Potential of Introducing Joint Blended Learning Opportunities in Higher Education Institutions in the Baltic States and Northern Europe

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1 Potential of Introducing Joint Blended Learning Opportunities in Higher Education Institutions in the Baltic States and Northern Europe Survey effected in the frame of the COEUR project by Vera Lindqvist in the frame of a Master Thesis at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz Abstract: The research was effected in the frame of an accompanying research within the COEUR BCM project, realised by a project research student. The potential of introducing joint European Learning opportunities employing methods of blended learning was examined through a broad paper based questionning of directors or rectors at 164 universities in the target countries Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has been effected, of which 50 Higher Education Institutions (HEI) responded to the survey. Even though the motivation of the research was to approach the potential of introducing COEUR Business Creativity Modules on these markets, the study officially focused on the implementation of joint learning opportunities in the field of Entrepreneurship education, so that the results may be of relevance for a broader audience. The COEUR - Business Creativity Module (BCM): The Business Creativity Module (BCM) is a European Union funded course jointly developed by six European universities cooperating in the COEUR -Network since 2004 having as outstanding goal the education of Competence in EuroPreneurship. The BCM can be realised in a network of 3-5 European HEI s of any discipline. It strives for a greatest possible heterogeneity of participating students to benefit from a multi-national perspective on the European Market and a multicompetence collaboration, fostering the process of creative Idea Generation. The BCM contributes in the new venture creation process by combining Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Business Creativity and to foster curiosity to implement it.

2 Table of Contents Entrepreneurship Importance of Entrepreneurship and Creativity Entrepreneurship Education Orientations of COEUR Entrepreneurship Education Development of Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Skills International Orientation Interdisciplinary Orientation Development of Interpersonal Skills Higher Education in the Baltic States and Northern Europe Study Structure Internationalisation Questionnaire Results Basic Information Empirical Findings Frequencies In-depth Interview Conclusion Bibliography Appendix Entrepreneurship Education in Northern Europe and the Baltic States Sweden Norway Finland Denmark Estonia Latvia Lithuania I

3 ORIENTATIONS OF COEUR - ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION Educational entrepreneurship training in Europe is strongly supported and encouraged by the European Union. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship is one of the eight so-called key competences for life-long learning. It involves turning ideas into action, creativity, innovation and risk-taking. They are considered important life and work skills in a knowledge society and therefore should be further developed. All key competences are interdependent with a clear focus on critical thinking, creativity, problem solving and risk assessment. 1 Thus, they should be taught early and in all levels of education. Those competences lead to economic development and are integrated into the first pillar of the Lisbon strategy. Furthermore, the Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe as outcome of a conference held in Oslo in 2006 contains propositions concerning entrepreneurial thinking and education. The propositions are divided into different categories. They aim at supporting HE entrepreneurship activities and educators and strengthening links internationally. One of the propositions is to better integrate Entrepreneurship Education into the Lisbon monitoring process. Moreover, entrepreneurship education should be introduced in the curricula of schools at all levels. 2 In HE for example, entrepreneurship education programmes should have the objectives of developing entrepreneurial drive among students (raising awareness and motivation), training students in the skills they need to set up a business and manage its growth and developing the entrepreneurial ability to identify and exploit opportunities. 3 To sum up, there are three main aspects that are especially important to cover in entrepreneurship education: generating ideas and recognising opportunities, creating new ventures or organisations as well as growing a young venture. 4 Many other of the mentioned goals and propositions show that there is a great need to implement entrepreneurship more effectively in educational training systems in Europe. Supporting the ideas and propositions of the Oslo Agenda and the Lisbon targets is thus vital to ensure the global competitiveness of Europe in the long run. Development of entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills The creation of new enterprises is vital for the European business development. As creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit is a key competence of lifelong learning, its development is an advantage in many ways. In existing businesses, more and more intrapreneurial approaches are needed today. Due to the fact that customers are becoming harder to satisfy and expect individual solutions, greater flexibility, innovativeness and creativity within companies are needed. Special tailored goods and services have a larger potential to succeed than standard products, which no longer satisfy the requests of many customers. It is furthermore becoming easier to bring customers and sellers together and to create new markets due to the increasing importance of electronic markets compared to physical markets. The focus within companies is switching from rather negative approaches, such as downsizing and re-engineering, to business development, value creation and innovation. To train and develop intrapreneurial skills at an early stage is thus very beneficial both for the trained people and for companies that want to encourage entrepreneurial respectively intrapreneurial thinking. 5 COEUR-BCM is thus an excellent opportunity to give future employees insight into the importance of 1 Europa, Summaries of Legislation, Key competences of lifelong learning 2 Oslo Agenda, pp European Commission Expert Group, p. 7 4 European Commission Expert Group, p Coulson-Thomas, pp

4 entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship issues as well as the chance to train their creativity, imagination and intrapreneurial skills. Due to the importance of human capital, creativity has become an important employee skill in today s business world. Creativity adds value to knowledge and makes it progressively more useful 6, so the knowledge and experience every person has, becomes more useful by practising to be creative. The creative work within intercultural teams shapes attitudes and is a lecture with unique effects for its participants. Thus, COEUR-BCM can be an important step for all students to practise their own creativity, and depending on their motivation and enthusiasm, they will continue practising creativity. As described earlier, creative thinking can be enhanced. When trying to develop and increase creativity, it is thus also important to acquire theoretical knowledge about creativity, the workings of the human brain and the creativity process. As this is a prerequisite for enhancing creative thinking, the blended learning approach of COEUR-BCM provides both the theoretical knowledge about creativity and the practical use of it. 7 European citizens are less inclined to start their own business than for example US citizens, who prefer to be have self-employed status compared to European citizens. 8 To encourage creative thinking and problem solving skills would thus be favourable for the overall economic development. Of course, it can be doubted whether an entrepreneurship oriented lecture can change the mindsets of students adequately to make them more entrepreneurial and increase their inclination towards starting their own business. 9 However, COEUR-BCM addresses the main challenge Europeans face when considering starting up an own business. Therefore, it is likely that it differentiates itself from other entrepreneurship lectures. Furthermore, the results it will have on students can be compared to the weeklong COEUR workshop that has involved many students from different countries until now. International Orientation Internationalisation and cooperation between countries is becoming more and more important for universities, students and in business life. COEUR-BCM leads to a close cooperation between participating universities and its students, which is vital for successful learning and innovation. It increases the students cultural awareness and sensitivity. Cultural understanding and tolerance increases moreover, because local students form teams with foreign students in other countries. Concerning entrepreneurship education, it has been growing over the past few years in Europe. However, networking between HEIs teaching entrepreneurship is limited 10 and should be further promoted. Most undergraduate entrepreneurship courses today are taught in the local language. 11 COEUR-BCM, which is taught in English, thus encourages internationalisation at all involved HEIs and last but not least increases the English skills of students and teachers. Interdisciplinary Orientation In addition to the intercultural aspects of the lecture, it is important to mention the interdisciplinary orientation of the lecture. For business students, it can primarily be used to 6 Kao, p. 8 7 Timmons, p European Commission Directorate General Enterprises, p. 4 9 Matlay, p Wilson, p Wilson, p. 18 2

5 widen their horizon. For them, it will increase the understanding of other issues due to different approaches of participating students of other disciplines. Engineering students will for example gain a greater understanding of important aspects in business life. Innovative and creative ideas often arise from technical and scientific studies, such as engineering, natural sciences and also creative studies. Therefore, if entrepreneurship or creativity education is available to students of different disciplines, good ideas are much more likely to arise. 12 Due to this and other reasons, an interdisciplinary approach regarding entrepreneurship education is advised. 13 Idea generation in teams is approached in a different way than solitary idea generation. If one person tries to create a new idea, he uses his own creativity and might come up with an excellent new idea. In teams, people build on each other s ideas and there is great interaction between the team members as their different points of view are merged into a more final idea. 14 Interdisciplinary teams can be found very often in business life, so COEUR- BCM is a great opportunity to come into contact with creative idea generation. A lecture or workshop like this then in turn also promotes solitary idea generation of the members. Furthermore, team creativity in general seems to be considerably more successful and lead to more promising ideas than individual creativity, especially if the background of team members with complementary knowledge and talents. 15 Development of Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal skills are considered important in future work life by students and are highly appreciated by most employers. A study conducted in Scotland in 2002 shows that students that have taken entrepreneurship courses gain certain interpersonal skills they to some extent lacked before. The following two tables originate from the research paper based on the study. 12 European Commission Expert Group, p European Commission Expert Group, p Kao et. al., pp Timmons, p. 45 3

6 Skill/competence These skills are important for entrepreneurship Per cent agree/strongly agree (n=c445) I have these skills Per cent yes (n=c100) Initiative Communication skills Organizational skills Problem-solving ability Confidence Perseverance Creativity People management skills Team Table working 1: Skills perception skills of entrepreneurship 87.3 students Most students agree or strongly agree on the importance of the mentioned skills and competences. Only around 60 per cent of the students state that they possess creativity and people management skills, whereas other skills seem more habitual, such as communication skills and team working skills. 16 Galloway et. al., p. 13 4

7 Skill/competence These skills are important for entrepreneurship Per cent agree/strongly agree (n=c445) Entrepreneurship module has improved skills Per cent yes (n=c100) Initiative Communication skills Organizational skills Problem-solving ability Confidence Perseverance Creativity People management skills Team working skills Table 2: Skills perception and improvement of entrepreneurship students 17 Table 2 shows how many of the questioned students perceive that the entrepreneurship education they have gotten, i.e. the entrepreneurship course they have taken, has improved these skills. Most students especially consider their team working skills, problem-solving ability and creativity as having improved. Concerning COEUR-BCM, important conclusions can be drawn from this study. It is important that interpersonal skills are taught, which are considered to be important by the students. Generally speaking, this is the case, as will be explained now. According to the study conducted in Scotland, the entrepreneurship education has improved their team-working skills, which is the highest percentage with 64.8 per cent. In COEUR- BCM, teamwork comprises approximately half of the students workload. Educators also confirm that entrepreneurship based on teamwork is most appropriate and successful for creating new business ideas. This is true both for business and non-business students. 18 Two other core aspects of COEUR-BCM are to train students creativity and problem-solving ability, as most ideas are generated by taking a certain problem and trying to solve it. This focus on these three important issues through the blended learning approach indicates that COEUR-BCM students will improve these interpersonal skills more than other entrepreneurship related courses. Furthermore, out of the nine most important skills, creativity is the skill that least students perceive to possess. Due to the fact that criticism or critical assessments of the idea appear to a much lesser extent than for example in business planning courses, the students confidence is likely to increase, too. Without doubt, also a lecture like COEUR-BCM, based on a blended learning approach and being introduced at undergraduate level while having a workshop character, will lead to a larger creation of soft skills than any other purely theoretical lecture offered at universities could, because is seems that traditional educational methods do not correlate well with the 17 Galloway et. al., p European Commission Expert Group, p. 28 5

8 development of entrepreneurial traits and attributes, and that multi-disciplinary collaboration is an essential element of building enterprising abilities. 19 HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE BALTIC STATES AND NORTHERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES To assess the potential of how well a joint blended-learning programmes could be implemented in one of the examined countries, it is helpful to have a sufficient knowledge about the study structure, i.e. the academic year, international orientation of HEIs within the countries and other relevant aspects. The following part will give a concise summary of the most important facts. Study Structure Sweden In Sweden, there are 48 accredited HEIs, 36 of them state-run. Most of them are located in the South of Sweden. 20 They are divided into universities, university colleges and colleges. 21 The academic year goes from August/September to May/June. There are no longer holidays between the autumn and spring term. Internationalisation is further promoted by the state 22 and 8.5 per cent of all students come from abroad. 23 However, most undergraduate programs are taught in Swedish, while many graduate programs are entirely taught in English. 24 Norway In Norway, there are 38 HEIs, 10 of them state-run. They are divided into universities, university colleges, state colleges and private institutions of higher education. 25 The academic year goes from mid-august to mid-june. 26 Internationalisation is important in Norway, and the Norwegian study system works according to the Bologna process all over Norway since However, there are few undergraduate degrees offered in English. 28 Denmark In Denmark, there are about 26 HEIs. They are divided into universities, university colleges and academies of professional higher education. The academic year goes from September to June and many programs or lectures are offered in English. 29 Finland 19 European Commission Expert Group, p Higher Education in Sweden, National Agency for Higher Education, p National Agency for Higher Education, p Study in Sweden, Higher Education in Sweden, Norwegian Council of Universities, Høgskolen i Ålesund, Norwegian Council of Universities, Study in Norway, Danish Centre for Assessment of Foreign Qualifications,

9 In Finland, there are 49 HEIs. They are divided into universities and universities of applied sciences. The academic year goes from September to May. 30 Since 2005, Finland s HE system is organised according to the Bologna Process and numerous programs and lectures are offered on English. 31 Estonia In Estonia, there are 11 universities (state-owned and private) and 17 other professional state-run or private professional higher education institutions. The academic year usually runs from September to May. 32 Estonia hosts many Finnish students and compared to the total number of local students, there are many English programs. 33 Latvia In Latvia, there are about 37 partly very much specialised state-run HEIs and a large number of private universities and colleges. 34 There are only five large universities, so most of the HEIs are quite small. The degrees are awarded in accordance with the Bologna process. The academic year starts in September and ends in May. 35 Lithuania In Lithuania, there are officially 50 HEIs, about two thirds of them state-run and one third of them private. Just like in Latvia, many of them are quite small and the degrees are awarded in accordance with the Bologna process. The academic year goes from September to May or June. 36 Internationalisation In the European Union, internationalisation and cooperation between HEIs is encouraged, as has been explained before. Besides the SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme, there are other international exchange programs in Northern Europe and the Baltic States, such as Nordplus, a cooperation and exchange program between Nordic and Baltic countries. 37 As mentioned before, implementing international lectures is prioritised slightly differently in the examined countries. According to a database, there are 4 English taught programmemes in Latvia, 8 in Estonia, 22 in Lithuania, 27 in Norway, 45 in Denmark, 61 in Sweden and 127 in Finland. 38 Of course, not all programmemes can be found in the database, but it might indicate the level of interest of different HEIs in the examined countries in making known their internationally offered programmes within the EU. Furthermore, the research before launching the questionnaire showed that many HEIs in Latvia and Lithuania had limited English homepages. In contrast to this, the English pages for Finnish HEIs were exceptionally well-structured and contained a lot of relevant information. QUESTIONNAIRE RESULTS 30 National Board of Education, Higher Education in Finland, Smartestonia: Academic Year, Smartestonia: Courses in English, HEQEC, Study in Europe Latvia, Study in Europe Lithuania, Nordplus, Academic Cooperation Association,

10 Basic Information In order to find out about the demand for joint blended-learning programmemes in Entrepreneurship education in Northern Europe and the Baltic States, an online survey among universities and higher education colleges was conducted using SPSS DimensionNet. Moreover, an in-depth interview with an employee of Estonian Business School gives more information on potential obstacles for introducing COEUR-BCM in the Baltic States. The empirical survey included altogether 166 HEIs in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The link to the online survey was sent to rectors or vicerectors at the institutions. To increase the overall response rate, a second was sent to different contact persons two weeks after the initial questioning. The s contained a short explanation and the subject was Estonian Business School Research Internationalisation, as internationalisation is an important topic at most HEIs. The overall opening rate of the link was 53 per cent. However, 43 per cent did not complete the survey, so that the overall response rate for completed surveys lies at 30 per cent. Considering the very high positions of the questioned people, getting 50 completed questionnaires is very satisfactory even if it needed two mailings. The response rate for completed surveys varied between only 17 per cent in Norway and 44 per cent in Denmark. Sweden and Finland had the second highest response rates with around 34 per cent, closely followed by Latvia with 32 per cent. Estonia and Lithuania had quite low response rates with 21 respectively 20 per cent completed questionnaires. The questionnaire was targeted to find out to what extent universities and colleges have implemented internationalisation measures and then trying to find how large the potential interest in introducing COEUR-BCM is. EMPIRICAL FINDINGS Frequencies Originally, 88 HEIs seemed willing to answer the online questionnaire and clicked on the link provided in the . However, only 50 completed the survey. When analysing the course of the questions, the answer to this is very clear. When asked to enter name and country of the university, close to 90 per cent of the rectors or vice-rectors, who did not complete the questionnaire, closed their browser window. This shows that integrity and anonymity is very important and that many HEIs seem to be afraid of receiving irrelevant advertising s. In significant contract to this, 74 per cent of those, who completed the survey, entered their addresses, when asked if they voluntarily wanted to provide their address to receive the results of the survey, From the base of 50 answers 39 the inclination towards internationalisation and the introduction of international lectures has been examined. A base of 50 completed questionnaires is sufficient for statistical purposes. Nevertheless, no information can be given on the differences between the countries, because the respective bases are too low. It becomes obvious that all universities except one cooperate internationally with other European universities. The following table 3 shows the areas of cooperation between European HEIs. 39 all graphs and tables are based on survey results and own calculations 8

11 Base % Student exchange/erasmus programme 100% Lecturer, professor and teacher exchange 98% Joint scientific research programmes 67% Joint seminars or lectures for students 53% International summer courses, summer school programmes for students 43% Table 3: In which areas does your university cooperate with other European HEIs? Using 49 as a base, it becomes obvious that student exchange programmes and teacher exchange are common practice in practically all universities today. Joint scientific research programmes and joint seminars or lectures for local and international students are common in two thirds of universities. Nearly half of all universities offer international summer courses or summer school programmes. Approximately one fourth of the HEIs stated other reasons than the given answer possibilities. Some of them they accredit education programmes, offer double degrees in cooperation with other universities e.g. on master/graduate level. Intensive (development) projects, scientific networks and joint research programmes were also mentioned as cooperation approaches. Some universities host (international) conferences, organise student competitions or arrange administration exchanges. Many of the HEIs are members in scientific networks and set up joint research programmes. The following table 4 shows the importance of internationalisation with regard to the vision of the HEIs. Base % 1 (very important) 62% 2 24% 3 12% 4 2% (not important at all) - Table 4: How important are internationalisation and international cooperation with respect to the vision of your university? 9

12 A cumulated 86 per cent considers internationalisation as very important or important (top two boxes). None of the questioned rectors and vice-rectors considers internationalisation to be unimportant, as can be clearly seen in the table above, where 5, 6 and 7 (not important at all) have not been marked by any HEI. The following graph 4 shows on which levels the universities, business schools and colleges offer international lectures taught in English. 26% 8% 2% Yes, on both undergraduate and graduate level 64% Yes, only on undergraduate level Yes, only on graduate level No Graph 4: Does your university offer lectures taught in English to international students? The majority of universities (64 per cent) offer international lectures on undergraduate as well as graduate level. 26 per cent offer lectures taught in English only on undergraduate level, while 8 per cent offer them only on graduate level. This means that a cumulated 90 per cent of universities already offer international lectures on undergraduate level. The following graph 5 shows in which fields international cooperation is most common. Business, economics 69% Technology, engineering 53% Entrepreneurship Natural sciences, environment related lectures 37% 39% Humanities, arts 31% Interdisciplinary lectures (different topics) 20% Politics 12% Graph 5: If your university offers lectures taught in English to international students, in which fields is this most common? More than two thirds of all HEIs in Northern Europe and the Baltic States have English business or economic lectures. More than half of the HEIs have technology and engineering lectures in English. Entrepreneurship lecture taught in English seem to be quite common, but also natural sciences and humanities and arts are offered by around one third of all universities. Approximately one third of the questioned HEIs stated other fields, in which they offer English lectures to their international students. Many universities offer international lectures in the field of welfare and health, such as healthcare, public health, nursing and 10

13 other social sciences. Some universities include tourism and tourism management into their international schedules. Law and media are also stated and one HEI declared that all is delivered in English language. The following table 5 shows the main potential obstacles for the introduction of new international courses. Base % Too high costs for the university 50% Too low number of international students 28% Too high administrative/organisational effort 26% Too high costs for students 12% Additional benefit not high enough 8% Not interesting/attractive enough for students 6% Table 5: In your opinion, which are the main potential obstacles for introducing new international lectures? As can be seen in the table, the most important reason for not introducing new international lectures is the additional cost that arises for the university. As second reason, the too low number of international students is stated by nearly one third of universities. This might indicate that local students are not that interested in international lectures taught in English, or that the university direction assumes it is so. Another main obstacle that is seen by the questioned HEIs is that the administrative or organisational effort is too high for the university. Too high costs for students, the lack of additional benefit and the lack of attractiveness of the lecture for students seem to be a minor issue. When asked to point out other potential obstacles, a surprisingly large number of HEIs (more than 10 per cent) independently from each other stated that the interest or willingness of teachers to teach a new international lecture in English was too small. Their language skills would present an obstacle, as well as their lack of interest in a new lecture, or, simply, a limited teacher capacity. Further obstacles are lack of English skills of students and legislation problems, whereas they can be summarised under too high administrative/organisational effort. One HEI however stated that there would not be any obstacles to the introduction of a new international lecture. The following graph 5 shows the motivation and interest of the HEIs to implement a lecture similar to COEUR-BCM. 11

14 40% 38% 30% 22% 20% 10% 16% 14% 10% 0% 0% 0% Graph 6: How large is the interest of your university to implement a joint lecture within your international university network, educating entrepreneurial skills throughout all disciplines at undergraduate level? 38 per cent of the questioned HEIs show, according to their answers, a great interest in introducing this kind of lecture. Compared to the other answers on this question, this is a quite high percentage. The average lies at 2,42. None of the HEIs answered that they were not interested in introducing a lecture like this at all (7=no interest). In the last question of the questionnaire, the people filling out the questionnaire were asked to enter their address if they were interested in getting the results of the questionnaire. As many as 37 rectors or vice-rectors actually entered their addresses, i.e. 74 per cent of all people completing the survey and nearly one fourth of all addressed people. This shows that there is a general interest in internationalisation issues. In-depth Interview To gain further and deeper understanding about the inclination of Northern European and Baltic HEIs to potentially introduce COEUR-BCM into their schedules, an employee occupying a high position at Estonian Business School in Tallinn, Estonia, has been asked more detailed questions. The employee has gained work experience both in the Baltic States as well as in Scandinavia and can substantially contribute to the assessment of the matter dealt with in this thesis. Estonian Business School is a business school with a clear focus on internationalisation. International lectures exist on both undergraduate and graduate level and international cooperation with the 75 partner universities is very common, both for students as for teachers. For example, EBS hosts international conferences in management and human resource management for HEIs in the Baltic States. Concerning its interest in entrepreneurship education, it e.g. has a so-called business incubator, which supports students, especially on graduate level, who want to start up their own business. They also offer entrepreneurship as a specialisation in their international bachelor study programme. 12

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