EPICA Initiative - A Strategic Alliance between Africa and Europe to make Student Competences in the Work Field More Visible
Blog dels Estudis de Psicologia i Ciències de l'Educació de la UOC
The UOC (Open University of Catalonia) hosted the fourth international meeting of the EPICA Initiative H2020 project on 10 – 11 July 2019. This meeting focused on the Strategic Association for the co-design of an innovative and scalable ePortfolio ecosystem to improve the quality and visibility of skills. This effort is a new step in this strategic alliance between Africa and Europe to make the skills of students in the labour market more visible.
The first day’s meeting, held at the UOC Tibidabo headquarters, welcomed the following participants: the ICDE (International Council for Open and Distance Education) - the project leaders; Lourdes Guàrdia, director of the UOC master's degree in Education and ICT (e -learning); Marcelo Maina, Professor of Psychology and Educational Sciences Studies; Albert Sangrà, Director of the UNESCO Chair in Education and Technology for Social Change; Federica Mancini, PhD in the PhD program on Information and Knowledge Society at the UOC.
Of course, representatives from the four African universities were also in attendance: the University of Makerere (Uganda), the University of Maseno (Kenya), the Open University of Tanzania and the University Virtual Africana (AVU); MyDocumenta, who have developed the ePortfolio; and ICWE, the German partner responsible for the dissemination of information about the project.
During this first day, Josep A. Planell, Rector of the UOC, and Dr. Bakary Diallo, Rector of the AVU, exchanged views on online education and the work done by the AVU on the African continent.
On the second day of the meeting, held at UOC’s 22 @ headquarters, one of the sessions featured a discussion of the methodology to be applied during the pilots. Two other UOC researchers, Maite Fernandez and Marta Firestone, participated in the talks.
The EPICA Initiative is already halfway through its schedule, and the pedagogical, technological and legal requirements of the new platform based on the MyDocumenta ePortfolio have just been defined. Pilot scenarios are also being designed within the three African universities, as well as at the UOC. The pilot phase will begin in January 2020 and is expected to end in June. This first application of EPICA in the four Partner universities will involve between 400-600 students and around 15-20 teachers.
The project that improves the skills of African students
The need to improve the quality and visibility of the recent-graduate’s skills in African universities is at the foundation of the EPICA Initiative project. The objective of this initiative is to give visibility to the skills that are developed in each university through an innovative and scalable e-portfolio system developed by MyDocumenta. Hence, the EPICA Initiative aims to reduce the gap between what graduates can contribute to the world of work and what companies are looking for. The methodology involves the process of co-decision, adaptation, implementation and validation of a digital visual product in an innovative and scalable format that showcases the competencies that have been developed throughout the students’ university education.
The EPICA ePortfolio is a digital learning dossier that presents a collection of evidence about a user's professional and personal skills and knowledge beyond a traditional curriculum. The evidence constitutes proofs, records, or learning samples that can be presented in textual format, electronic files, images, multimedia files, blog entries, and links, etc. Thanks to its digital format, it can be updated quickly and can be linked to other applications and social networks.
Between Africa and Europe
A strategic association of international scope was created to implement EPICA. Its members are the University of Makerere (Uganda); the University of Maseno (Kenya); the Open University of Tanzania; the African Virtual University; the Open University of Catalonia; and the International Council for Open and Distance Education. Two SMEs are also involved: ICWE, an international media company with a focus on ICT for education, training and skills development across Africa, and MyDocumenta, which specialises in the development of the e-portfolio tool.
The overarching goal of this association is to facilitate students’ reflection on their own learning, which in turn will lead to greater awareness of training strategies and needs.
The participation of African higher education institutions reflects the resounding transformation that technology is driving in the continent, where knowledge has become a key factor in growth and development. The great mismatch between the skills of young workers and what enterprises need in an emerging economy is universally recognised. Therefore, education must adapt to meet the demands of the job market and provide the skills and competencies necessary to foster growth of local economies.
The results of the EPICA Initiative will support the following areas:
- Universities will develop and implement the new teaching and learning methodologies based on competencies to meet the growing demands of the market in terms of better-qualified workers.
- Students and workers will be able to give greater visibility and comparability to their skills and competencies developed in formal and non-formal education.
- Entrepreneurs and companies will be able to identify the candidates that best fit their needs.
In a word, the EPICA project involves the end-user communities throughout the process to ensure that the e-portfolio solution meets the requirements of the users and the market.