More than 50 experts from eight countries were approached and consulted in national focus groups regarding the educational modules adressed to professionals in digital media and arts, developed by The iProfessional (iPRO) Erasmus Multicultural Project.

The network of experts resulted from the collaboration and information exchanges between members of iPRO Project in Bulgaria, Belgium, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Romania is still expanding and aims to reduce the gaps between the digital media and arts education and the professional world.

Previously, the iPRO Consortium conducted an extensive surveys on each of these countries (iPro Survey - Results & Conclusions)   in order to identify the gaps between the world of the interactive media and arts design business and the higher and further education institutions for Media and Arts Design Studies in the countries above, as well as solutions for a closer collaboration. Also, a Competence Framework (Media Professionals' Competence Framework) and a Curriculum Prototype (Curriculum Prototype) were developed by the iPRO Consortium members. Starting from the list of courses in the Curriculum Prototype, the iPRO partners have each developed one to two educational modules, that are to be tested by students and trainees in the months to come.

The project partners in Bulgaria developed two educational modules: “Web technologies for animation designed in 2D and 3D” and “Entrepreneurial roles”. According to the 13 participants of the focus group in Bulgaria (researchers, project managers and coordinators, a corporate manager and digital media developers) the is a strength in the way the educational modules, that are to be developed as part of the Curriculum Prototype drafted by the iPRO Consortium. This strenght comes from the fact that the modules can be thaught to people with high-school diploma, as well as to those with university degrees, both in full time education as well as long-distance, Also, the experts said that the first part of the Curriculum Prototype offers very important and interdisciplinary courses, and they estimated that the duration for teaching the contents of the overall Curriculum is for six months, but it might depend of the auditorium. Moreover, the hours of education dedicated to the module “Web technologies for animation designed in 2D and 3D” can be increased, according to the Bulgarian experts involved in the focus group.

The participants of the focus group in Belgium largely confirmed the results of the survey conducted in their country and discussed the possibility to readapt it for specific professional sectors (such as the gaming industry) or for a long term, periodic research, in collaboration with the professional associations. According to them, the very high diversification of courses in the Curriculum Prototype might require a more modular solutions, less curricular, because nowadays the curriculum seems already insufficiently open, more flexible and creative solutions for curriculum building are required. The Belgian iPRO partner said that the conclusions of the focus group were considered, by the participant experts, useful in future discussions for redesigning the educational programs in the media and arts domain.

The iPRO team in Croatia developed several educational modules on mobile digital (audio, photo and video) production. The participants of the focus group in Croatia highlighted that the Curriculum Prototype offers a broad enough range that can be adapted to each target group. The mobile apps used in piloting (in English language) will be placed on independent platforms, open source and free. According to the Croatian experts, “Synergies with mobile journalism studies should be exploited” and student mobility should be promoted and facilitated.

In Ireland, 7 participants (including the two moderators) with areas of expertise ranging from marketing, to entrepreneurship (education), communication and E-learning, new media technologies and statistics and economics discussed the pros and cons of studying and learning with a Smartphone. The Irish experts said that Facebook is used as a study communication tool amongst students only and productivity is still swayed towards the laptop/ PC device. Other conclusions of the Irish experts were that: smartphones are viewed as an educational scaffolding tool, students are to date reluctant to engage with lecturers outside of class time on Smartphones however more class projects are been given to increase mobile engagement and YouTube is the preferred choice for students. “Mobile learning is fully supported by academics if used for the right purpose”, according to the Irish team.

The iPRO partners in Italy developed two educational modules: “Project Planning for Quality and Risk Management” and “Project Team for Quality and Risk Management”. These modules have been positively received by the participants who attended the focus group (experts in: E-commerce, vocational training, researchers, educational planning, human resources management, project management, etc.).

In Lithuania, the experts that gave feedback in the focus group consider thatthe study programme is valuable in the context of life long learning goals. Some modules can be integrated in the currently on going programmes’ curriculum. It also can be the part of the bachelor degree programme as an elective module. However, in the expert’s view, there is a lack of creative and innovative modules in the programme, as well as a lack of some modules of smart media or digital arts. More study forms for the programme could be discussed  (e.g. longer duration together with less hours/day to give more possibilities for quality improvement not leaving job). The group recommended to employ knowledge of students, if group would allow (experience based learning), to develop a possibility to integrate the curriculum into different study programmes. 

Poland developed one educational module for e-learning platforms, on digital courses and development for creative practice. According to the focus group participants, different trainings and courses allow tutors to develop unique learning programs depending on the needs of the individual student. In addition, it is easier to expand the practical knowledge of students in smaller groups with a common interest in a particular area, especially via e-learning tools.

The experts in Romania developed an educational module on automated data collection. According to the partners in Romania, the expected learning results are: automated extraction of  data (text, numerical, geo-location, images,/other media files) from Web pages or documents, designing / defining/setting up a web scraper or crawler, data cleanup and data preparation and management. According to the focus group participants, one possible risk of the proposed Curriculum Prototype could be the attempt to specialize a student in too many areas, which might lead to a superficial training in everything. “We don’t want a jack of all trades, master of none”, said one of the focus group participants in Romania. The participants analysed the survey results and appreciated the variety of the researched dimensions. They also noticed the variance in some answers pertaining to the same issue, resulting from the lack of homogeneity amongst respondents. According to the Romanian iPRO partners, the return to quality in education means specialization and the access to technology must be matched by specialization/ professionalization, and hands on training.