Based on the established contact in 2003, between the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada and The Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, these two institutions were looking into models of successful professional training solutions that would help faculty develop online programs and courses primarily on the graduate, but also on the undergraduate level. A series of projects were developed with a goal to strengthen the collaboration between institutions and establish good foundations for the development of mutually beneficial programs in the areas of organization, management and information systems.
Online Learning Workshops
In 2004 three workshops were organized in Belgrade (Faculty of Organizational Sciences, FON) and then in Novi Sad (Faculty of Technical Sciences, FTN) and one in the Centre for Continuing Education in Novi Sad. The topics of the workshops were pedagogical theories, instructional design and hands-on practices, which resulted in better understanding of educational technology possibilities, advantages and obstacles for technology-based distributed learning. They were organized with a goal to meet the needs of the increasing number of faculty members moving into the online teaching environment. They provided technical how-to, but more importantly, a broad overview of variety of instructional strategies designed for an online learner.
Participants included faculty members, administrative staff and academic leaders from different departments within the University of Belgrade. The design and development of mutual programs that followed these workshops should have capitalized on the respective strengths of both institutions.
The goals of the workshops were to:
- Increase knowledge about issues related to teaching practice in online environment;
- Increase knowledge about the available platforms for asynchronous and synchronous communication and course delivery, various assessment strategies;
- Increase awareness of the importance of good instructional design implementation, as well as of copyright and accessibility issues;
- Increase knowledge about course planning, development and delivery;
- Examine the participants’ practice in developing courses and facilitate providing constructive peer feedback;
- Encourage interaction and collaboration among participants from different departments within University.
- Workshop 1: The focus was on different educational theories, and best practices in online course design, development and delivery. The emphasis was on student-centred orientation, team work and problem-based learning.
- Workshop 2: The focus was on the existing Course Management Systems with specific tools and functions within the systems. The participants were be exposed to different instructional strategies.
- Workshop 3: A one-day series of sessions/ hands-on planning and designing a web-based course.
This was an excellent opportunity for the Canadian University to participate in higher education systems reform process in Europe, initiated by the Bologna Declaration. Promoting good governance and democracy was one of the priorities of UBC. Supporting the positive educational movements in Serbia and Montenegro, the University of British Columbia contributed to the information technology and institutional change.
Presentations and promotion of the events
- The information about the workshops was posted on the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FON), Belgrade and Faculty of Technical Sciences (FTN), Novi Sad websites.
- Natasha Boškić was interviewed by a local newspaper in Novi Sad. The article was published in “Dnevnik”, under the Higher Education section. It was available at: file:///Users/nboskic/Sites/Natasha/Media/studentska.htm
Online Learning: Course Development and Delivery
In September 2004 an Associate Professor from the University of Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro visited the University of British Columbia. The purpose of this visit was to meet with course developers, instructional designers and support personnel, and gather specific information on online course development and delivery.
The visit, meetings and presentations were a follow-up activity, building upon the series of workshops (three) in Belgrade.
The goal of the visit was to:
- Increase knowledge and awareness of UBC educational practices with relation to online programs and courses design and development;
- Increase and enhance partnership between the two institutions.
Dr. Vladan Devedžić, Associate Professor of Computer Sciences in the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FOS) in Belgrade
- met with a number of instructional support units and faculty members at UBC, such as External Programs and Learning Technologies (EPLT, now PDCE), Office of Learning Technology (OLT, now CTLT), Applied Sciences and others;
- visited SFU and BCIT;
- suggested future collaboration with UBC and other Canadian institutions with a possibility of working on projects related to graduate online courses The focus was on graduate programs initially, for two main reasons. First, the graduate programs seemed more flexible and more open to modifications. Second, graduate programs at FON were going through major curriculum revisions and it was the right time for innovative approaches.
Presentations and promotion of the events
- Dr. Vladen Devedžić gave a presentation on how to apply artificial intelligence techniques to Web-based education. The attendees came from various departments from UBC and other institutions, and the elaborate discussion was developed after the presentation itself;
- At FON, Dr. Devedžić reported to hit fellow faculty members on his visit to UBC, and there was a discussion about the possible follow-up plans and activities that would involve his department.
eLearning Centre Formation
A five-days of intensive team-work in 2006 led to the establishment of an eLearning Centre for Serbia. The goal of this Centre was to serve as a dissemination point for information on various eLearning activities in the country and abroad, a coordinating body for realization of those activities, as well as a policy development group for advising the government with respect to the development of eLearning in Serbia. The Centre’s operation was to be based on collaboration between different post-secondary institutions (public and private sector), institutes and other organizations, such as libraries, and the Ministry of Education and Sports. Professional development for faculty and staff was identified as key to the successful integration of e-learning methodologies in Serbian post-secondary institutions.
The drafts of the necessary documents were sent to all potential partners, together with the invitation to the meetings. It was expected that the attendees would agree on the critical elements of the project: mission of the Centre, partners, individual institution’s involvement, marketing, curriculum design, etc. The institutional representation was a reflection of the status of eLearning in Serbia and Montenegro in the time of the project. The participants helped define the needs, and give guidelines for the development of the Centre. They discussed the perspectives on how this Centre could be operated, what were the immediate tasks and issues of concern.
The time was right for this type of initiative. There were numerous attempts and small projects in the area of eLearning emerging at various institutions across Serbia, but those were usually working in isolation and, as a result, very often duplicating other efforts. For example, WUS Austria (http://www.wus-austria.org/default2.htm#) organized eLearning events and financially supported sixteen eLearning projects in Serbia and Montenegro. The funding enabled local eLearning centres (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Nis and Podgorica) to purchase equipment mainly for video conferencing. As a result, an eLearning Network was formed in 2006 www.eln-online.org as a member of the European Distance and eLearning Network (EDEN). Unfortunately, most of the participants in Belgrade event had no knowledge of this network. It was extremely important and useful for all to learn about each other, share information and resources, and come to a decision on taking collaborative actions in the future. The participants represented a diversity of technical, content design, and political/organizational interests and skills in eLearning. Each of these strengths were necessary for the development of an effective national eLearning centre.
During the process of determining the functions of the Centre, it was mutually agreed that the faculty training would not be a responsibility of this Centre (at least not at this point), but of individual local institutions. Therefore, the idea about UBC’s involvement in Curriculum development for that training was postponed for later. However, a strong wish was expressed for future collaboration with UBC, and for exploring various options.
The goal of the five-day planning sessions was:
- to establish the eLearning Centre with required legal agreements created and signed;
- to obtain the approval from the Ministry of Education and Sports.
- Day 1: Introductory meetings. Gathering of all of the potential partners; creating the necessary bodies and work groups, going over the documents/proposals for collaboration.
- Day 2 – Institutional presentations and Decision meetings/planning. All potential partner-institutions or schools interested in eLearning had an opportunity to present their institution and initiatives in 10-15 minutes.
- Day 3, 4 and 5: eLearning centre Training Module Development (facilitated by UBC and assisted by FOS representatives)
A set of workshops and activities, based on team work and open discussions led to an achievement of a mutual goal, the establishment of an eLearning Centre for Serbia. This Centre would serve as a dissemination point for information on various eLearning activities in the country and abroad, a coordinating body for realization of those activities, as well as a policy development group for advising government with respect to the development of eLearning in Serbia. The Centre’s operation would be based on collaboration among different post-secondary institutions (public and private sector), institutes and organizations involved in education, such as libraries, the Ministry of Education and Sports, etc.
It is important to emphasize the number of the participants. We were expecting the number to be 10-15 on the first day, decreasing by the end of the event to 5-8. However, there were 24 participants on the fist day, and 15/16 attendees that stayed to the very end. Some of them came from the same institution, alternating their members depending on their individual schedules and availability.
Presentations and promotion of the events
- The invitations to the events were sent mainly by emails. This was done by both sides, Serbian and Canadian partners. The potential participants were provided with the Outline of the workshops with the topics and activities for each individual day, with the names of the presenters/facilitators, their short biographies and links to their personal websites.
- Newspaper coverage was scheduled with a journalist of “Politika”, a local daily paper, Kosta Rajević from Novi Sad. Unfortunately due to personal matters (illness), he was not able to attend. However, he was informed about the events and results, and he continued the communication with Serbian partners.
- The group from the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (the host institution) created the Serbian eLearning Centre website, where the information about the vision, goals, and individual tasks were published. The forum was created for introductions, questions and various topics.
There was a change in schedule of the events. Originally, it was planned to start with the discussions on the vision and tasks of the future eLearning centre, followed by hands-on workshops on online content development. During the preparation time and in consultation with the Serbian host, Dr. Vladan Devedžić, it was decided to start with a two-day workshop/seminar, which would allow the participants to introduce themselves, talk to each other, and exchange ideas and opinions on eLearning, educational approaches, infrastructural needs and the possibilities of engagements. The following two days were allocated for creating a vision, defining the Centre’s goals and functions, and finally identifying specific tasks and roles in the realization of those activities by individual participants.
Although there was an interest in seeing numerous examples of UBC online courses and hearing about Canadian and International examples of best practices, there was no use in going into training the participants in online learning content development using a specific CMS. The workshops were designed to motivate the participants to reflect on their own teaching and learning practice and unique local educational setting, and to create a friendly and comfortable environment open to discussions and negotiations, which would inspire positive collaboration.
It was not possible to produce any legal document about the establishment of this Centre in such a short period of time. That was identified as the first task of the Centre, and the deadline was set for the beginning of September when the Serbian group would meet again on their own. One of the activities that we hoped would contribute to the successful realization of that task, was our meeting with the Deputy Minister for Education and Sport of Serbia, dr Emilija Stanković. She was very supportive in having an eLearning Centre for Serbia in Belgrade.
Based on the participants’ feedback, the major misconception about eLearning was that it equaled distance education (no physical contact between an instructor and students; time and space difference, therefore a need for expensive and complex high tech equipment). The variety of examples from the presenters’ experiences, mainly UBC practice, helped clarifying what eLearning was, and how technology was and could be used to enhance learning. The examples illustrated the array of possibilities for different educational settings and different purposes.
Due to the traditional teaching and learning approaches that valued individuality and independent thinking, and which were still dominant in the majority of learning environments in Serbia, the participants had not been used to teamwork and discussions. Through these types of exercises they were able to learn more about each other, and come to collaborative conclusions. Even by the end of the first day of working together, most of the participants realized the importance of discussions, listening to each other, and sharing the experience and knowledge.
The UBC team was also able to introduce video interviews from Croatian educators who were involved in E-Learning from CARNet (Croatian Academic and Research Network). These videos were quite effective in presenting the Serbian participants with a sense of how E-Learning initiatives have evolved within the Croatian context. We were hoping that this effort would facilitate further dialogue between groups with common interests in these two countries.
Canadian participants learnt about various eLearning initiatives that had emerged in this region. People were more open to changes, and eager to be part of European or world educational trends. They found a lot of similarities with the CARNet project UBC had worked on previously, both in approaches and in challenges. The meetings with the Deputy Minister and the various participant groups increased our understanding of the different interests that needed to be taken into account, the issues that needed to be negotiated for meaningful change to take place within the educational sector in Serbia.
eLearning Professional Development Program
This proposal was a result of a four-year institutional collaboration between the University of British Columbia, Canada, and the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Following the initial strategic planning work in 2006, one of the founding groups of the eLearning Centre from the Faculty of Medicine, Histology and Embryology Department, Belgrade, developed a course called “Development of University Professors eLearning skills: Introduction to eLearning and VLE (LMS)”. This course had been offered eight times by June 2008 at different institutions in Serbia. From September 2005 to December 2007, approximately 150 participants attended the course. Half of this course was delivered in the classroom and half online. The development of the course was funded by WUS, Austria (http://www.wus-austria.org/default2.htm#) and local institutions. Serbian educational experts felt that the quality of the online component of their existing course was unsatisfactory. They wanted to increase the quality of online design and delivery. Their goal was to develop a strategy to ensure that the course could lower barriers for Serbian Higher-education faculty and staff who were seeking opportunities for professional development in the area of e-learning pedagogy and design.
This project was to support a set of curriculum planning sessions in Belgrade with representatives of the four national universities (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac) who were connected in eLearning along with representatives of WUS Austria Belgrade office.
This project built upon the success of UBC’s initial collaboration with the University of Belgrade to establish an eLearning Centre. The blended course we envisioned was to greatly enhance access to high quality professional development for Serbian educators, and allow stake-holders who were participating in the eLearning Centre with a sustainable approach to increase institutional capacity to support e-learning efforts across higher education institutions. This project strengthened the research cooperation in the domain of learning technology and culturally-responsive instruction between the University of Belgrade and the University of British Columbia. The UBC team worked in Belgrade on planning the curriculum and the program structure with Serbian educators, building and increasing capacity of current University of Belgrade faculty and graduate students to work in an online learning environment. The project helped the University of Belgrade adopt pedagogical and research practices implemented in eLearning, motivate the use of advance learning technologies in Serbia, and explore technologies that allowed seamless exchange of pedagogical practices between the two countries.
The goal of this project was to:
- plan an expanded version of the existing 40-hour course into a 3-module program (40h/module) that would be offered during one academic term (12-13 weeks) in a blended mode, combining in person and online sessions.
- increase the online portion of this program to 70-80% verses 30-20% of the face-to-face component. Increasing the amount of content and interaction that was online would increase access to the training as well as make its delivery more sustainable for the partners involved in providing professional development across Serbia.
- define the content of the modules through collaborative work, covering: sound pedagogical principles for online education, strategies for delivering online content, and developing activities and assignments for team work. The estimated start date for this 3-module mixed-mode program is Spring 2009.
- create inventory and selection of technologies to be used for delivery of the program modules through demonstration of UBC’s examples of using social software and standard course delivery technologies (WebCT) in various courses and for a variety of purposes.
- identify of target audience and their specific needs: university instructors, elementary and secondary teachers, NGOs. Approximately 70% of the program would be common for all target groups, and 30% would be tailored to particular interest. The Serbian team would draw from Croatian experience and challenges in building faculty capacity in eLearning with its eLearning Academy Program. (http://www.carnet.hr/ela-en/programs?CARNetweb=ef4b903af8d460c6918eb4d7c9acdfd6
The group that met in Belgrade worked on the conceptual planning of the eLearning Professional Development Seminar (eLPDS) for faculty. The target group was 150 professors from different universities across Serbia, with 10-15 participants per cohort. The designed module would consist of 40 hours of instruction, distributed over a five-week period, in a mixed mode delivery format. A list of program objectives was created together with the participants’ learning outcomes. Every week of instruction was broken into components and discussed in depth (content, student activities, resources, embedded technology and tools, student engagement, and competences and skills they would gain going through the training), as well as a smooth transition from one week to another and a meaningful exchange of face-to-face and online interactions.
One of the most important skill that the project participants acquired from these meetings was how to manage the project. It included not only thinking about the details, but obtaining relevant information, understanding the local context, being able to articulate ideas and negotiate different standpoints.
Presentations and promotions of the events
- Dr. Milos Bajčetic from the University of Belgrade was invited to a radio show “PC Friday”, to talk about the Vancouver-Belgrade meetings, and professional development program designed during these meetings.
UBC partners originally suggested meetings with the representatives from other institutions across Serbia and from Croatia. The Serbian hosts didn’t have the logistic and financial support to bring them to Belgrade. However, because of their close relationships with Serbian university centres, Danijela Śćepanović from the Ministry of Education, and Dr. Miloš Bajčetić, Professor, were well informed about the needs and readiness of the universities in Niš, Novi Sad, and Kragujevac for the implementation of the eLPDS, as well about the individuals who could help with the training or IT support. In addition, two of the participants in the meeting completed the eLearning Academy program offered by Croatian CARNet and could speak to their experience with the content, interactions and possible adjustments to Serbian context.
Participants from Serbia needed more knowledge about the varieties of pedagogical approaches and how to apply them into the online environment. The meetings were a model of curriculum planning that they could use for developing other programs. They were also exposed to different resources that could help them in shaping their content, as well as to the numerous examples from UBC courses which illustrated successful teaching practice.
The Canadian participants had the opportunity to recognize how cultural and political background influenced the decisions made at higher ed institutions. The complexity of the economic and political relations posed a challenge to find solutions that could work in the local context.
Natasha Boskic, Educational Technology Manager, EPLT (2004, 2006 & 2008)
Jeff Miller, Course Designer/Project Manager, Office of Learning Technology (OLT) (2006 & 2008)
Jim Gaskell, Associate Dean External Programs and Learning Technologies (EPLT) (2006)
Web Strategy and IT Management
Novak Rogić (2008)
Vladan Devedžić, Associate Professor, Fakultet Organizacionih Nauka (FON)/Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FOS), University of Belgrade (2004 & 2006)
Goran Ostojić, Professor, WUS Austria, Belgrade Office (2008)
Miloš Bajčetić, eLearning Center, University of Belgrade (2008)