DEVELOPING ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN THE BLENDED LEARNING TRIANGLE: THE CASE OF I&E EDUCATION IN THE EIT DIGITAL

M. Stoycheva1, M. Bonifacio2, M. Marchese2, M.D. Klabbers3, M. Ilieva1, G. Pisoni2, L. Angeli2, A. Guarise4

1Junior Achievement Bulgaria (BULGARIA)
2Università degli Studi di Trento (ITALY)
3Technical University of Eindhoven (NETHERLANDS)
4HIT, Hub Innovation Trentino (ITALY)
Technology-mediated education is already a consolidated practice in education, particularly in higher education, where increasing budget constraints and the need to target larger students cohorts clearly shows the benefit to leverage educational content without increasing delivery costs. If, on one hand, this “economy of scale” based rationale is the main foundation of the digitally-enabled education narrative, on the other, such a view clashes with the need to address a series of novel social dynamics which are enacted by these forms of technological mediation. Indeed, positioning ICT as a means to produce educational content which shall be delivered to students interactively by trainers, transforms the traditional learner/trainer relationship into a three-dimensional learning environment: i.e., that of a producer that generates digital content, a trainer that interactively delivers it to learners, and the learner who has to engage with producers and trainers combining synchronous/asynchronous and off/online moods. Such a dynamic is named, in this contribution, as the Blended Learning Triangle (BLT).

Indeed, our experience has shown, that high levels of student and instructor satisfaction can be achieved with blended learning approaches, ranging from online assignments, flipped classrooms, ongoing evaluation and follow-ups. The key issue, though, is related to the key challenge of enabling student’s “active participation” and engagement in a cooperative effort with both content producers (CPs) and class trainers (CTs) who run the class with class learners (CLs) also relying on the produced content. In BL, these actors play in a context which is different from both purely online and offline education models. In particular, there are two main differences: 1) the CP is not necessarily the CT who uses the content, and 2) the CLs interact not just with the CT but also, indirectly, with the CP.

In this contribution we explore the development of effective engagement strategies between these 3 actors (CP, CT, CL) in order to trigger a productive dynamic and interplay. These dynamics stem from 3 issues that characterize each of these relationships, in particular:
- CP to CT: ownership. CPs want to make sure that their content is not “seized” by the CT and that their intellectual property is recognized.
- CP to CL: accessibility. The CL views the content as an artifact generated by someone to whom they do not have direct access, thus making it inflexible; or to be learned as a “taken for granted”.
- CT to CL: recognition. The decoupling of content from CTs may be viewed by the CLs as form of teaching “outsourcing”, which can be interpreted as a lack of competence/commitment of the CT.

In this paper we explore these dynamics in the context of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) Digital, an education consortium of more than 20 top EU Universities. Last year, EIT Digital introduced BL in their I&E (Innovation and Entrepreneurship) Minor Courses, and each University chose their approach to ‘go blended’. Leveraging on UniTrento experience, we will explore the interplay highlighted above in our local implementation of the I&E courses and propose some hypotheses on how to improve these dynamics, suggesting some engagement strategies that have been tested along the implementation. We will conclude with some general reflections, limitations of the current work and future practical and theoretical research opportunities.