The EUTOPIA educational model is aligned with a challenge-based approach to learning and encourages application of knowledge and theory to real-world problems. The EUTOPIA students are involved in a common learning journey to find and implement meaningful solutions for complex issues in a European context. EUTOPIA thus foregrounds the importance of pedagogical excellence for the European university of the 21st century.
In order to realize this ambitious new model for higher education in Europe, EUTOPIA developed and employs the CoLeCo methodology: “From Learning Units to Connected Learning Communities”.
This methodology promotes bottom-up educational leadership through the academic staff involved in Connected Learning Communities. Educators are offered opportunities for professional development; they engage in peer mentoring activities and are prepared to take transnational leadership roles of Learning Community leaders. Connected Learning Communities have the potential to bring together staff, students and stakeholders outside academia engaged in cross-campus learning and teaching activities in close interaction with research agendas of the EUTOPIA partner universities. They are addressing global issues and are in line with priorities indicated by global organisations such as the UN and EU/EC.
The building blocks of EUTOPIA are a selection of EUTOPIA labeled Learning Units (LUs) . These are credit bearing courses in the Bachelor, Master or PhD cycle in one of the EUTOPIA universities and fulfill the criteria of openness characteristic for our alliance:
- Cross-disciplinary relevance. LUs cover interdisciplinaty topics or analytical tools that are needed to understand the global challenges our societies are confronted with.
- Student-centred active learning. LUs make use of active learning methods. Students move away from being passive absorbers to being participants in the teaching and learning process. Typically, active learning includes problem solving assignments, research inspired learning and co-creation processes between staff, students and experts.
- Inclusion of non-academic spaces and actors. LUs involve extra academic stakeholders. Representatives of the business world, the cultural sector and public organisations are invited to participate in the learning process and to inspire the learning material with real life issues.They draw on active teaching and address challenges in European societies
- Diversity of students. LUs accommodate for a diversity of students. They reach out to a wide range of learners and seek to motivate them by using innovative and flexible approaches and course content.
By the end of the 3-year pilot period, 30 learning units of the present curriculum in the EUTOPIA universities will have a EUTOPIA label. These LUs are selected in 3 rounds and gradually inserted in the windows of mobility of our degree programs (ba/ma/phd). Each EUTOPIA partner university will head 5 LUs. The academic staff members who teach a EUTOPIA labeled learning unit, the so-called Learning Unit Leads, are reputed for their pedagogical approach and motivate their students by involving them in assignments inspired by their research activities and/or contracts in a network of external stakeholders.
In order to increase the level of interuniversity connectedness EUTOPIA views Learning Circles (LCLs) as developmental and transformational process enablers. LCLs are circles of practice. They create platforms where Learning Unit Leads are introduced to their LU partners, which are topical academic counterparts from the EUTOPIA partner universities. Leads and partners exchange knowledge and share best practices in teaching and learning methods. Facilitated by the EUTOPIA central curriculum team, the Leads open up their course material to students in other universities, and learn to organize their teaching on a collaborative platform.
Connected Learning Communities
Built on the existing LUs, which have transformed through the means of LCLs, the EUTOPIA curriculum is aimed at achieving inter-university networks connecting students, staff and other stakeholders. These so-called Connected Learning Communities (CoLeCos) co-create course material and develop innovative learning and teaching practices, which address real world challenges. EUTOPIA staff and students can thus realise their (academic) ambitions, and will at the same be involved in shaping their regional/national/European environment. In short: CoLeCos enable a different learning experience for students as well as for staff, in a participatory and co-created learning journey.
Involvement in trans-institutional learning communities brings about ample possibilities for partners to realize their academic ambitions for education, research and innovation in organized international networks.Learning experience in this context is flexible and mobile, going beyond linear mobility schemes. Staff members that are teaching a EUTOPIA labelled Learning Unit take the responsibility of opening up their course to a selection of students in the partner universities. They therefore create contacts with their EUTOPIA colleagues that are teaching similar or complimentary topics. This cooperation process leads to the development of trans-institutional Learning Communities. Partners can thus combine their research and innovation capacity at a European scale, in a network of challenge-driven students, like-minded academics, and external stakeholders.
More specifically, involvement in CoLeCos will lead to:
- Increased cross-campus projects/collaborations/grant writing initiatives
- Enhanced skills in leading educational innovation,
- Increased pedagogical impact of curriculum content,
- International and inclusive curriculum content,
- Embedded links with academic and external stakeholders at European level