Activities and Piloting
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 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. 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 faced in their institutions. The meeting was also oriented to the activity descriptions of Work Packages led by ISOB, Incubator Leeuwarden, University of National and World Economy and the eLearning tool creation by IDEC.
Following its kick off, the DIFME consortium worked on the important task of defining the audience to address and appropriately target them using different communication channels. In the meantime, a dissemination strategy was identified and agreed to by all the partners. Partners identified the entrepreneurial need to have hands-on accessible financial understanding and tools to evaluate their enterprise performance, the understanding of internationalisation skills, the digital skills and communication channels. Hence DIFME was tied on evaluating literature, other project results, and consultation sessions with students, start-up entrepreneurs and companies.
An analysis also included 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.
A survey targeting a sample size of 350 entrepreneurs was defined, translated and implemented in the partner countries with the objective to assess the areas which microentrepreneurs felt required guidance and knowledge. Furthermore, tutors and mentors teaching /working with entrepreneurs were identified and interviewed to corroborate the results of the research. The response was a sample size that exceeded 460 entrepreneurs.
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 2019, 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.
After the Dublin meeting using Skype meetings as the channel for communication, partners worked on the identification of the selection of disciplines to develop the new cooperative learning model and the revised learning outcomes. All countries had prepared a country report presented to the partners in the Dublin meeting – these were the basis of the synthesis report developed by the University of Malta. The WP leader Inqubator Leeuwarden presented a proposal of the disciplines to be adapted to the new learning cooperative process, their curricula and the first draft off the model.
DIFME partners met up in Regensburg at the end of November 2019. The tasks were divided among partners for the actual development of the contents and 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.
Due to the COVID circumstances, partners could not meet up on a face to face basis since the November 2019 meeting. Due to COVID partners also placed the piloting and exploitation activities on hold for some months believing that they would elaborate on these once the circumstances were back to normal and face to face meetings would be conducted.
Nevertheless, within this period all the partners used this timeframe to further improve on the eLearning tool content, wherein their work was assessed by the Quality partner ISOB prior to peer reviewing partners’ content once again. The DIFME peer review involved subjecting the work and research to the scrutiny of other DIFME partners as experts in the same field to check content validity and evaluate its suitability for publication. Furthermore, the peer review also involved non-academics to ensure that the content is simplified rather than offer a theoretical course. This quality assessment has ensured that partners offer non-theoretical coursework. Once concluded all the content was made available in the consortium languages i.e. English, German, Greek, Italian, Dutch and Bulgarian.
COVID affected the consortium Universities, Businesses and Enterprises who had to catch up on lost time in settling their work practices into the new COVID lifestyle. In October 2020 partners kicked off feedback via online focus groups targeting both Higher Education Institute Academics, students and microentrepreneurs. Following this DIFME Partners also kicked off online exploitation activities including a well-attended number of thematic events based on the DIFME eLearning modules. The scope of these events was to ensure that learners had further opportunities to learn from mentors and experienced entrepreneurs.
Due to the devolving COVID circumstances, partners could only resort to online piloting throughout the project implementation . Still, the targeted piloting with 210 has been exceeded. As at September 2021, partners are closing off piloting reports so that the Piloting leader UNWE can collate the necessary information for the DIFME results.
As a consortium, we are proud to offer our online SME HUB tool specific to country circumstances and an eLearning tool(Click here for DIFME Training Course - Digital Internationalisation and Financial Literacy Skills for Micro Entrepreneurs) which content is available all partner languages i.e. English, Italian, Dutch, German, Bulgarian and Greek.