The final dissemination seminar of the SUCSESS project took place in Johannesburg in September 2023. It was a time for all partners to look back at the SUCSESS journey and reflect on the activities, outputs and outcomes of the project. A lot of learning has taken place during the past 3.5 years!
Tools, tech and methods for active and engaging teaching
Since the main aim of the project was to improve the employability of South African university graduates, the tools and technology funded by the project were very much in the focus when the South African partners presented the impacts of the project.
South African lecturers embraced the innovative experiential learning approaches tested at the trainings in the beginning of the project. Tools like Padlet and Flinga are already in use, also flipped learning, Design Sprints and Gallery Walks have been adopted by the universities.
The almost 40 university educators participating in the trainings were all inspired to intensify collaboration with industry and to try out other assessment methods than traditional multiple-choice exams dominating at South African universities. Currently, there is a lot of discussion about pedagogical development at South African universities, and the project offered a possibility to take the discussion to practice.
The new methods and practices have been embedded in the curriculum and formalised in the course descriptions. The partners discussed how the new learning approaches have created interest even with people not participating in the activities of the project to experiment with more active and engaging teaching.
New methods have been embraced and their effect seems to be infectious as there is a shared understanding that university graduates need skills and competences to succeed in their careers, not just knowledge. Indeed, students who had a possibility to participate in the updated courses were on average positive, even while having to get out of their comfort zones during the learning process.
In the beginning of the project, the interviews for the Gap report (Lubbe, Letsholo & Engelbrecht 2020) showed that South African university students do not work in companies as much during their studies as their peers in Finland and the UK. Industry representatives perceived that the South African graduates were not prepared for business life and were even likely to get a culture shock when starting their first full time job. The SUCSESS project came to the rescue.
People have been impacted by the project in a variety of ways
The impact of the project can also be measured with numbers.
- The Gap report analysing the teaching and learning methods in all three partner countries comprised the views of lecturers (40 interviews), students (survey sample 509) and the industry (28 interviews).
- In total, more than 120 educators were trained, each training had on average of 33 participants.
- In the second phase, the new learning methods were tested in 20 updated courses.
- More than 10 quality reports were prepared and an external quality auditor was involved in all activities.
Dissemination of project results have been effective. There have been more than 40 blog posts and more than 30 articles and conference papers about the project. Three seminars and several webinars and InstaLives have also taken place.
The most awaited outputs of the project were the labs with new technology. Project partners were introduced to the Employability Lab at University of Pretoria and the XR Lab at University of Johannesburg. The University of Zululand received laptops and video conferencing equipment that now benefit the staff and students with their industry collaboration.
The final output of the project, the digital handbook about teaching and learning (Abrahams & Rogersson 2023), engaged 23 project partners as authors. A genuine achievement of collaboration! It is already in active use at all universities involved.
All projects are about people and collaboration
The SUCSESS project was initiated by three people who shared a vision and had a keen interest to develop the capabilities of South African universities, their staff and students: Professor Berendien Lubbe from University of Pretoria, Professor Jarkko Saarinen from University of Oulu and Principal Lecturer Jarmo Ritalahti from Haaga-Helia UAS.
The core group of the project involved almost 20 very engaged educators from the six partner universities. New relationships were built, and the project was implemented smoothly through intensive collaboration between all members of the project teams.
At the end of the project, plans were made to continue the cooperation through joint articles and new projects. Entirely new collaboration involving people outside of the project has also been established due to increased networking. For example, the XR technology related BOX project at Haaga-Helia UAS created a lot of interest in South Africa and University of Johannesburg looks now actively for funding for their own XR lab.
Now that the partners know each other well, it will be easy to explore new opportunities for future collaboration. The sustainability of the project appears to be in everyone’s interest.
Abrahams, D. (comp.) & Rogersson, A (edit.). 2023. SUCSESS project Digital Handbook: A practical guide for teaching and learning. The Visual Studio.
Lubbe, B., Letsholo, R. & Engelbrecht, H. 2020. Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in SouthAfrica to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity / SUCSESS. GAP report. SUCSESS project.