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WP1 - Refinement of Needs Assessment and Analysis
SureMap’s main aim is to achieve sustainable resource use in the agro-food chain and desert land reclamation projects. In order for this to occur Mater’s and Diploma programs will be established to train calibers working in the field and equips them with the necessary qualifications to implement the “1.5 million feddans desert reclamation” target, as well as similar water, energy and food related challenges in the “Egypt 2030” strategy. The first step taken to reach this goal was the refinement of the needs assessment studies the project was built on. In this article, you’ll find a brief about the work package activities, main results and final recommendations.
The American University in Cairo led the Egyptian partners: Alexandria, Aswan, and Heliopolis Universities in the work package implementation, in consultation with the European partners. Firstly, interviews were conducted with the target groups including Egyptian and International organizations working on supporting farmers, policy makers, research entities, farmers and local organizations working on sustainable resource management for food production and agricultural innovation projects. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, virtual based data collection tools were prioritized whenever possible including online meetings, phone interviews or online questionnaires. However, some of the target audience had issues with non-contact based tools due to lack of access to stable internet ; therefore, interviews and focus groups were conducted face to face whenever needed. The interviews helped us identify the main challenges faced by our target groups.
A curricula mapping was also carried out involving all project partners, along other universities in the MENA region and other international universities with similar challenges to Egypt. A stakeholder analysis was then conducted to identify the current interactions with stakeholders and how we can create a plan to be able to manage communication with them in the future. This process involved a workshop that included an online questionnaire followed by online discussions with the project partners. Lastly, the current knowledge and skills of prospective students were assessed through online surveys.
All in all, we were able to gather all the challenges faced by stakeholders involved with the Sustainable Resource Management in the Desert and come up with suggestions to solve them. Those challenges included lack of resources and access to technology amongst others. Furthermore, we were able to identify the existing knowledge and skills of prospective students and create the teaching methodologies, pedagogies and assessment tools. Lastly, we came up with recommendations on the type of technologies that will be incorporated in the program, the policies we would need to apply and how the knowledge and skill gaps will be addressed using the teaching methods, pedagogies and assessment tools we developed. Those included project based learning and interdisciplinary approaches, among others.
WP2 - Design and Development of the Curriculum
The goal of SureMap is to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to develop and boosting Sustainable Resource Management capacity in Egypt. It aims to do so, by training generalists, able to interact and coordinate specialists from different fields. This is pivotal to strength Egypt’s ability to successfully implement its “greening the desert” initiative to make 600 Ha or more arable land, which currently is hampered by knowledge fragmentation. SureMap tries to overcome these challenges, which are deeply rooted in most traditional university systems in the world, through interactions within the quadruple helix of universities, industries, policymakers, and society, and by integrating the gained insights into modern postgraduate curricula. The curricula development which is based upon these results is the essence of this work package.
Based upon the results of WP 1, that included a needs analysis and identified courses suitable for benchmarking, implemented under the leadership of the American University in Cairo, with support of the University of Alexandria, Aswan University and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development four programmes are being developed.
•In ALEXU a post-graduate diploma has been designed, with a focus on practical skills, combined with sufficient theoretical knowledge to enable graduates to become successful managers and implementers
•In AUC, a professional Master’s offers Environmental Scientists and graduates from related fields the opportunity to connect their knowledge with basic principles of water and energy engineering, sustainable development, ecosystem restoration and farming methods. This enables them to design environmentally sound systems that protect the environment, while at the same time considering commercial and economic restraints and opportunities
•In ASWU, a professional Master’s was designed to enable agricultural engineers and other rural experts to design sustainable farming methods that are economically viable, environmentally sound, socially balanced and culturally acceptable, hence covering all four dimensions of sustainable development
•At HU, Master Programs were devised for Sustainable Water Engineering, Sustainable Energy Engineering, and Sustainable Business Administration, with the focus on skills needed to implement and manage desert land reclamation projects within the 1.5 million feddan initiative of the Egyptian government, and beyond
The learning outcomes aimed for resulted in courses that aim to develop particular sets of skills that take into account the multi/inter-disciplinary nature of this programme. The core skill requirements associated with such needs include interpersonal and social skills (including behavioural training to shift the mindset of people towards a more resource-efficient way of water utilization), practical skills as well as analytical, problem solving and entrepreneurial skills, including the “10Cs” (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, critical consciousness, connectivity, critical reflection, co-responsibility, cross/intercultural understanding and constructing knowledge). To be open for current and future developments, the programme was designed to take into account the diversity of new communities and how to develop them, as well as suitable cultural, gender and environmental dimensions.
WP3 - Capacity Development
In the frame of the “Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education” of the Erasmus+ Programme (KA2 action) of the European Union, SUREMAP project dedicates a specific Work Package (WP3) to capacity development. In WP3, four training modules and two PhD school, mostly related to the Water-Food-Energy nexus, will be developed and carried out by the European Universities according to their expertise. University of Palermo (UP) will take the lead of this Work Package.
Before implementing the training modules, several other tasks such as the structure of the curricula developed by the Egyptian Universities, have to be completed. Then, the assessment of the knowledge has to be performed to identify which skills-gaps are deemed necessary for any particular course, even to avoid the inclusion of lectures on already well-known subjects. At this aim, the analysis of the curriculum vitae of the potential instructors associated with a semi-structured questionnaire given to the target groups will allow identifying the lacking skills and to develop the training programs. To do this as accurate as possible, the considerable target groups have to be determined, as well as the right questions to evaluate the knowledge-gaps and to tailor suitable training activities in Europe.
After the assessment has been done, the trainees have to be selected. Of course, it is a good opportunity to travel to Europe for training purposes and due to that, the number of applicants could be high. To guarantee an impartial selection, a set of criteria, such as language & communication skills, commitment to forward the knowledge in Egypt after the training and base knowledge of the subjects of the training, will be developed. At the same time, the European Universities, with the contribution of the Egyptian partners, will plan and prepare the training activities. The four training modules will be held at CITY, RWTH-A, UPM and UP. The focuses of the training will lay on “Energy and food production” for CITY, “Water and water treatment and food production” for RWTH-A, “Sustainability of food production in arid areas and environmental challenges” for UPM and “Soil and water management in semiarid and arid areas” for UP, respectively. The work package also includes the implementation of two PhD schools with the purpose to disseminate the acquired skills and knowledge, as well as to determine the effectiveness of the training received.
WP4 - Development of an Online, Knowledge-Sharing System Including Blended Learning and Open Educational Resources (OER)
The goal of WP4 is to introduce an online knowledge sharing system including blended learning and Open Education Resources (OERs). This task contains of course several preparation steps in assessing both the existing knowledge, of the staff at the Egyptian Universities and the capabilities of their Universities. The first survey will be directed to the blended learning tools, which are currently already used at the Egyptian Universities. According to the outcome of this survey, there will already be a plan developed how the Universities can cooperate with each other to benefit from the other Universities experience and expertise. Based on this and an inventory list of the existing ICT equipment, new equipment will be bought or the existing will the upgraded to match the requirement needed to proceed in this work package. Key action of this work package will be a week of training given by and at RWTH Aachen University to train a selected group of Egyptian professors and lecturer how plan, prepare and create their own OERs not just as written content, but also in the shape of short educational videos as commonly used in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This training will be concluded with sessions on producing interactive content, setting up an online Learning Management System (LMS) and different didactical approaches. The specific focus of the single units and the training overall will be determined by another survey, circulated among a larger group of possible participants at the Egyptian universities. The work package will culminate in the application of the knowledge learned during the training by developing own OERs in the shape of MOOCs which will be made openly accessible for the public.
WP5 - Infrastructure Enhancement
Work Package #5 is a crucial milestone for the smooth and proper implementation of the targeted post-graduate degrees by the M.Sc. It consists of three key deliverables; the first deliverable mainly focuses on the assessment of the current and existing infrastructures in the EG partners. The second task is to define the minimum level of the infrastructure required and upgrade accordingly. Finally, to ensure long-term proper implementation of the new and the upgraded infrastructure, an operational and maintenance plan will be developed as the third deliverable.
WP6 - Piloting
The main objective of Work Package 6 is the pilot implementation of the M.Sc. and Diploma programs developed in the Egyptian universities. The work package will evaluate and oversee how the developed programs operate under the tangible conditions and assess the needs for future improvement. For review of how the developed programs operate and the evaluation of the quality of the process, feedback questionnaire will be developed for the students, instructors, and university administration after the first semester. The information collected through the integrated feedback loop that will be established among students, instructors and universities staff, will be analyzed and the outcomes will be used to help build up the confidence needed among the faculty and deduce valuable information for further improvement. Also, following the finalization of the curriculum development within the first 18 months of the project, WP6 will review the benchmarking against the similar programs defined in task 2.5, evaluate adaptation and continuous improvement of the curriculum.
WP7 - Quality Plan
Quality Control aims to ensure that outputs/results of the project are delivered with the best quality and that beneficiary’s feedbacks are considered to implement a continuous improvement process. In SUREMAP, Quality Control is the task of work package 7. In these terms, we have prepared quality surveys, to evaluate the satisfaction in two different categories: external (for external evaluators) and internal (to be evaluated by the Consortium), a Quality Control Spreadsheet (for monitoring), and a Quality Plan Manual, where the Quality Control Indicators are collected, previously decided by all the partners belonging to the Project Quality Control Committee. These Quality indicators, both quantitative and qualitative, act as a benchmark for all the partners to compare if the outcomes achieved in their Work Package meet the project’s expectations, in a monitoring work by the Quality Control team leader.
WP8 - Dissemination, Exploitation, and Implementation of the SuReMap Study Programme
The successful implementation of SuReMap will greatly be facilitated by strategic and targeted dissemination directed towards all decision-making bodies and relevant stakeholders as well as the public at large. Dissemination to stakeholders will ascertain the relevance of approach and content of the courses and the programme. Dissemination to a wider audience will stimulate interest in the topics involved and ascertain sufficient student numbers. Nevertheless, it is presumed that the majority of students will be recruited among recent graduates of the participating institutions, hence promotion activities involving the association of engineering students and alumni will be pivotal.
Dissemination activities will also take place during major events like the kick-off and wrap up meetings, as well as through targeted attendance at relevant national and international conferences. Next to social media channels (Facebook, Twitter etc.), a website, flyers and similar conventional means of dissemination, articles will be placed in newsletters of participating institutions and press statements provided for the regional and national press. Given the importance of the topic of sustainable development, the Egyptian Ministries for Agriculture, Irrigation, Environment, Manpower, Trade and Industry and local development regularly organise stakeholder and strategy development meetings. Whenever possible, members of the consortium will attend relevant meetings and use them as dissemination platforms in presentations and such like.
Especially staff from the AUC and the coordinator have also a good track record of radio and TV appearances which will be used for dissemination where appropriate. Most importantly, relevant results and reports will be hosted on platforms specialised on research and education like ResearchGate and using channels like the regular events organised by the student unions of engineering faculties and Environmental Sciences Faculties in Egypt.
Given the relevance of the topic, the UoP and RWTH-A will evaluate if a similar programme could also be offered in their institutions, or if parts thereof can be incorporated into already existing programmes. This will not only extend the level of exploitation but also facilitate future student exchange using mobility programmes like ERASMUS that require recognition of the host’s course content. A further dimension of exploitation is the dissemination of results and skills in the areas of e-learning, OER and MOOC described in WP4.
WP9 - Project Coordination and Management
Every project either if is trans-continental or within a small group of people needs Management of some sort. This Work Package is coordinated by RWTH Aachen as the grant applicant. Still, every other participating organisation takes part in the Management Board to make all the important decisions. As WP leader, RWTH also manages the preparation of reports of each outcome when necessary and the mid-term and final reporting to the EACEA. They also act as voice to ask the EACEA for advice if needed or to get feedback on proposed changes of the project’s implementation. The management also includes contractual negotiation especially in the beginning and also months before the official start of the projects as well as the financial bookkeeping and transferring of the budget to the partners.