Integrating Micro-credentials is part of applying the internationalization scheme at Bethlehem University.
Due to the COVID-19, the External Academic Relations Role became primarily dedicated to bridging and impacting the Academic Office system level to trigger the reform processes at the university with the European and the Mediterranean potential partner countries in the area of internationalization.
There is a need to work with the university policymakers and official representatives to receive support for evidence-based policy development and better regulation to move towards the modernization of the framework conditions at the university. Therefore, developing policies that address real internal problems at the university (institutional) level will ultimately benefit the entire academic pyramid.
The overarching objectives of this ongoing research approach include:
- To outline the university internationalization landscape and identify international and intercultural dimensions (formal and informal curriculum).
- To improve the university’s capabilities for internationalization through staff training and by translating general awareness of the concept into streamlined university (institutional) strategies and action plans.
- To build our students’ intercultural knowledge and sensitivity to cultural diversity by transforming the External Academic Relations Office into a vibrant multicultural focal point.
To work on capacity building program for academics, administrators, students on internationalization (education, research/projects), and the intercultural environment through applying the following steps:
- Data collection and publishing Bethlehem University profile report.
- Consolidation of the Bethlehem University integrative function, webinars, university strategy, and action plan.
- Enhancement of the Bethlehem University capacity for international and regional collaborations, study visits in the EU, and training.
- University Intercultural environment, digital storytelling, friends’ teahouses.
The results will support the university reporting, share and give information on the university’s position on an intentional level. The analysis and statistics will be available (accessible) on the university website.
Micro-credentials are quickly gaining interest nowadays. They are instrumental in supporting upskilling and reskilling in response to the rapid transformation in labor markets. “To define a micro-credential is proof of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a short learning experience. It can be defined as documented statements that acknowledge a person’s learning outcomes related to small volumes of learning and that, for the user, are made visible in a certificate, badge, or endorsement (issued in a digital or paper format).”
The purpose is to participate in strengthening Bethlehem University capacities in delivering quality education and training, enhancing information and knowledge exchanges on themes linked to entrepreneurship and employability, entrepreneurial learning, career guidance, vocational training, promoting policy dialogue and mutual exchanges between high schools and academia and other stakeholders, including enterprises, labor market stakeholders and national, regional and international labor authorities, to contribute to improve social cohesion and achieve more sustainable economic growth through the reform of education, training, and labor market systems.
I am addressing an important issue related to training presented by the EU/ E+ opportunities related to intentional labor market systems; in particular, this initiative concerns micro-credential and connecting with the new labor market. Emerging jobs will require new skills, and for such a transition, we as Bethlehem University need to keep up-to-date and make learning more adapted to individual needs. Small micro-credentials can be part of the solution. For this reason, to have the proper mindset to work with micro-credentials, there is a need to create a research initiative by collect information on the evolving topic. This data will be required in designing the Bethlehem University future framework.
The idea is to create a common ground of understanding, acceptance of the use of micro-credentials by different types of Bethlehem University stakeholders (learners, education and training providers, professional associations, civil society organizations, social partners, and other business membership organizations) and their recognition by the Ministry of Higher Education authorities and representatives.
Objective: To secure smooth integration of internationalization into Bethlehem University
COVID-19 continuous waves (hits) have presented us with a real challenge and responsibility with the potential to reshape our world fundamentally. Now is the time to apply general intelligence and collective intellectual discussion about the future of Bethlehem University’s internationalization plan of action.
The job crisis is hitting fresh graduates as we confront a tough employment market, and we cannot return to the world as it was before March 2020. We are heading into a real social crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered one of the worst job crises in Palestine. It is a real danger that the crisis will increase poverty and widen inequalities, with a profound impact for years to come. Therefore, Bethlehem University is forced to do everything to limit this job crisis from turning into an actual social crisis. The answer is to reconstruct and embrace a digital paradigm at our institution, including entrepreneurial, innovative, and digital integration, to secure a stable and sustainable resilient labor force for generations to come.
We have seriously arrived at a moment, however unexpectedly, where collectively revisiting the purposes of education and organization of learning has become imperative. There is an essential need to collect good practices for rebuilding a future for our home institution. Part of it is increasing the awareness and understanding of the risk associated with a global challenge to plan for the future of education at Higher Education in Palestine, adjoined with applied measures that have the nature of job creation for all academic sectors.
The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified many of the long-standing challenges facing HEIs. In recent months, numerous webinars shared by a wide range of organizations providing extensive guidance on reacting to the COVID-19 crisis at all educational levels. Their contribution was to share, identify, and focus on the areas where immediate decisions made now, in the short term, have the most significant potential long-term implications.
To share and guide principles in areas where high-stakes decisions made today will have significant long-term consequences. Therefore, Bethlehem University must apply the best knowledge about internationalization in these moments of crisis and uncertainty. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the idea of the week or illusory ready-made “solutions.” We need now to decide about what we want to become.
The pandemic has shown many weaknesses and vulnerabilities at Bethlehem University, leading to severe fragmentation and unraveling. We stand to see a decrease in numbers in teachers and students who may not return to classrooms once the academic year 2021-22 starts.
The pandemic has forced a massive shift away from learning and teaching in traditional settings with physical interactions and replaced it with technology, mainly digital technology that enables communication, collaboration, and learning across distance.
Educators cannot deny that the digital shift is a complicated tool, and it does not solve all our institutional problems. Still, we cannot deny that it remains a source of innovation and expanded potentials. It truly brought many existing internationalization best patterns and trends to the surface.
There is a significant concern that we already started receiving signs about the current situation to develop into lasting (fixed) reform. We also need to recognize that many parents have concerns and doubts about online teaching performance and measurements as value-added, bridge opportunities with reliable job creation that can contribute to (match) job needs, demands, and foreseen expectations. Therefore, we must work forward to assure and ensure that digitalization does not undermine the role of teaching and education.
To defend this claim under the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic and to facilitate the levels of trust necessary for global collaboration in mobilizing resources to support online education, there must be a response from all Bethlehem University educators and stakeholders to confirm that education caters and empower the capabilities of learners at Higher Education.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed education at Bethlehem University? How can we collaborate to assist in building a sustainable post-pandemic society?
It is a new way of learning. By collaborating with multisector stakeholders working towards sustainable Higher Education Partnerships and making the best use of EU and U.S. offered programs. Each Faculty at Bethlehem University must consider initiating long-standing analysis activities involving parents, students, partner universities, employers, and startup agencies to collect information on open critical infrastructural dialogue.
The main idea is the promotion of regional and cross-cutting cooperation and the creation of new partnerships. Each Faculty needs to develop joint projects to support developing its definition of critical competencies and learning programs and training that cater to a generation of students, scientists, professionals, and entrepreneurs.
By sharing and comparing digital transformation experiences in one think learning and teaching tank, we can explore further challenges and opportunities to identify supportive mechanisms, processes, and partnerships that can enhance digital education through COVID in the Palestinian National Authority beyond.
Hence, we can consider applying basic steps at Bethlehem University to consider navigating through the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. The primary key is upgrading Faculty academic staff competencies by engaging them in the creation of internationalization’s scheme in three steps:
- Developing each faculty ID internationalization scheme.
- Increasing partnerships.
- Securing sustainable growth.
The first step is to engage academic staff with an internationalization strategy. Engagement here is defined as discussions or actions involving academic staff with internationalization strategy, which does not necessarily have to be related to internationalization programs and activities directly carrying this specific title. Therefore, to blend academic staff to engaging with internationalization best method is to apply grassroots strategy, a tactic that builds power from academic staff baseline and beyond.
Before conducting the first internationalization strategic session, the academic staff (participants) needs to be exposed to the findings of an exploratory study on academic staff engagement with internationalization and to have further and more profound insight and understanding into the experiences of several different universities that are successfully engaged with best-applied internationalization methods and best practices.
Each Faculty needs to consider creating a database of experts and trainers/facilitators with a pool of best practices on engaging academic staff in internationalization, with further insights into the internationalization-related skills and training topics most important for academic staff to focus on.
Each Faculty needs to consider:
- Reduction in time/workloads
- Mechanisms to recognize participation
- Develop more and better communication
Academic staff needs to consider:
- Connect with incentives
- Engage with training opportunities
- Dedicate to human resources developed plan
Each Faculty can create its approach based on a clear understanding of the University’s culture, familiarity with the academic staff dynamics, and the timeframe to achieve specific results from a theoretical approach, and the following steps can deliver speedy results:
Stage One ——————————————–
- develop clear incentives for participants to secure engagement and involvement in the process;
- define a clear understanding to commonly used terminologies to set a common ground of understanding;
- prioritize internationalization scheme from institutional perception and academic staff perspective;
Stage Two ——————————————–
- establish a common ground of understanding between each Faculty and academic staff;
- enable transparent atmosphere to engage academic staff with the foreseen drafted strategy;
- integrate the future needs, demands, and scope of the labor force scheme into the planning;
Stage Three ———————————————
- respect each Faculty culture and main core issues before accrediting the final draft;
- attend and conduct tailor-made training and developmental courses;
- refresh the strategic activities from time to time to match with the most up-to-date demands;
- keep active communication and information on dissemination.
In Fall 2019, Bethlehem University initiated strengthening the External Academic Relations Office staff capacities in organizing virtual mobility projects and programs, creating a network to facilitate the participation of academic staff in virtual exchange programs that improve the cooperation between universities and society. As a result, academic staff started to become key actors in the University’s internationalization, and the University encourages, whenever possible, to strengthen academic staff representation and involvement in a global dialogue. This proactive approach is also a way to bring closer to internationalize and better prepare academic staff to become globally empowered citizens.
Academic staff from Bethlehem University had the chance to share their perspectives from opposite sides, reflecting together on the meaning of “internationalization,” bringing up their respective needs, and this is part of strengthening institutional collaborations, widening networks, sharing and spreading information between Bethlehem University and other universities, making opportunities well known, and start to systematizing procedures.
Virtual exchange is an efficient and effective tool to keep both inbound and outbound academic staff engaged in a globally focused education until we return to some sense of normalcy. There are many opportunities to integrate it now and down the road. Therefore, we must keep up with:
- virtual mobility of academic staff through the development of joint curricula, courses, and seminars;
- facilitate and encourage dialogue and mutual exchange of information;
- create new collaborations and partnerships;
- develop joint projects alongside organizing international events (workshops, seminars, conferences, performances);
- encourage better circulation of knowledge and exchange of experiences among researchers and scholars connected to the labor market foreseen needs and developed demands.
Each Faculty at the university needs to build its capacity and prepare academic staff to implement meaningful virtual exchange experiences for academic staff. Successful, proven models of virtual exchange programs can be integrated into the institution by linking classrooms in different countries and cultural settings. These inaugural programs are highly recommended as they encourage faculty members to adopt and implement virtual exchange models. Through this effort, the faculty members pair together to design a virtual exchange for students at Home University intentionally.
As we can see, history is being written with great speed, and we are faced with choices and decisions that will define our University’s future. We do not yet know what the full impact of the pandemic will be on us. However, we know that the emerging economic crises lead to the loss of jobs and livelihoods. This will have drastic consequences on the ability of youth to advance with their education.
The pandemic has the power to undermine education for years to come, particularly in the most vulnerable communities, regions, and countries, including Palestine. However, we still have the power to stop what could be the most severe disruption of Higher Educational opportunity in a century, where essential gains in educational expansion and efforts to achieve educational equity could be erased. Therefore, each situation must coordinate efforts to ensure continuity of learning and protect domestic and international financing. The quest for maintaining a priority for financing and greater international cooperation is to help to ensure the continuation of education in what is likely to be very challenging times, as it comes coupled with a request for greater efficiency and accountability so we can continue to add value to national efforts to advance education for all that is relevant to a changing world.
We have to learn from the feedback coming from teachers, students, parents, and employers, for in them lies the potential for transforming education during and after the present crisis. Their responses to the pandemic will differ from one perception to another and from one context to another.
The educational response to the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the capacity of educators to draw on their professional knowledge and collaboratively mobilize with resourcefulness and creativity that could not have been achieved by simply issuing top-down orders. In fact, over the last several months, the education sector, which is often unfairly critiqued for its conservatism, has shown itself to be among the most robust and adaptable of all social institutions.
Parents nowadays observe their children’s learning at home with a more precise awareness of teachers’ work complexity. This is an essential lesson from this crisis and should grant teachers greater autonomy and freedom. Therefore, many parents have begun to acknowledge the importance of a set of educators who have not always been properly appreciated. Teachers have gone beyond the call of duty. They have responded to learners’ needs with compassion and extra efforts that reinforce the value that parents and communities attach to their actions.
All of this underscores the importance of an overarching educational framework of trust and cooperation. Therefore, we need to be more recognized and more highly valued. Teachers are essential participants in defining the future of education. Today it is clear that nothing can substitute for collaboration between teachers, whose function is not to apply ready-made technologies or pre-prepared didactics but to assume their role as knowledge enablers and pedagogic guides fully.
In conclusion, community-engaged and community-led learning is a crucial component of education and must be central to any internationalization strategy that addresses present and future challenges.
The use of digital technologies for learning has generated interest for many years, and in the context of the COVID-19 crisis interest in mobile learning, technologies have grown exponentially. The forced scramble for materials and platforms that we have seen during the pandemic poses a significant risk to the teaching profession and its autonomy. It could have severe consequences for the future of education. Therefore, our efforts should focus on educators to develop ownership of our material with open educational resources to avoid being dependent on digital platforms provided by private companies.
Shared by: Shared by: Mahdi Kleibo background is in private sector development, institutional strengthening and capacity building with over twelve years of professional experience that ranges from advanced management to capacity development with Palestinian Micro Small to Medium Enterprises. I started working at Bethlehem University in the year 2012 as a full-time academic business lecturer with the Institute of Hotel Management and Tourism, following year my role enhanced to represent the External Academic Relations as an official coordinator operating under the auspices of the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, later on I became the official European Commission - Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility and Virtual Exchange Mobility Program Coordinator and Facilitator. My role is specifically designed to engage my Home University with other institutions’ internationalization strategies and activities, channel the experiences of several different European universities that are committed to advancing quality training in internationalization for academics, staff, and students with interests in internationalization agendas and activities, within higher education institutions. On the side, I work with several local and international partners from the private, public, and governmental sectors on freelance training and consultancy basis. Personal strengths include but not limited to applying synergy, globalization, internationalization, modernization, individualization, entrepreneurship, institutionalization, and drafting strategic plans.