The UOC’s educational model: the foundation of our teaching and learning processes

The UOC, created close to 20 years ago, has from its very beginnings been characterised by its educational model, a model that is dynamic and flexible, permitting a variety of learning situations that always fit students’ needs. This teaching and learning model embraces all the qualifications offered by the university, thereby guaranteeing its full implementation in any training action it might carry out (subject, formative itinerary, undergraduate, postgraduate and masters).

Given the profile of our students, the majority of whom are actively working adults with a family, the model ensures that they can plan their time and study completely online, while at the same time guaranteeing a skillset inherent in the profession and the ability to apply it in real-life contexts relevant to each qualification’s working environment. The following video shows how this works:

The UOC’ educational model promotes autonomous learning, with teaching support, and contextualised learning in professional situations. This is why it is based on five core areas that make up the learning experience: student’s activities, teaching support, the online community, competency-based assessment, and tools and resources.

UOC’s educational model representation

 

As a result of the ongoing development of the education world due to the incorporation of Information and Communication Technologies, the model is continually evolving, fuelled by trends in e-leaning arising from research and innovation around the world. However, given that the UOC is a living example of the application of e-learning, it also leverages its own applied research, in addition to incorporating innovations resulting from innovation projects. Teaching and learning products, tools and resources are tested and analysed and transferred to teaching staff to improve subjects.

At the eLearn Center, the results obtained from both research and innovation are gathered and incorporated into the support service that we offer to the UOC’s teaching staff to design or re-design subjects. This support provides accompaniment for teaching staff in both the design and redesign of learning activities and subjects. Depending upon the requirements in question, the most suitable activities, learning methodologies and resources are suggested. Additionally, the educational model team offers a range of workshops, courses and training sessions to update and enhance teaching activities. Similarly, a series of guides and resources are offered to steer and help teaching staff to properly implement the university’s educational model thereby guaranteeing its transfer.

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The Funnel of Innovation applied to UOC

To manage innovation or to transform business opportunities and challenges into solutions, companies and organisations tend to use some variant of what is known as the Funnel of Innovation or the Stage-Gate methodology. This model consists of capturing the maximum possible number of ideas which provide a response to one of these opportunities or challenges. The ideas are then subjected to filters and criteria in order to discard some and develop others with more potential. The latter progress through different stages until the relevant innovations are fully implemented.

embut_innovacio

At the UOC we have adapted the traditional funnel model in accordance with our specific needs. We search for ideas that help us to evolve and improve our educational model through innovations in the application, adaptation or creation of learning technologies. We decide on the criteria and filters to put the ideas into action and we decide on the details of each stage. The UOC has denominated this process APLICA and in practice it is an annual internal innovation campaign. Participants include teachers and management staff from the university and it is now in its tenth edition. In our case, the starting point is some annual challenges defined by the university management team in accordance with the strategic plan.

We search for ideas that help us to evolve and improve our educational model through innovations in the application, adaptation or creation of learning technologies.

The first stage consists of gathering ideas through an application by which any employee can make suggestions and others can comment upon them or volunteer to form part of a future working group. The objective of this dynamic is to gather transversal ideas (between studies and departments), which can be debated and enriched before moving on to the next stage.

The ideas which receive the most support, the most comments or the most volunteers pass to the second stage, where the person(s) who proposed the idea have to write and present a preliminary project proposal which defines the idea further and identifies a working group. Subsequently, the UOC Innovation Commission evaluates the proposals according to certain criteria, for instance the degree of innovation, feasibility and sustainability, the alignment with the initial challenges, and the impact it could have on the institution.

The best proposals are selected to move onto the final stages with prototype development and pilot trials. The final number of ideas to be implemented also depends on the annual budget.

Finally, if the result of the pilot trials meets the target objectives, these prototypes then proceed to the last stage, which is the application of the idea to UOC internally or the external transference to other institutions.

funnel_innovationUOC’s Funnel of Innovation (APLICA)

 

To give some idea of the volume of ideas generated, last year 72 ideas were received, 19 proposals were presented and 7 projects were selected, for which we are now completing the prototypes. The educational innovations implemented at the UOC using this system (or other similar ones) can be tracked historically, either on the eLearn Center or OpenApps websites.

However, the funnel innovation system is not perfect. When using a system like this it is easy to see that the more ideas there are, the better. So, why limit ourselves to ideas from UOC teachers and management staff? Why not innovate with the entire UOC community? This is the idea behind Innovació Oberta (Open Innovation), a concept we are just beginning to explore. To coincide with the APLICA campaign this year, for example, we will open up a couple of challenges to the UOC students and alumni so they can suggest ideas.

Moreover, we want to share this commitment to Open Innovation and all our accumulated experience from the funnel process with everyone. To do this, we have a new initiative at the UOC called Hubbik, the Hub of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Knowledge in the UOC community, specifically within its service to activate innovation.

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