The blog has gone quiet but we’ve been busy working on EAST 2016. The project last year proved so successful that we couldn’t not repeat it. And after lots of investigation and thinking we decided to extend it to include not only SET students like last year but also a group of medics. 27th June saw a kick-off session to start the second iteration of the EAST project. Here is a short account of how it went!
On Monday both medical and engineering students who’d expressed their interest in the project participation (successfully recruited by our partner in Gaza) met for an introductory meeting. The session was led by Maha Alnajjar, the E-learning coordinator at IUG
, with contributions from Ghadeer Abouda
, a very successful participant last year, and from me
(EAP Teacher and E-learning Lead at UoG). I was able to join the session via Skype. It was great to be able to see the prospective participants sitting in rows in a small lecture theatre listening attentively to learn as much as possible what the project entails.
IUG students during the introductory session
I outlined briefly how we went about the collaboration last year, describing how the engineering students at IUG supported our pre-sessional students. I emphasised the role of a mentor or ‘a big brother’ and how important it was to give constructive feedback. This was possible due to the training offered to the students prior to the project. I was careful to list all the benefits, such as development of language, team working, problem solving skills, cross-cultural awareness and digital literacies understood as ways of doing communication online, not just technical skills. These are the different competencies that any engineer needs in order to succeed in his or her profession. However, I also touched on some challenges, mostly related to time management and the pitfalls of collaborating at the distance.
IUG students during the introductory session
I then moved on to lay out the plans for this year. The SET students will follow the same format but with some modifications to allow more interactions between them and the team at UoG. For example, we’re planning to have two synchronous sessions at the beginning and at the end of the constructive feedback training and there is a lot of interaction built into the asynchronous stages of the course too. The students will then team up with our students to work on challenges related to engineering. You can see the last year’s project topics on this page
– there is quite a variety, reflecting the diverse interests and specialisms of the students in Gaza and Glasgow. The relationship between the students will be that of a mentor-mentee, with an expectation that the Palestinian students will guide ours in the research process by explaining the context, asking probing questions, directing to relevant research material and motivating the students to think more widely and analyse more deeply rather than telling the student what to do. This requires good communication and negotiation skills as well as knowledge of the ins and outs of the scenario. A student asked if there was an opportunity for Gazan students to work on solving problems and getting feedback from the students in Glasgow. While this seems like a great idea it seems like it may not be feasible, considering the intensity of the course in Scotland, and the fact that the Gazan students often have other commitments. Also, as indicated above, mentoring students entails more than just stating that something is ‘nice’, ‘well-done’ or ‘needs more work’.
IUG students during the introductory meeting
As to the medical students, the process will be slightly different and they will actually carry out the research with the students in Glasgow. The problems will be slightly more general and not as contextualised as the engineering ones but the Gazan students will bring in the Palestinian perspective. During the presentations they will deliver their part and they will also write a short report at the end of the project. This will allow us research two different kinds of student partnerships and their impact on the students’ learning.
The students in Gaza as usually asked a number of relevant questions, providing evidence as in the past that they are dedicated, ambitious and hard-working. I very much hope they join the project and find the collaboration fruitful and useful for their academic and professional development and I’m looking forward to working with them in the next couple of months.