DIFME – A year in the making
Published by DIFME on 07-Feb-2020
The DIFME kick off took off in February 2019 until now, February 2020; the first year of our DIFME project. It has been a full year for DIFME. Here is a look at what the project achieved in the first year of its implementation.
DIFME is a transnational result-driven partnership made up of 5 higher education institutions and 6 business organisations. The project consortium is made up of 11 partner organisations based in Malta, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Netherlands funded by the European Commission. It is coordinated by the Malta Business Bureau and the consortium partners are - University of Malta, doLEARNFinance (FaB practise) Technological University of Dublin , IDEC, University of West Attica, Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg, ISOB, Eurocrea, University of National and World Economy, and Inqubator Leeuwarden.
February 2019 – DIFME Kick-off Meeting in Valletta, Malta
Aidan Killeen (Software engineer and Trainer, FaB Practice) , Alexander Krauss(Business Coach & Researcher, ISOB) , Joe Tanti (CEO ,Malta Business Bureau), Jack Foley (Economist & Trainer, FaB Practice ), Kristina Buhagiar (Research Officer, University of Malta), Antonella Tozzi (Eurocrea) , Prof Dorina Kabakchieva (University of National and World Economy), Marika Huber (DIFME Project Writer & Coordinator), Prof Brian Byrne (Technological University of Dublin, Prof Kamelia Stefanova(University of National and World Economy), Prof Patrick Sassmannshausen (Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg) Nynke de Jager (Trainer & Researcher, Inqubator Leeuwarden ) Marija Elena Borg (Senior Executive, MBB) Sarah Abdilla( Executive, MBB) Dr Leonie Baldacchino(Edward Debono Institute, University of Malta), Anastasios Tzerachoglou(Trainer, University of West Attica, Greece) Aris Chronopoulos (Economist, IDEC S.A.) Prof Georgios Priniotakis (University of West Attica).
One of the first activities of the newly formed, newly funded DIFME consortium was to organize a kick-off meeting in Malta hosted by the project coordinator MBB on 7th and 8th February 2019. The Kick-off meeting was dedicated to the partners presentations on their role in the DIFME project, the role of innovative teaching & learning methods, current training programmes as well as the challenges they face in their institutions. The meeting was also oriented to the activity descriptions of 10 Work Packages led by ISOB, Incubator Leeuwarden, University of National and World Economy and the eLearning tool creation by IDEC.
During the meeting, partners discussed DIFME’s implementation, its aims, objectives, outcomes, as well as the various project work packages including the course content yet to be defined, depending on the survey results in all countries. The survey by partners will target 350 respondents, an ambitious yet achievable target agreed to by all partners All the outputs of the project were discussed as well as issues related to the dissemination and promotion of the project and its implementation in the highest quality possible.
The meeting was concluded with an overview of administrative management of DIFME by the Project Coordinator, Marika Huber. Prior to the meeting, all partners signed the mandate committing themselves to adhere to the requirements as implemented by the coordinator (Malta Business Bureau) on behalf of EACEA. Furthermore, all partners received the detailed Partner agreement covering the necessary obligations and commitment requirements.
First-hand information that was given to the coordinators during the EACEA Brussels meeting (end of January 2019) was clearly communicated to the partners, all present at the meeting to ensure clear guidelines in all aspects including the necessary more detailed timesheets and deadlines.
February to June 2019 – Defining and researching the audience
After the meeting in Valletta the DIFME consortium worked on the important task of defining the audience they wanted to address and appropriately target them using different communication channels. In the meantime, a dissemination strategy was identified and the dissemination plan was uploaded on the Consortium intranet.
The basis of the proposed project had already been developed with consultation sessions carried out with micro businesses, in order to gather a perspective about the practical skills with focus on internationalisation to identify in what way, and which digital skills are necessary to build steps to internationalise businesses. Partners identified the need for entrepreneurs having hands on accesible tools to evaluate the performance of their entreprise , the further development of both internatinalisation skills as well as the digital skills and the clear need to liaise and communicate with other entrepreneurs based on literature, other project results, and making consultation sessions with students, start up entrepreneurs and companies.
The main conclusions of the consultation exercise corroborated with the data of the literature:
- digital skills are determinant in this sector;
- there is a gap between what information is available and what is essential for a young entity to survive, which can be overcome by a strong articulation a clear and comprehensive understanding of I) financial literacy and ii) access to knowledge related to how to internationalise a business iii) access to practical information as in the proposed SME HUB.
Therefore the first work plan set the conditions for further research and deeper analysis, enabling an accurate disciplines development with learning outcomes revised according to the entrpreneur needs. A survey targeting 350 entrepreneurs was defined, translated and implemented with the objective to assess in which areas microentrepreneurs feel they lack guidance and knowledge . We are now in the process of dissseminating this to the target audience on a face to face and online basis. Furthermore tutors and mentors teaching /working with entrepreneurs have been identified and interviewed to corraborate the results of the research.
DIFME is also including the comparison of the different HEIS learning models in practice, identifying pros and cons of each approach, and setting the grounds for common industry oriented learning outcomes based on a closer cooperation between HEIs and entrepreneurs. This analysis has been coordinated by Dr Leonie Baldachino on behalf of University of Malta and Ms Kristina Buhagiar , a PHD student and researcher at the University of Malta.
This work plan is being led by Inqubator Leeuwarden ( Netherlands) working with University of Malta, and all the partners were involved in liaising and researching feedback from entrepreneurs, to analyse the existing situation and training needs, as well as the potential effectiveness of e-learning and online tools used for the training path both start ups as well as experienced ones.
June – DIFME 2nd partner Meeting in Dublin, Ireland
The DIFME consortium partners held the second meeting of the project on and June in Dublin. Hosted by Technological University, in central Dublin on the 27th and 28th June, the partners came together to discuss the work done so far to develop the learning elaboration for DIFME. By asking the same questions to different audiences in different countries, the aim was to get diverse perspectives and feedback. These sessions have been immensely useful and will guide the DIFME project in its endeavour to further the course curriculum. The survey results, interviews and curriculum ideas related to the feedback from the research that took place in each of the seven countries were discussed at length. At the end of the two days, the partners agreed to keep on developing their ideas in order to build a curriculum, and to develop an effective eLearning tool.
July - November 2019
After the meeting in Dublin and using Skype meetings as the channel for communication, partners are working on the identification of the the selection of disciplines to develop the new cooperative learning model and the revised learning outcomes.This has been based on the survey results wherein the partners successfully received over the targeted amount of 350 responses related to micro entrepreneur feedback. All countries prepared a country report – these were the basis of the synthesis report developed by the University of Malta.
The WP leader Inqubator Leewarden has presented a proposal of the disciplines to be adapted to the new learning cooperative process, their curricula and the first draft off the model. Led by Inqubator Leeuwarden, the partners have now identified the learning outcomes and divided the tasks to work on the outline for their content.
27th and 28November – DIFME 3rd partner Meeting in Regensburg, Germany
DIFME partners met up in Regensburg , home to hosting partner, the University Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg and DIFME’s Quality and Evaluation partner ISOB. Once again all the partners attended and agreed to he training conceptualization, and the main characteristic of the profile . The tasks divided among partners for the actual development of the contents were assessed and discussed at length on the basis that contents are to provide micro entrepreneurs with an agile toolkit wherein the description of the learning objectives and skills are to be developed together with the indicative timetable for own learning and the theoretical oriented learning.
To date all the partners have worked on the content , and are in the process of reviewing their work as assessed by ISOB prior to peer reviewing partners’ content again . The DIFME peer review involves subjecting the work and research to the scrutiny of other DIFME partner who are experts in the same field to check its validity and evaluate its suitability for publication. Furthermore the peer review will involve non experts to ensure that the content is simplified rather than theoretical for the target audience . The peer review will help the partners decide whether the work is of the required standard acceptable to the target audience of students and microentrepreneurs or if it should be revisited once again.
Once the content is accpeted by the DIFME partners, this will be translated into the constortuim languages - Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Dutch and German.
December 2019- February 2020
All the partners have worked on the content, reviewed their work and now will peer review partners’ content before translating into the constortuim languages, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Dutch and German. Partner IDEC will then create the online tool in all consortium languages.
The first year of the DIFME project has come to a close, and now it's the start of many things to follow - we will conclude a tangible eLearning subject to the evaluation of the partners peer review - we will them elaborate further our dissemination once we have tangible results to disseminate. We will follow up with workshops to pilot the model.
Do register if you wish to be updated with workshop events specific to Malta (Valletta), Ireland (Dublin and Cork), Germany (Regensburg), Italy (Milan), Greece (Piraeus), The Netherlands (Leeuwarden), Bulgaria (Sofia).