To strengthen the capacities of landscape architecture schools in the Eastern Baltic regions in teaching and learning by fostering exchanges of knowledge and experience and by developing improved curricula, teaching methods, some shared courses and teaching and learning resources.judi
The project involves the development of networked activities among most of the schools of landscape architecture located in the Eastern Baltic region in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, with Sweden as a supporting partner and Russia as a non-funded associated partner. The aim is to strengthen the teaching capacities and qualities of each school by cooperating in developmental activities designed to improve the quality and effectiveness of three focus areas: curricula structure and content, teaching methods and teaching and learning support in bachelor and master programmes.
The project is seen as a three-year programme with the activities applied for here taking place in all three years with non-funded work continuing in between. The network will be coordinated by the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU) and each of the themes will be led by one of the partners supported by several of the others so that the workload is spread across the network. Meetings will be held at different partner universities in order to discuss each theme in turn and to produce documents and other materials which will form the basis for future development and cooperation among the network partners, using mechanisms such as Erasmus teaching exchanges, teaching quality assessments and the development of shared resources.
Landscape architecture is developing as a discipline but still institutionally and professionally weak in the Eastern Baltic region as a result of historical factors. Each country (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Finland) has 1-3 schools (departments) in traditional universities or universities of applied science.
Student demand is strong but many programmes need modernisation or updating and newer pedagoic techniques are also needed in order to raise the standards towards the norms found in equivalent departments across Europe. Some pedagogic approaches are distinctly old-fashioned and need to be modernised to take advantage of the possibilities offered by new technology, for example, so that e-learning could play a bigger role and help to facilitate teaching cooperation between departments in different countries. The staff numbers in most departments are quite low, often have many younger and less experienced staff and their international experience varies, with international staff members present in some institutions and not in others. The professional structures in each country also vary, mainly being rather small in numbers of professional practitioners and currently limited in scope of activity, although things are likely to change. Opportunities for practical experience by students during their studies may also be limited as a result. International student mobility is gradually increasing but hampered by language barriers and sometimes by reputation. Students going abroad to study tend to outnumber students coming in, which means that a sense of isolation from the wider academic world is maintained to a greater or lesser extent. In addition, regional characteristics, ranging from climate and ecology to political history and economics, give a certain distinctiveness compared with the rest of Europe, so that it makes sense to work together as a regional grouping in order to help solve common problems. An initial meeting of the network partners in 2010 was used to share knowledge of the programmes of each institution and identified the need for such a network to focus on the issues raised above.
The project is planned to last for three years starting in autumn 2012. It will consist of several meetings, each hosted by a different university and lasting for 2 days. The network will be formally established before the first meeting, the mechanisms for working will be set up and the network website will be developed. Materials needed for analysis in meeting 1 will also be produced in advance. In between meetings activities will continue among all partners and between sub teams responsible for different themes (see below)
The network consists of most of the departments of landscape architecture or departments offering courses in landscape architecture if not full degree programmes existing in the Eastern Baltic region plus The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Uppsala as and St Petersburg State Forestry Technical Academy (as a non-funded partner). The lead partner is the Estonian University of Natural Sciences (EMÜ) based in Tartu, Estonia.
EMÜ manages the network, the website and organised the first meeting in Autumn 2012 as well as providing inputs into the network activities. It will also coordinate the first report production together with the Latvian Agricultural University, Vilnius Gediminas University and Hame University of Applied Sciences (representing different countries and different types of institutions).
Aalto University in Finland will host the second meeting in Spring 2013 where the work started in Autumn 2012 will be continued. Further meetings wil depend on the availbility of funds.
The main direct beneficiaries of the project will be the staff of each partner department who, while not necessarily participating in meetings and activities, will be able to make use of the materials developed through the project. The second group of beneficiaries is the students who will study under improved curriculum conditions, participate in courses taught more effectively and also take part in new forms of learning such as shared courses and projects, e-learning etc. The third group of beneficiaries will be professional landscape architects who will (eventually) see higher quality and more equipped graduates available for employment. The final group, indirectly, will be the population at large who will (in the fullness of time) be able to enjoy better environments and benefit from applied research projects.
Since only limited numbers of staff (2 per university) will actively participate in meetings it is necessary to ensure that the other staff members also benefit from the activities. Therefore seminars and training sessions using the materials created by the project will be held in each institution in each country so as to spread the improvements wherever they are needed.
The project website will ensure that students and professionals can find out about the network activities and input some comments and provide feedback to the partners. The reports will be primarily in English but will need at least summaries to be translated into the various languages so as to ensure the widest access to them by other interested people.
Many of the findings will be of interest to other university departments so seminars to explain what the network achieved will be held in each university.
The wider landscape architecture academic community will also be able to benefit from the work through the Le:Notre network (www.le-notre.org) which all partners are already members of.
There are four ways of evaluating the success of the project after the first activities of the network: 1. The quality and suitability of the curricula at each university will have improved through the implementation of the findings and recommendations made in the report of the first activity. This will vary across the university departments according to the evaluation and needs of the specific programmes.
Students should find that the programmes are more relevant and the professions should be more satisfied with the content.
2. The quality of the teaching methods will have increased as a result of the implementation of the improved methods and approaches developed as a result of the second activity. These will be implemented differently depending on the teacher and courses but overall the students should find that the teaching is more interesting and effective.
3. The materials available to support learning will have improved and also be modernised and relevant to the region. An extensive and growing database of materials available to staff and students will also improve the quality of education.
4. Students on mobility between different departments should find that the quality of education offered in the partner schools is of equivalent to that found in the more developed countries and they should find it easier to fit in and to study wherever they are.