web 2.0 tools and applications. The aim of this consortium is first to design an interactive digital platform based on faculty members’ and students’ needs, and learning objectives. Second, to set a common agenda through redesigned curricula to promote collaborations, expand learning opportunities, community building, and guide students in using various digital tools to be immersed in multimodal learning experiences that cannot be experienced in any other context. The consortium members in each discipline (Electrical Engineering and ESL/EFL teacher education) will identify common grounds in the curricula, share lectures, design and integrate digitally-afforded collaborative learning activities that will promote transnational collaborations. Third, the project will draw on recent endeavors among educators to promote multimodal learning experiences to improve student engagement using multiple modes of context representation (i.e., interactive e-contexts) and cater to the learning styles of a diverse student population across Europe (Sankey, Birch, & Gardiner, 2010). It will expand this framework by including transnational collaborations in a new paradigm where institutions, faculty members, and students will be able to collaborate closely to experience more interactive, and collaborative learning experiences that expand beyond the institutional and geographic boundaries. The impact of these digitally-enabled collaborations will be determined by: (a) the development of, training on, and successful integration of the digital platform; (b) instructors’ evaluation of the platform; (c) instructors’ evaluation of the processes and products involved in transforming students’ learning; and (d) evaluation of students’ learning experiences, including their level of motivation, group decision making, team work, information exchange, and knowledge building. Various instruments will be used to evaluate both students learning processes and learning outcomes (Macdonald, 2003), as well as instructors’ experiences (e.g., instructor and student questionnaires). The project will generate insightful findings on the impact of such multimodal collaborative learning experiences and redesigned curricula to promote digital collaborations and e-Skill development on: (a) the students’ learning and level of motivation; (b) instructors’ teaching practices and efforts to meet the student needs; (c) the benefits of transnational collaborations among academic institutions, students, and faculty; (d) students’ building of competencies, skills, and knowledge. The impact of redesigned curricula and digitally-enabled collaborations among academic institutions will be used to identify opportunities to expand further this initiative in other areas and through the use of more extensive digital platforms and tools in various disciplines and transnational training activities.
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