DocEnhance project’s annual meeting was held online from 11-12 January, gathering the members of the project’s consortium and external advisory board.
Impact of Covid 19 on doctoral education
The two-day conference was introduced by Alexander Hasgall, Head of the EUA-CDE, EUA Council for Doctoral Education and member of the External advisory Board, who discussed the immediate effects of the Covid 19 on doctoral education as well as the potential long-term issues regarding funding, collaborations, career impact, mental health and well-being.
The focus of the impact of Covid-19 in education was then laid on the need for digital skills, with a presentation by Achilles Kameas, Chair of the Board of “ALL DIGITAL”, member of the DocEnhance consortium. During the COVID-19 crisis, educators and learners in Europe were not always able to deal with the limitations and potential of distance and online teaching and learning. All European states face shortages of digital experts, while the demand for digital skills has never been as strong. Achilles Kameas presented the European Commission’s European Action Plan (2021-2027) and the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, also known as DigComp, a tool to improve citizens’ digital competence. The offer in digital education and training must cover needs at all levels and be accessible to all EU citizens, independently of group, location, technology level or access mode. A common European digital competences validation scheme based on DigComp would enable recognition of digital qualifications and mobility of individuals.
Project’s latest developments
The rest of meeting’s agenda then focused of the project’s advancement over this past year and the developments planned in 2021.
Julia Boman from the European Science Foundation presented the DocEnhance career-tracking survey soon to be conducted among seven partner universities. This survey should help universities collect information about employability inside and outside acamedia, demonstrate programme outcomes through professional destinations, advance and develop doctoral programmes and skills training, offer better-informed career advice and wider career options, and of course establish links with alumni and benchmark with other universities.
Regional stakeholder workshops
Over the last trimester of 2020, four workshops were held by DocEnhance partners in different countries with stakeholders issued from various fields (technology, industry, non-profit and data management). The issue was to identify the gap in transferable skills though qualitative studies. Each partner gave insightful feedback on their workshop, that you can also read here. The workshops were later evaluated by the participants, on their formal aspects, speakers, and content. Overall, they were well appreciated with a global evaluation of 4.41 out of 5. Participants generally found the workshop conclusions useful for their institution and sector. It was pointed out that the workshops could provide an interesting framework for further discussions on specific issues and on regular terms.
Participants welcomed discussions on the benefits and limitations in hiring PhDs, or the importance of a value-orientated approach towards future doctoral trainings in the EU. Ideas of topics for future stakeholder workshops included tips for PhDs interested in transitioning to the corporate world, training and skills development for supervisors, as well as joint university-company activities for doctoral students.
The recommended curricula and pilot courses will be designed based on the outcomes of these regional stakeholder meetings, to ensure that the end user needs are met.
Three pilot courses on transferable skills
Pavel Matejka provided an update on the DocEnhace transferable skills course concept and design, followed by a presentation of the three pilot courses currently being prepared by the Arctic University on Data management, by InnoEXE on Career management and entrepreneurship and by Tampere University on Supervision.
These courses are now ready to be piloted in Spring 2021, then in Spring 2022 by six of the partner universities. Karlstads University and the University and Chemistry and Technology in Prague for Data stewardship, Tampere University and Nova University of Lisbon for Career Management and University of Mateja Bela and University of Alcala for supervision. By the end of the project, DocEnhance should have tested the skills courses on a large number of PhD candidates and professionals working in PhD education.
The DocEnhance Platform that will be hosting these three pilot courses, is now soon ready to be released. Marie Montaldo from the European University Foundation gave an overview of the work achieved in 2020 to prepare the platform. An e-learning test environment was developed with Moodle, a widely used and Open-Source Learning Management System (LMS). The Platform builds on the existing PhD Hub SE, and is enhanced with ESCO classification, to find matching transferable skills courses and to link the available courses to relevant offers on the PhD Hub platform. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki then gave a preview of the Platform and its different functionalities.
The Platform will be released in February 2021 for a period of iterative testing and development of additional functionalities.
These two days of conferences were concluded with valuable input from the External advisory board.
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