Combined effort of six European universities, the ENVISION_2027 Erasmus+ project had its final meeting in Turku on 30 May–1 June. The project focused on digital education in bioscience studies, addressing both the current need of transitioning from conventional classroom teaching into digital remote teaching, as well as improving the current status of online teaching and e-learning course modules across Europe.
The 2-year Erasmus+ project ENVISION_2027 has been a successful effort of six universities from four countries to enhance digital education in the European higher education institutions by (1) evaluating current practices and problems of digital education through a survey, (2) analysing the applicability of digital teaching in two demanding study categories, laboratory exercises and teamwork, through piloting "Virtual Laboratory" and "Virtual Teamwork" course modules online, and (3) studying implementation of learning analytics (LA) into digital course modules to better understand students' learning journey and to inform teachers where to improve their teaching presence or course modules.
ENVISION_2027 is coordinated by the University of Turku (UTU), Institute of Biomedicine. Other partners in the project are Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), Karolinska Institutet (KI) and the Universities of Eastern Finland (UEF), Bergen (UiB) and Leeds (UoL).
More than 2000 students in four universities contributed to piloting of the ENVISION_2027 courses
During the project, 1038 bioscience students accomplished Virtual Laboratory (VL) course modules in 35 different courses at 3 universities, and additional 429 bioscience students used other digital tools and platforms in the 4th university. The course topics, levels, and scope/ECTS varied widely to test the usefulness and applicability of VL in teaching and to gain more robust results.
Common survey questions to students were developed for course evaluation, and the feedback was used to improve the next iteration of the course. Overall, student feedback was very positive, saying that the VL courses improved their understanding of the topic subject and laboratory work.
– For online teamwork, we also applied and piloted various digital tools and platforms to activate student interaction with each other and teachers, and to increase students’ commitment to and responsibility of joint course assignments, says the project leader, Docent Leena Strauss from the University of Turku.
Total 746 students in 13 different courses at 4 universities accomplished teamwork modules, implemented in all-digital or hybrid form. Again, student and teacher feedback was collected and evaluated, and teacher guidelines, recommendations/checklist for good team work practices were compiled. The concrete results will be published in the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform. The list of publications produced and co-funded by the project will also be listed on the project’s website.
Final meeting in Turku concluded a successful project
The final meeting of the Erasmus+ project was held in Turku on 30 May – 1 June 2023. This three-day hybrid event attracted altogether 26 participants, and it started with a joint Erasmus+ Nordplus meeting, which was also a kick-off meeting of the latter.
The new Nordplus “BalticSeaBioMed” project, for which the ENVISION_2027 and the Nordplus networks laid a strong foundation, was built by four ENVISION_2027 members, University of Turku (UTU, the coordinator), Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), Karolinska Institutet (KI), and University of Eastern Finland (UEF), together with a previous Nordplus project partner, the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), and a new partner, University of Vilnius (VU).
The first day of the meeting was started by the Head of the Institute of Biomedicine (UTU), Sari Mäkelä, who talked about “the 25 years of teaching biomedicine at the University of Turku”. In her talk, she addressed the importance of collaboration between the Nordic Biomedicine Programs, which started already ten years ago.
– The ENVISION_2027 and BalticSeaBioMed projects have and will continue this excellent collaboration with old and new partners. For the future, we aim to not only continue but also strengthen and expand the work of this enthusiastic consortium with novel ideas on how to develop digital education, says Project Coordinator, Docent Anni Wärri from the University of Turku.
Collaboration and synergies with other EU projects are essential when developing education, and the second half of the first day was dedicated to learning from other Erasmus+ projects working on promoting digital education but with different topics and goals, such as the AIIS, ITSHEC and BigGame projects.
The second day included many interesting teaching, learning & training related topics. In the first and second sessions, participants discussed how to engage students online, first in the perspective of virtual laboratory environments and after that in the perspective of online teamwork. Two students from UTU and ÅAU presented their feedback of online teamwork implemented in their courses.
The topic in the afternoon was University Pedagogy & Digital Education. Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen (UTU) led an interactive lesson about Positive Psychology in University Pedagogy where participants discussed how to implement it in their own teaching. The last speaker, Erik Verhaar from EU’s Digital Education office (EU EAC.C.4), gave valuable insights in the Future Perspectives of Digital Education in Europe.
The last day of the meeting concluded what the participants have learnt during the project about applying learning analytics in virtual labs and online team working. Plans and prospects of the consortium for the future were the center of attention in the final day of the event, and the successful collaboration inspired the partners to brainstorm common projects and apply new funding also for the future.
The new BalticSeaBioMed project brings new ambitions and broadens the scope of the previous Erasmus+ and Nordplus projects
The successful Nordic biomedical education collaboration, which was carried out in several NordPlus and Erasmus+ projects under the name “NordBioMedNet “, will now continue and add a new Baltic partner. The project has therefore been renamed “BalticSeaBioMed” and is led by Professor Ullamari Pesonen from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Turku.
As the new name implies, along with the new partners a new educational angle has been added to the project: environmental impact of human behavior for all of us living around the Baltic Sea.
– Our aim is to train biomedical students to use state-of-the-art research/omics techniques in more depth to address the challenging human health-environment-human well-being interdependencies. The project has two main objectives: First, we will develop a gamified learning environment that can be used in the future for education in the field. Second, we will organize a summer school on the island of Seili, Finland, in 2024 for a group of master's students from participating universities, explains Pesonen.
During the intensive course, students will practice using bioinformatics to study the interaction between health and the environment, attend workshops on topics such as the impact of pharmaceutical treatment on the health of the Baltic Sea, and discuss ethical issues in research.
– The teaching methods include group work and workshops, during which the student will practice working in international groups and get to know students from different countries, not forgetting sauna and barbecue in the Finnish summer.