In November 2021, the members of the pilot universities of the Transforming Higher Education Project (Quisqueya University, ITESCAM, IT-Conkal, and ITS-Hopelchén) participated in a four-day workshop, with the purpose of sharing their experiences, including successes, challenges, and problems and how they overcame them, promoting cross learning between all institutions.
The session was incredibly enriching, where each facilitator presented their main findings, encouraging conversation and discussion, under the premise that “what I know can be useful for others”.
Among some of the consensuses that were reached as a group among all the participating universities were:
- Ancestral knowledge: The involvement of the community and the families of the students in the experiential education model has allowed many of the institutions to recover knowledge related to the first generations of farmers in the area, allowing an interesting exchange between the new techniques based on science and all those practices derived from the empiricism of the first inhabitants of the site.
- Experiential learning: This educational model allows students to apply the theory they learn in class to real situations and problems, and to learn from experiences. The flexibility of this educational model allows you to learn from trial and error. This is the richness of experiential learning.
- Interdisciplinary work: The synergy obtained from the involvement of different sectors has contributed not only to the improvement of the communication skills between students and professors, but, within the same universities, other careers have integrated their knowledge so that projects complete full circle. Furthermore, externally, universities have – in many cases even started – communication with the private sector, opening the doors to investment, job creation; and with the public sector, also generating jobs and recognition of proposals at the government level.
- Competitiveness and reactivation of some productive areas: Working directly with the communities caused the parties to become aware of unexplored or under-exploited economic areas capable of generating income.
- Change of mentality to teachers: They are shown that their teaching time is optimized, making the most of the resources invested.
- Professionalization of degrees: Currently, universities are exploring not only the careers they offer, but also technical degrees. In the new graduates, the elements of success are included, generating skilled professionals.
- Collaborative learning and potential catalysts: The model has pushed students to fully exploit their potential, encouraging them to try areas outside of their comfort zone or some that they did not even know they had aptitude for.
- Teachers take a role not only of covering the syllabus, but of promoting soft skills, creating leaders, promoting values and ethics and together they form a student capable of facing the challenges of today’s society. As facilitators of learning, the teachers learn as much from the students and communities as compared to what students learn from them.