Successful completion of "Pilot Classes" impacting students and entrepreneurs

“We were able to ensure that disciplines without a tradition of working with the environment, i.e., that do not have direct contact with entrepreneurs and companies, will incorporate this methodology of working with real cases for the first time,” said Meritxell Calbet, coordinator of the Pilot Classes Project at Universidad de Viña del Mar. The pilot classes were attended by more than 600 students and 49 external organizations.

After continuous work over the course of 2019 and 2020, the InnovaT Project successfully completed the “pilot classes” in Latin American universities affiliated to the consortium. These classes were implemented by selected professors to apply the curriculum and innovative teaching methods previously learned, “it was a continuum of several years, where they used the knowledge of both the MOOC Massive Online Open Courses and the webinar cycle and condensed it in the pilot classes. The professors took a semester to create these classes considering design, execution, and evaluation,” said Caroline Cortes, coordinator of the Pilot Classes Project at Universidad de Viña del Mar. 

The classes were directed to real cases of selected entrepreneurs, who were migrants, women, or from a rural area belonging to the territory of each institution, “the classes were driven toward resolving real problems, incorporating in the methodology, an interaction with external groups, entrepreneurs, or companies”, said Meritxell Calbet, coordinator of the Pilot Classes Project of the Universidad de Viña del Mar. 

The aim was to improve the quality of teaching-learning practices, identify strengths and weaknesses in the didactic programming and methods chosen, and establish links between the university and the local and regional business sector. “Disciplines that do not have a tradition of working with the environment, i.e., that do not have direct contact with entrepreneurs and companies, were able to incorporate this methodology of working with real cases for the first time,” Calbet points out.

Each university carried out three pilot classes, a total of 18, where the faculty developed virtual materials combined with face-to-face activities, on a wide variety of topics such as food, products, services, and social work, among others. Each pilot class fluctuated with an attendance of between 15 and 90 attendees connected virtually—synchronously and asynchronously. In total, the professors were able to engage with 601 students and 49 external organizations.

Teaching experiences

From Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Tatiana Alvarez Seguel, an academic of the Chemical Civil Engineering Program, tested the knowledge acquired in the “Industrial Safety” pilot class, a subject that involves working in groups with case studies. “One of the groups of the pilot worked directly with the industrial safety problems of a small company. During each unit, the group applied what they had learned, going from identifying the problems and their causes, analyzing the legal requirements to be met, and finally drawing up a safety management program,” said Alvarez. 

The study program was conducted mostly online with the company, considering the pandemic context. However, “what was learned in the project’s webinars and MOOCs were fundamental to carry out the activity,” emphasizes the professor.

Although implementing this new innovative methodology was a challenge and an additional effort for her, it was undoubtedly a worthwhile experience,2 “it is a win-win experience, students win because they are linked to the industry, they learn about its problems and are placed in the role of future engineers; and on the other hand, an industry benefits from a consultancy that normally cannot be accessed”, says Tatiana.

Regarding the reception of the students, the teacher points out that there was greater motivation among those who worked with an external organization, “the learning results were achieved and in comparison with those students who worked with a case and not directly with a company, it was observed that the reports delivered by the pilot group addressed the matters of the subject in greater depth, as there was a commitment to deliver a program to the company,” emphasizes the teacher.

Likewise, at Universidad de Viña del Mar, Professor Mario Catalán of the Social Work Program, developed the pilot class “Group andCommunity,”oriented to service projects developed by teams of students to collaborate with community organizations, who states that the training received “showed me different strategies, both virtual and face-to-face, in relation to the Project Based Learning methodology, not only from a pedagogical perspective, but also from the practical aspect, to develop together with the students in the design, execution, and evaluation of the service projects developed by them,” says the teacher. 

In this line, the application of new methodologies and the use of applications in the pilot class, allowed him to adapt some methodological strategies to the virtual, “for example, the mapping of locations, which is usually done in person, in pandemic we used the Google Street View tool to virtually tour the territories where the students developed their projects during the quarantine period,” emphasizes Catalán.

Additionally, analyzing the students who participated in the class, they positively received the development of innovative methodologies, strengthening their learning, both for the analysis of the current situation of the organization with which they worked and for the design, implementation, and evaluation of the service project developed. “The innovative methodologies were so well received that they were incorporated into subsequent versions of the subject,” concluded the professor.