1. While virtual Learning events such as web exchanges and digital technologies do incur some staff costs, they are more sustainable in the long term and less likely to be impacted by political changes.
2. Web-exchanges and digital technologies offer more flexibility for the future to suit different curricula, years of study and offer opportunities for a range of partners.
3. Sustainability must prioritise the needs of community partners
4. Creating shared learning materials e.g. videos, case-studies and/or worksheets, help in making events sustainable year-on-year and ensure that all partners are equally prepared.
This handbook was developed to ensure that institutions introducing similar initiatives in the future can benefit from the experiences gained in this project. This will make the process of introducing similar programmes more streamlined and will ensure that the chances of successful implementation and therefore sustainability is enhanced. This section will consider each of the key learning activities and discuss its sustainability for the students, staff and community organisations involved in the project. It will then consider other aspects where the collaboration created the right environment and conditions for further sustainable work.
It is argued that the virtual events that supported the internationalisation of the classroom are most sustainable of all the learning activities. The virtual events will be sustainable now that the model and educational activity has been developed and evaluated. There is flexibility built into this activity in order to allow it to adapt to different and changing curricula with existing and new partners. This handbook highlights how technologies can be used effectively to enhance the education of students where they may learn alongside and from one another. This work may be easily replicated by other institutions or clinical practice partners and does not rely on ongoing external funding which may be impacted by the potential loss of the UK from the European Union.
The development of new university partners offered greater diversity in the knowledge exchange. Opportunities for internationalisation were offered to greater numbers of students and staff through MIROTS in a meaningful context. We proposed that the activity would, like the physical exchange, develop confidence in the student group to engage competently with intercultural issues as newly qualified practitioners both within their own countries and abroad. The project enhanced their skills in initiating conversations, challenging assumptions and seeking new ways to solve local, national and international challenges in health and social care.
The knowledge of digital platforms for students and staff was enhanced and collaborative working between the staff in different Universities benefited from the use of these technologies throughout the project. Students developed new skills and their understanding of how to stay globally connected was enhanced. Through this project they could understand how local solutions could be used to assist in solving global social and health challenges and how global solutions can assist in new ways of working locally. This exchange of ideas ensures that best practices and innovative concepts are shared.
Whilst local community projects did not benefit directly from the technologies that were identified, they had access to students undertaking their local projects. Some of the projects enabled students to work with community organisations on longer term projects e.g. University of Southampton whilst others were exposed to the core philosophy of occupational therapy and the role that they could play to enhance the lives of their service users. In some instances, virtual event partners developed into physical exchange partners or worked with the Universities on further projects (QUEST hosted 4th year student research projects in the 18-19 academic year and have indicated willingness to continue to do this) or clinical placements. Such developing relationships helped to sustain the relationships and lead to better outcomes and benefits to the community partner.
Knowledge has been created and documented in this handbook regarding the process which incorporates effective learning activities, student experience and satisfaction with the learning approach. We suggest that this project has envisaged and delivered a new model of educational delivery which addresses new ways of delivering international agendas.
Evaluations of the events highlight that the physical exchange supported the academic and professional development of students. Students reported feeling more confident in their professional roles and could better see what contributions their profession could make to marginalised groups. We suggest that these outcomes will offer a sound infrastructure for them as newly qualified practitioners to engage competently with intercultural issues both within their own countries and abroad should they choose to take these opportunities by initiating conversations, challenging assumptions and seeking innovative solutions.
The staff exchange during the week helped to facilitate new knowledge. Staff had opportunities to learn about new ways of working and develop and enhance their current and future curricula e.g. materials developed for preparatory work on occupational justice can be used within the curricula of the participating universities and other universities for the benefit of more cohorts of students. Staff report that there is an increased awareness of occupational injustice in all programmes.
It is anticipated that the knowledge exchange during this aspect of the project will facilitate the development of new post-graduate learning opportunities offering further opportunities for existing and new students to participate in student mobility exchanges and / or distance learning activities/modules to further develop intercultural competencies and profession specific knowledge to contribute to national and international solutions.
In Lund students developed ideas about what added value OTs could bring to the 10 different organisations. The organisations where invited to take part of the results through oral presentations and written abstracts. The exchange in Lund lead to collaboration with some of the community organisations concerning placements in later phases of the OT program. It also lead to greater awareness of the occupational needs of vulnerable groups that in some cases was developed into research questions studied in the bachelor thesis. Collaboration with several of the organisations that participated in the Lund exchange 2016 has continued throughout the MIROTS project and ongoing. Some of the organisations are involved in research projects together with faculty.
In Southampton students developed 10 detailed proposals for student placements with a range of community organisations where student occupational therapists worked with the organisations to bring about measurable changes to individual’s lives. These, in turn, led to four final year placements with these organisations. Students were then able to demonstrate their unique perspective and make a measurable difference to how these individuals engaged in everyday life. This work supported future financial bids to develop the role of occupational therapy in primary care and additional placement opportunities are available as time and support allows. In addition, the project facilitated the community projects in working alongside the university and generated other student led projects to enhance the lives of the people they serve.
The exchange in Galway led to a commitment to ongoing relationships with community organisations that were introduced to occupational therapy students for the first time during the physical exchange. For example, partnering with the Western Traveller Development and Intercultural Centre led to a greater awareness of the need to understand Irish Traveller culture among health-care students. In future the academic programme will include a cultural awareness session for occupational therapy students delivered by staff and health-workers from the Travelling Community. This will help students be more culturally sensitive in their work with this socially excluded population. The MIROTS programme also strengthened existing relationships with community partners; the existing relationship with Quest Brain Injury service was enhanced and ongoing research projects are planned with this organization. QUEST have also offered to facilitate student placements for 3rd and 4th year students for the next academic year. Current 4th year students carried out research projects with their partner organisations building on the partnerships which were developed in the 2018-9 academic year. These included the National Council for the Blind in Ireland, Age Action and QUEST services for people with Acquired Brain Injury. A number of further projects are planned for the 2019-20 academic year.
For internationalised, service-learning projects to be sustainable in the longer term, it is advisable that they be integrated into the curricula of participating universities. While the MIROTS project brought significant benefits to all partner universities, its status as a stand-alone, mostly ungraded, project was challenging for students. However, the project highlighted exciting opportunities for this kind of technological partnership into the future. Possible future collaborations could include students working (via the medium of web-exchange) on common aspects of occupational therapy curricula e.g. occupational therapy theoretical models. The use of technology and digital presentations could allow students to deliver joint presentations that could be marked/graded and contribute towards their qualifications. This kind of project would work well for modules where students are required to understand healthcare policies, legislation or social/cultural issues. Internationalisation will be an important aspect of healthcare in future as Europeans face common challenges such as climate change and political discord. Students need to understand the broader healthcare landscape and some of the learning activities described here could be embedded into curricula to help students work together effectively and efficiently to come up with solutions.
It is recognised that healthcare students fail to engage in number in traditional Erasmus Mobility arrangements. In addition to this the uptake of such opportunities from students in the UK is low compared to other European countries. This project enhanced the profile of other universities and supported students to consider clinical practice experiences in other non-English speaking countries. This has allowed the participating Universities to identify opportunities within their respective countries and market these more effectively to their student cohorts. Students from both Sweden and the UK have been able to attend University based curricula activity, undertaking modules and assessments whilst also undertaking practice placement experiences. This has offered those participating a more embedded internationalisation opportunity.
The staff exchange knowledge created during the physical exchange and virtual events offered staff opportunities to view new ways of developing the curricula to support intercultural competencies and developing professional solutions to global health issues. It also provided opportunities for staff to engage across all the participating institutions to strengthen educational pedagogies and the research associated with them whilst offering opportunities to collaborate on research activity to further occupationally focused solutions.
Section 4 highlights the work undertaken to date on a professional identity tool. This has a produced a meaningful tool (appendix 6) to measure the impact of international activity on the development of professional identity. The basic psychometric properties of the tool have been established and while further testing in relation to reliability is necessary the tool is available for this to be undertaken.