Blagoevgrad 2011

STUDENT FEEDBACK ON INTENSIVE ERASMUS-DAAD PROGRAM CULTURE AS RESOURCE FOR FUTURE EUROPE

Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, 23.05.-03.06.2011 

1. Student details

This year there were 39 students who took part in the second round of the IP Culture as Resource for Future Europe in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria: 15 M.A. from the Ludwigsburg Institute for Cultural Management (Germany), 15 B.A. from HUMAK University for Applied Sciences (Finland) and 9 (8 bachelor and 1 M.A.) students from South-West University in Blagoevgrad. However, there have been 34 questionnaires submitted: 13 from HUMAK students, 13 from Ludwigsburg ICM students, and 8 from SWU students. Finally, the data has been proceeded on the basis of totally 33 questionnaires, as one
of the Bulgarian questionnaires turned out to be invalid (less than 15 % of
questions responded.)

The average age of the respondents slightly differs for the three groups – German
group average age is 24.8 years, Finnish group average age is 23.5 years, the
average age of the Bulgarian group is 23 years, students coming from bachelor and master programs.

The gender in all groups was with almost triple prevalence of girls: the
questionnaire was filled in by totally 25 female against 8 male respondents.

The responds to each item have been calculated on different basis every line
separately, because of the high frequency of non-answers, which have been
excluded from the calculations.

2. Motivation and factors to participate

1

2

3

4

5

Satisfaction
with IP duration

27%

9

48.5% 16

24.24%

8

IP dates
meeting study plans

9.3%

3

28.1%

9

18.7%

6

34.37%

11

9.3%

3

Academic
factors

3.12%

1

15.6%

5

25%

8

40.6%

13

15.6%

5

Cultural

2.9%

1

2.9%

1

41.2%

14

47%

16

Practice
of foreign language

9.09%

3

9.09%

3

18.18%

6

42.42%

14

21.21%

7

Friend
living abroad

42.42%

14

21.21%

7

18.18%

6

15.15%

5

Career
plans

12.9%

4

29%

9

12.9%

4

35.5%

11

9.7%

3

European
experience

6.45%

2

3.22%

1

16.12%

5

38.7%

12

35.5%

11

Other: meet new people, meet students from different European universities

Generally, students have been motivated most strongly by the cultural factor (to get know different cultures and also to gain European experience), strong influence also has the desire to practice and improve their English language, and to develop further
their professional knowledge and expertise (the academic factor). For the three
groups of students least significant was the consideration about friends livimg
abroad.

 3. Information about the IP

100% of the respondents heard about the IP from their home institutions. 30% of the
German students and 40% of the Finnish and Bulgarian students received information also from other students; and 23% – from former participants of the IP. Only one person (Fn) reported to have informed herself/himself from Internet.

 4. Institutional Support

1

2

3

4

5

Support
of home institution before IP

6.06%

2

21.21%

7

45.45%

15

15.15%

5

12.12%

4

Support
of host institution before IP

36.66%

11

33.33%

10

16.66%

5

3.33%

1

9.99%

3

Support
of home institution during IP

18.75%

6

21.8%

7

40.6%

13

18.75%

6

Support
of host institution during IP

26.66%

8

30%

9

23.33%

7

20%

6

Comments: We didn’t hear anything about the host institution before the IP – 2 (Fn)

We didn’t get enough information. It would have been important to have one teacher during the whole program. (Fn)

Unclear status of food and accommodation (Bg)

5. Accommodation and infrastructure

1

2

3

4

5

Satisfaction
with accommodation

37.5%

9

41.66%

10

20.83%

5

The accommodation for the foreign students, i.e. those coming from Finland
and Germany in Bulgaria, as well as for the lecturers and experts, was organized in the University center Bachinovo, where students were accommodated mostly in double rooms, and in two triples.

However, although such are the rules of the program, this caused a lot of debates and dissatisfaction among the Bulgarian students, who felt as if they have been denied access to common resources. Finally with the permission of the Rector of the South-West University Prof. Ivan Mirchev for double reduction of the accommodation prices for the Bulgarian students and with the agreement of Prof. Knubben to finance half of the reduced accommodation price for the Bulgarian participants, they did not use the opportunity to stay at Bachinovo center for 5 Bg levs (2.5 Euros) per bed in a double room.

6. Costs

Students’ accommodation, meals and transport in the country for different purposes (from and to the Sofia airport; for study visits of cultural institutions in Blagoevgrad and Sofia and to Rila Monastery, and to the town of Melnik) have been covered by the program. Most often, students reported that they have contributed from 50 to 100 Euros for the IP, 10% for their plane tickets, and for their weekend trip to Thessaloniki.
One has spent 200 Euros and two from the German students – 250 Euros ‘for
personal needs’.

 7. Workload

  

1

2

3

4

5

Workload
for the IP preparation

10%

3

33.33%

10

26.66%

8

26.66%

8

3.33%

1

Workload
during the IP

3.33%

1

30%

9

46.66%

14

20%

6

Workload
for wrap-up activities

3.57%

1

17.85%

5

42.85

12

25%

7

10.7%

3

Overall workload

3.22%

1

51.61%

16

35.48%

11

9.67%

3

Generally the overall workload of the IP is evaluated in the norm or slightly higher, but in their free answers, many of the respondents, mainly from the Finnish group and some
of the Bulgarian group expressed demand for more free time during the course. The preliminary work has been reported by the German group from 10-15 hours to 50-60 h., one week being the highest reported time, spent for preparation.

The Finnish group spent for the preparation of their presentations approximately from 2-3 hours to over 20-30 h. Finnish students prepared joint presentation while living in different campuses what created some problems.

Bulgarian students reported their preliminary preparation in weeks and months – two months ‘hard work’ as being reported.

Wrap-up activities has been specified only by the German respondents and by one Finnish respondent: “I guess we need to write an essay about our time and studies in here.”

8. Academic Recognition

All students are aware of the possibility to receive from 5 to 10 credits for the participation in the IP, some of them in the form of Diploma Supplement. Two German students reported that they will not receive credits because one of them volunteered,
the other did not know. Finnish respondents were informed about 10 ECTS, and
the two of Bulgarian respondents were not sure that they will receive their
credits, because they came from different programs and had different
curriculum.

 9. Expectations before IP

1

2

3

4

5

a) Defined
clear academic objectives

50%

16

28.13%

9

21.87%

7

b) These
objectives to be accomplished

9.67%

3

41.93%

13

38.70%

12

9.67%

3

c) Innovative
aspects in the studies

13.33%

4

26.66%

8

46.66%

14

13.33%

4

d) Interdisciplinary
elements in the IP

3.44%

1

34.48%

10

27.58%

8

34.48%

10

e) Sufficient
knowledge about IP aims and work tasks

3.33%

1

6.66%

2

36.66%

11

30%

9

23.33%

7

f) Influence
on IP aims and work tasks

13.33%

4

30%

9

33.33%

10

20%

6

3.33%

1

g) Supervision
by home teachers

6.25%

2

29.03%

9

22.58%

7

35.48%

11

6.25%

2

h) Supervision
by teachers from partner institutions

12.90%

4

38.70%

12

22.58%

7

25.80%

8

i) Profit from an intercultural
exchange of experiences concerning the subject

6.25%

2

18.75%

6

25%

8

50%

16

j) Improvement
of language skills

6.25%

2

18.75%

6

18.75%

6

37.5%

12

18.75%

6

k) Improvement
of personal skills

28.125%

9

28.125%

9

25%

8

18.75%

6

l) Social contacts with students
from partner institutions outside classroom

3.22%

1

16.12%

5

29.03%

9

51.61%

16

m) Social
contacts with teachers from partner institutions outside classroom

6.25%

2

43.75%

14

34.375%

11

6.25%

2

9.375%

3

 

n) Other expectations, which students reported: Learning about the host culture; having more discussions.

Obviously, the highest students’ expectations were connected with the opportunities for social contacts with students from other countries and with the benefits of the
intercultural communication experience. Although important, the academic issues
are not of main priority for the IP students.

 10. How far expectations were met?

 

1

2

3

4

5

a) How
clearly the academic objectives were defined?

6.45%

2

12.90%

4

54.83%

17

16.13%

5

9.67%

3

b) The
extend the objectives were accomplished

3.57%

1

10.71%

3

57.14%

16

21.42%

6

7.14%

2

c) How
innovative were the subjects?

7.14%

2

28.56%

8

46.42%

13

14.28%

4

3.57%

1

d) The
extend the interdisciplinary elements were covered

10.34%

3

48.27%

14

34.48%

10

6.89%

2

e)
Evaluate your knowledge about project aims and work tasks

3.22%

1

19.35%

6

19.35%

6

48.38%

15

9.67%

3

f) Did
you influence the project aims and work tasks?

7.14%

2

42.86%

12

14.28%

4

28.56%

8

7.14%

2

g) Evaluate
the supervision of the home teachers

23.33%

7

20%

6

33.33%

10

23.33%

7

h) Evaluate
the supervision of the teachers from partner institutions

6.45%

2

32.25%

10

29.03%

9

25.80%

8

6.45%

2

i) Evaluate
the profit from the intercultural exchange

3.33%

1

43.33

13

36.66%

11

16.66%

5

j) Evaluate
the improvement of the language skills

6.45

2

25.80

8

35.48%

11

29%

9

3.22%

1

k) Evaluate
the improvement of the personal skills

22.58%

7

35.48%

11

32.25

10

9.67

3

l) Evaluate
the social contacts with students from partner institutions outside classroom

6.66%

2

10%

3

36.66%

11

30%

9

16.66%

5

m) Evaluate
the social contacts with students from partner institutions outside classroom

19.35%

6

25.80%

8

12.90%

4

38.70%

12

3.22%

1

n.) Others: Learning about host culture

11. Satisfaction with IP activities and pedagogical aspects

 

1

2

3

4

5

Pre-knowledge
expected by participants

6.45%

2

12.90%

4

29.09%

9

25.80%

8

25.80%

8

Number of
hours taught

6.66%

2

53.33%

16

6.66%

2

20%

6

13.33%

4

Equipment
used

6.45%

2

6.45%

2

12.90%

4

54.83%

17

19.35%

6

Capabilities
and expertise of professors

3.22%

1

12.90%

4

19.35%

6

22.58%

7

41.19%

13

Contributions
of external experts

13.33%

4

20%

6

40%

12

13.33%

4

13.33%

4

Variety
of teaching methods

20%

6

40%

12

20%

6

10%

3

10%

3

The size
of my working group(s)

3.22%

1

16.13%

5

25.80%

8

35.48%

11

19.35%

6

The
overall quality of teaching

3.22%

1

29.09%

9

41.93%

13

16.13%

5

9.67%

3

The
professional support for the students

3.33%

1

13.33%

4

36.66%

11

40%

12

6.66%

2

The
expected learning outcomes

6.45%

2

32.25%

10

41.93%

13

13.90%

4

6.45%

2

The
activities besides the general course

6.45%

2

16.13%

5

48.39%

15

29.03%

9

 

p) Serious problems encountered: Scientific background too different for effective
working together. “Some people didn’t really participate in group works.”

 11. Perspectives

a) Did the
IP open new perspectives concerning future areas of studies?

Yes – 11

No – 20

b) Did the
IP open new perspectives concerning future areas of work?

Yes – 11

No – 19

y/n, may be
– 1

c)
…Participating in the IP will help you in your further studies

Yes – 12

No – 18

y/n, may be
– 1

d)
…Participating in the IP will help you in your further career

Yes – 20

No – 9

y/n, may be
– 2

e)
…Participating in the IP will help you to find a job

Yes – 8

No – 19

y/n, may be
– 2

 

OVERALL EVALUATION OF THE IP

1

2

3

4

5

German
group

8.33%

1

83.33%

10

8.33%

1

Finnish
group

8.33%

1

8.33%

1

50%

6

33.33%

4

Bulgarian
Group

16.66

1

33.33%

2

50%

3

Total

3.33%

1

3.33%

1

26.66%

8

53.33%

16

13.33%

4

No answer: 3

To sum up: the overall evaluation of the IP is positive, with an average score of 3.7, two thirds of the respondents giving very good and excellent scores to the program. Nevertheless there are obvious differences in the perceptions and evaluations of the groups as shown in the table above which could be an indicator of some internal tensions
that need to be avoided in time for the 2012 round of the IP inLudwigsburg.

12. Recommendations

STUDENTS’ COMMENTS AND PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVEMENT OF THE IP CONTENT AND ORGANIZATION

These proposals are elaborated on the basis of the students recommendations, expressed in the DAAD-ERASMUS Student Feedback Form Sheet, in the Questionnaire for the Internal Evaluation and also in a discussion, which was carried out in the last day of the IP 3rd of June 2011 as a respond to students’ desire to reflect upon the positive and negatives aspects of the program.

  1. Students suggested using better their skills and experience as leaders and managers of different IP activities.
  2. The design of the program can be improved by:
  • planning more time for games (for the first day) and more free time in the afternoons;
  • They prefer workshops with more practical tasks such as elaboration of joint rojects instead of ‘searching and copy-pasting’ in Internet;
  • some of the preliminary tasks of some students could be connected with the organization of the IP itself, for ex. preparing tourist excursions as guides, etc.;
  • the presentations of some group tasks to be planned for the next day after the groups have received their tasks (“Sometimes we need more time to think
    over certain problems in order to find the best solution
    ”);
  • Students’ interests should be taken into consideration in the elaboration of the topics of the IP and the preparation of its schedule.
  1. Students expressed a concern about the uneven preparation of the different participating groups and asked if it would be possible for the next IP the teachers to pay more attention to the preliminary preparatory process of their groups in order to guarantee at least minimum starting level of the work and improve the communication between the teams with different educational ground of bachelors and masters.
  2.  Students suggested creating of a facebook group in advance in order to facilitate their preparation and fix better their group interests before the start of the program as a part of their preliminary assignments.

Here are some quotations:

Improve the cooperation between the students before the program […] The housing MUST be in the same place, also less workload and more informal communication… (Bg)

Students should participate in the organization and developing the tasks as well (Germany)

I would recommend to integrate activating group games in order to refresh the groups and get them more involved. (Germany)

 No bachelors and masters together – different level of knowledge – different motivation (Germany)

More structured content, less topics, deeper work on it. (Germany)

Plan the programme and visits with students. There is people who don’t wanna visit in places like Goethe institute and so on… (Fn)

Besides the theoretical things there should be practical part […] The visits to be not boring. Less teaching at the middleday […] Fn

 More pre-information to students. More time to explore culture of the place/town, time to get each other. If there are people with special diets they should be informed that they are probably not going to get the food they are used to(2) Fn

 NOTE! Here are taken only the responds of the foreign students, as the Bulgarian students were accommodated in their homes and students’ lodgings.

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