Moving Forward by Looking Back: The UAS7 Virtual Academy Celebrates a Successful First Year
On December 2nd 2020, the UAS7 Virtual Academy held its inaugural kick-off event. After almost a year, the DAAD-funded IVAC program officially ends on November 30. On Friday, November 19, the UAS7 Virtual Academy invited 25 stakeholders to share their key takeaways.
The final round was held under the motto "Moving forward by looking back" - the experience gained was reviewed and, above all, lessons were learned and knowledge passed on for future projects.
The UAS7 Spirit
Prof. Dr Andreas Zaby spoke the opening words: “We welcome participants from all around the world. The first year of our Virtual Academy is coming to an end and it’s a good time to sum up our experiences. Although merely a pilot project, well over 230 students were involved in the first year. This is a good signal for a wider rollout.”
A big thank you went out to everyone involved, including colleagues from the International Offices and the E-Learning and Digitization Centers, from Evaluations and Quality Management as well as lecturers, who served as guineapigs and not only carried out the project but made sure that we can carry this further into our organization.
Zaby concluded, “This project is a special one, it brought along knowledge throughout our member schools, which is exactly the spirit we stand for at UAS7. The potential in the COIL area is extremely large and the UAS7 team will continue to support the effort and expand the project. As we stand for internationalization in particular, we are looking forward to expansion in the future so that we cement a leadership position for UAS7.”
A Jump Start for Interested Professors
We are particularly pleased to announce that a video tutorial will be shared with all member universities, which can be used as a jump start for interested faculty. Together with the feedback from the first year, this will create a small package for new COIL participants to navigate their project.
Key Takeaways: HWR Berlin
Prof. Dr. Peter Ries, professor for Civil Law with a focus on Commercial and Corporate Law at HWR Berlin School of Economics and Law, reflects on the project, "UAS7 introduced the topic in winter 2020 and I was convinced.” In April 2021 the project in the field of CSR and Corporate Governance with UAlbany was up and running. After three months of preparation, the first introductory online lectures took place.
Afterwards, case studies were handed out, which were then worked on in mixed US American and German teams. Finally, the results were presented to the whole group. Challenges of the project included finding a suitable partner university and timing issues but Ries believes that regardless of COVID-19, the Virtual Academy is a big advantage for students who cannot afford to go abroad. However, in-person exchanges can also result from this collaboration.
“The results were more than satisfying and our students and I enjoyed the exchange across the continents. Without the support of UAS7, colleagues of the International Offices and our research assistant, this would not have been possible.”
Key Takeaways: HS Bremen
Prof. Dr. Anja Noke from Hochschule Bremen cooperated with the University at Albany in the field of Environmental Technology. Since this is an international degree program, the project served as an optimal replacement for the scheduled exchange semester, allowing participants to study internationally from home. The module Air Pollution Control included a photo book and a case study, which students worked on in mixed groups from February 1, 2021 to May 11, 2021, a time frame that only worked due to pandemic-related circumstances and would not have been so easy to implement in an ordinary semester.
“The project helped establish future cooperation between Bremen and Albany. Additionally, it served as an interesting professional complement for the students, a unique intercultural experience for all involved and a better course load for SUNY.”
Back in February 2021, Professor Mechthild Schrooten from the Bremen City University of Applied Sciences (HSB) and Professor Rita Biswas from the University at Albany (UA) started a joint transatlantic teaching project in the field of Global Finance. Again, the semester period proved to be a challenge.
"You could see the difference in learning cultures, which made the project a very interesting experience.”
Key Takeaways: HM München University of Applied Science
“Editorial departments work very similarly all over the world. Not only in theory but up to the publication stage.” As editors, photographers, SEO managers and in many other roles, US American and German students published about 30 pieces. “What we found most interesting is how topics have evolved. Our German students were very tech- and science-oriented, whereas the American counterparts focused on sustainability. For instance, a German student wanted to write about Formula1 and ended up writing about sustainability in the industry. Within the short time frame of five weeks, topics progressed a lot.”
Prof. Dr. Anke van Kempen reflected on the project “Techtalkers: Science, Technology and Environmental Journalism” with SUNY ESF. The course was met with great interest and a total of 47 students participated, which was a great challenge. Lecturers estimate that a course size of 15-20 students would be more appropriate.
The professor and her colleagues submitted a paper to the ICA that is currently being reviewed and hope to present the project at the annual conference. “COILing takes effort and cooperation but we are 100% satisfied. We will stabilize the approach and continue with a mixed model.”
Key Takeaways: Hochschule Osnabrück
At the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, Prof. Dr. Clemens Westerkamp, Prof. Dr. Hany Elgala and colleagues offered the module "Internet of Things." The different semester times are exhausting, he said, but they can also be a feature. Both sides rate the German-American module positively. "For one thing, I always find it interesting to meet new people and new ways of working. On the other hand, it will most likely be a part of our later professional life to work in an international composition," said a German student.
An American classmate agreed, "Although we were on two different continents, embedded applications that the German group developed could work just as well in the U.S." Another added, "The activity also encouraged me to learn more about German culture, the German education system, and the economy there."
Prof. Dr. Clemens Westerkamp plans ahead, “We plan to continue this model. The last part of my research semester will take place in the United States and I will attend SUNY and give lectures locally and when I come back, we’ll do the internship portion here.”
Takeaway for University Leadership
COILing takes big effort but if it is stabilized, the effort is worth it and with each further project, the effort is reduced. Suggestions for building a sustainable structure for future projects include university-wide advertising, easier integration into modules, different start levels and experiences with collaboration and a shared platform for online communication.
To sum up, different projects in different areas were implemented in different ways. Colleagues from the International Offices and the E-Learning and Digitization Centers, as well as professors and UAS7 university presidents have done a great job of putting together exciting projects.
Katja Zühlsdorf, IVAC Project Coordination, presented the ideal course of a COIL project:
The event ended with an optimistic closing speech by Patrizia Nobbe, Executive Director UAS7 New York, "The UAS7 Virtual Academy project was very successful in this first year at the height of the pandemic, and it is something we can be proud of. While most international efforts had slumped, through this project we were able to provide a relevant international experience to over 230 students from the U.S. and Germany - across a wide variety of projects and disciplines. And we have created a sustainable structure that can work for years to come, with information, resources and networks."
She continued, "We want to make the Academy permanent and are already in this second year with seven projects. We were also able to get our Drexel partner on board for a new project and so we hope that it will continue in the future, that you can fall back on a reliable partner network in the USA through us for the implementation of many more small and large international collaborations for the greatest possible enrichment of our students."
"What the UAS7 members have done here is really groundbreaking and we will try to implement and pass on your feedback in the next months, to remove remaining hurdles, to support where we can, to make the start and the implementation of virtual projects easier for new interested parties. Thank you for taking the time again today for feedback and discussion. Without you and your contributions, your skills, your time, your energy and your passion, we would not have been able to launch and implement the project," Nobbe concluded.