Developing new master level education is a complex task. Not only is the competence within the discipline crucial; teaching and as a consequence, learning, must also be research-focused and must aim to encourage the students to develop into independent scholars.
In this collaborative, multi-facetted project Al Baha University, Saudi Arabia, (ABU) and Uppsala University, Sweden, (UU) work jointly to develop ABU into a leading actor in master level education with a corresponding research profile. The schools/departments take their own decisions on design and priorities of the activities. In this way the project profits from the local competencies at both sites and becomes locally situated and thus closer to the needs and expectations of the ABU staff.
The partners entered into collaboration 2011. Among initial achievements was the common identification of the need of a bridging year for tentative master’s students, to complement the skills from the undergraduate (UG) level, and reinforce the command of English, which is a necessary tool in international education. In addition, computer science and mathematics were selected as the initial development areas.
Within mathematics, the Department of Mathematics at UU was engaged in a discussion aiming primarily to develop the UG curriculum to match the needs of a future master programme, and secondly to develop the curriculum of a ABU master programme in mathematics to match UU standards, with the possibility in mind of student exchange targeting specific courses and thesis studies.
Meanwhile, in the autumn 2013 a female staff member of ABU was admitted as PhD student in mathematics at UU, and has now started her second semester of full time studies.
Within computer science (CS), the project tackles the significant challenges to encourage students, teachers and the formal university structures to embrace the ideas of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). The aim is to promote staff and students to broaden their perspective on what research and investigation means and to critically examine teaching and learning. As a consequence, the ways to relate to the students, the subject area, the teaching and the colleagues must be scrutinised, with the intent of finding new teaching and learning forms.
The project implements these ideas in several ways. Currently a staff development course is given as a starting point for the project within CS. With a focus on the changes needed to implement the ideas of SoTL, the course participants make their own pedagogical development projects, and study their own practice and its outcomes using rigorous research-based methods. As a continuation, during the coming years, the two universities will run a set of workshops, mainly with a methodological focus, followed by a series of three conferences, with the first one serving the local area, and the last being an internationally recognised Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) sponsored conference.
International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia