Collaboration, shared expertise, and mutual support lead to better quality teaching and research. These are the watchwords of the vision of Palacký University. Distance should not play a role, and inspiration can even come from across the Atlantic. Cooperation with the University of Minnesota exactly follows these lines.
Palacký University aspires to be a truly high-quality international environment. “The global trend of the best universities is to form professional groups that allow academics to learn from and enrich each other, for example, in how to teach better or design international curricula,” explained Vít Procházka, Vice-Rector for Communication and Student Affairs. He added that this opportunity to exchange experiences is exactly what academics from Olomouc now have with their counterparts from the esteemed University of Minnesota.
“Joint Professional Learning Communities” is an innovative format of international professional development coordinated by the Institute for Excellence in Internationalisation (IEI) among seven universities in the EU and the USA. “We are in intensive contact with our academics and we help them regarding international teaching on a daily basis. We are academics ourselves and we know academics’ concerns and needs. That is why we have tried to create a new format of professional development that would suit academics and at the same time reflect current trends in international cooperation of intensively interconnected partnerships (alliances) of universities, especially regarding curriculum,” said Eva Janebová, who leads the Institute for Excellence in Internationalisation project.
“Academics in our professional community will focus on improving the quality of international teaching, not only by sharing good methods, making space for creating new joint courses, collaborative online international learning (COIL) courses, etc. Above all, they will receive methodological support from experienced facilitators. The IEI team, which has long been involved in training and mentoring academics, is collaborating with the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance at the University of Minnesota and the Centre for Global Learning at The Hague University of Applied Science, who also specialise in internationalising the curriculum, and together they will provide professional communities with the latest tips, guides, and resources for creating and teaching international courses," explained Janebová.
“The University of Minnesota is a leading global centre of international education and internationalisation. I am delighted that we have been given this opportunity, which will benefit both educators and students. I think it can mean a huge career boost for all involved, not only in teaching but also in the form of research collaboration,” said Procházka.
In practice, this means that in the near future, joint courses in different fields across faculties could be designed where students from Olomouc and Minnesota could enroll together. This is why the faculties have already received an offer to join the emerging inter-university professional community and several online meetings of academics on both sides have taken place, as well as the first focus group at UP. “Interest in participating in our academic community has dramatically increased, which pleases me to no end. Palacký University must be ambitious; cooperation with our American colleagues can dramatically increase the quality of our study programmes,” said Procházka. The online community “UMN – UP Professional Learning Community: Together towards excellence in teaching” will be launched in the 2022/2023 academic year and is open to all who want to develop together with academics from Minnesota.
The creation of a professional community is not the only joint activity of UP and UMN. In addition to mutual visits and exchanges of representatives, the Institute for Excellence in Internationalisation in cooperation with Sokol Minnesota has launched an online Czech language course for children of Czechs living in Minnesota, which is led by UP volunteers. “All the children in the course are bilingual, with one parent speaking Czech. We design the lessons into different topics, leaving room for fluent expression. At the same time, we want to allow for the expansion of vocabulary and phrases and include ‘unobtrusive’ grammar practice. Together with the students of the Faculty of Education, we want to create a space for children to communicate in Czech with someone outside the family, and to keep teenagers interested in the Czech language,” said Lenka Nosková from the IEI team, a PhD student at the UP Faculty of Education.
The University of Minnesota (UMN) was founded in 1851 and currently provides education to more than fifty thousand students. The initiators of the cooperation with this university are Vice-Rector Vít Procházka and Eva Janebová from the Institute for Excellence in Internationalisation, who have a long-standing professional relationship with the UMN.