IMAGINE a green, healthy and sustainable future for the planet and its people. How do we power the change necessary to turn such a vision into reality? At the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), we believe entrepreneurial education is essential to enable this societal transition. We believe in the power of lifelong learning, continuously upskilling our knowledge to deliver innovative solutions for Europe.
Universities are key partners to achieve the EIT’s vision and critical to equip students with creativity and entrepreneurship skills, but also to drive regional ecosystems as innovation leaders. With universities we push knowledge forward, expose students to new ideas and turn these ideas into reality. Together with universities and the EIT, budding entrepreneurs can bring their innovative ideas to the market and spark change.
The current crisis requires us to reflect on education and the role universities play in our societies. With many universities around the world closing their ‘physical’ doors, online and blended education present a new era of learning.
“We must leverage the shift to digital learning, recognising the opportunities it opens to upskill knowledge and the benefits it can bring.”
Technologies are evolving rapidly, and whilst this means some jobs will disappear, new ones will be created with entire industries transformed. We need to ensure that skills and competences are adapted and that future talent is equipped to thrive at the forefront of innovation. Universities must continue as they always have to push the boundaries of knowledge forward, but also to facilitate technology transfer and contribute to upskilling through continued education. By doing so they drive innovation, ensuring that learners across Europe have the skills to keep up with the pace of advances in society.
The switch to blended education enables students to choose location, time and pace, catering their learning to a more flexible approach. By widening blended education options, we can foster collaboration between different learning perspectives and approaches and boost the impact entrepreneurial education brings to Europe. We also usher in much needed digital skills to underpin the ongoing digital transformation.
Yet, what does blended education mean for universities? It can:
- lead to higher student retention through personalised educational tracks,
- rethink traditional classrooms, giving access to groups with differing abilities,
- share resources faster and more easily with more digitalised content and archiving, and,
- enable more students to become active lifelong learners, returning to education to upskill their knowledge.
To transition to an online learning sphere, innovation is key. When the pandemic began, the EIT Community reacted quickly and supported educators by sharing knowledge and making key resources available to adjust to teaching and learning needs. New digital tools were swiftly introduced not only to teach, but also to support the academic community in adapting to the new conditions.
Innovation in higher education and in universities is not new for the EIT Community. Through EIT Digital, for example, we power innovations early on that contribute to a more digital learning environment. They supported start-up, ProctorExam, who as early as in 2015 was creating a highly secure web-based platform for online examinations. The programme has since been bought by universities in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.
At the EIT, we champion lifelong learning through our education programmes that are created in collaboration with the leading higher education, business, and research organisations across Europe. While the transition ahead remains uneasy for educators and students, we must rise to the challenge that the pandemic has thrust up on us. By doing so with universities paving the way, we will contribute to a more resilient and digitally skilled Europe.
Martin Kern is the Director at European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). He joined the EIT in August 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the European Commission for 15 years in a variety of posts, mainly in the area of enlargement policy and with financial assistance to support economic and social development programmes. He has a master’s degrees in Economics and English from the University of Heidelberg and one in European Studies from the University of Reading.