From March 30 to April 1, 2021 the online kick-off meeting of the Erasmus +‘‘Support for Innovative Methodology, Approaches and Tools for Teaching through the Medium of English in order to improve Educational Yield, Sustainability and Internationalization’’ (SMARTI) project took place. The representatives from 15 institutions of the Project Consortium participated in the meeting.
Partners of the SMARTI Project:
The opening keynote speeches were made by Professor Prunitsch, Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Culture of Dresden University of Technology (Germany), Gerard Cullen, the Project Coordinator, as well as Lana Karlova, Program Coordinator of National Erasmus + Office in Armenia, and Olga Oleynikova, Program Coordinator of National Erasmus + Office in Russia.
The primary goal of the project is to develop and implement nine EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) modules in academic programs and to establish EMI centers to promote the efficiency and internationalization of education in partner universities in Armenia and Russia.
Within the three-day online meeting, the project goals and objectives, work packages, planned activities, as well as the project outcomes were discussed.
Partner institutions briefly presented their universities, the key members of the project teams, as well as the academic programs or courses targeted to be taught in English.
The VSU SMARTI team members participating in the kick-off meeting were Lusik Vardanyan, VSU Project Coordinatior, Associate Professor of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature, Arine Danielyan, Assistant of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature, Nune Khublaryan, Associate Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics, Gayane Qanaryan, Associate Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics, and Anna Khachatryan, Acting Head of the Quality Assurance Centre.
SWOT Analyses on EMI and SCL Carried out in the Frame of Erasmus+ SMARTI Project (WP1)
On June 4 and 9, 2021, SWOT analyses on EMI (English as a means of instruction) and SCL (student-centred learning) were conducted by the SMARTI VSU working team with the active participation of the VSU internal stakeholders (VSU Rector, Vice-rectors, Deans of the Faculties, Heads of the Chairs, administrative and academic staff representatives and bachelor/master students).
At the beginning of the meetings, Lusik Vardanyan, the local coordinator of the Project succinctly presented the SMARTI Project (Support for Innovative Methodology, Approaches and Tools for Teaching through the Medium of English in Order to Improve Educational Yield, Sustainability and Internationalization), highlighting the main goals, objectives and outcomes of the project. She pointed out that the implementation of the SWOT Analyses was part of the Desk Study Survey according to which each partner institution was expected to submit an Institutional Report on EMI and SCL strategies and to come up with useful recommendations on research methodology and bibliography.
These two-day face-to-face discussions centred on the VSU strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of EMI and SCL strategies and methodology helped the VSU staff decide on the extent to which the University is ready to implement English-taught courses or modules in two Academic Programs (Bachelor Program “English Language and Literature” and Master Program “Informatics”). Those constructive dialogues also enabled the participants to identify the daunting challenges the University is currently facing in terms of English-Medium Instruction and to think of possible ways of overcoming them.
After the productive and insightful discussions, it was decided to present the outcomes of the SWOT analyses during the National-awareness-day events the VSU SMARTI working group is planning to organise for the University internal and external stakeholders.
National-Awareness-Day Events organised in the Frame of Erasmus+ SMARTI Project (WP4)
On June 12, 13, and 14, 2021, in the frame of WP4 “Dissemination and Exploitation” of the SMARTI Project, three National-Awareness-Day Events were organised at Vanadzor State University for the VSU internal and external stakeholders (academic and administrative staff members, students, graduates).
At the beginning of these dissemination events, Lusik Vardanyan, the local coordinator of the Project, concisely presented the SMARTI Project (the consortium member institutions, the work packages, the main objectives and outcomes of the project). She emphasised the likely benefits of the English-medium instruction implemented in the academic programs and the establishment of the EMI Centers in partner universities. The participants were really enthusiastic about this innovative approach which, in their opinion, will considerably promote the efficiency and internationalization of tertiary education in Armenia in general and in VSU in particular.
The second part of the events was devoted to the presentation of the outcomes of the SWOT analyses carried out by the VSU academic and administrative staff members on June 4 and 9. The Head of the VSU Quality Assurance Centre and the VSU SMARTI team member, Anna Khachatryan, introduced the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of EMI and SCL methodology and strategies, and the other VSU SMARTI team members Arine Danielyan, Gayane Kanaryan, Nune Khublaryan and Gohar Dokholyan conducted lively and thought-provoking dialogues regarding the SWOT analysis results and the possible impact of the EMI and SCL methodology on the quality of education.
As an effective dissemination tool, the VSU SMARTI leaflets were distributed to all the participants of the events for the direct access to the project-related information.
An Annual Steering Group Meeting and Training of the SMARTI Project held at Goris State University, October 6-8, 2021
On October 6-8, 2021, a 3-day annual steering group meeting and training was held at Goris State University (GSU) in a hybrid format. At the beginning of the meeting welcoming speeches were made by Artush Ghukasyan, Acting Rector of GSU, by Khachatur Ghazeyan, Acting Rector of the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia (PAARA), and by Gerard Cullen, the SMARTI Project Manager and the representative of the Project grant-holder, Dresden University of Technology (TUD). During the meetings, the Armenian and Russian PC Universities succinctly presented the activities carried out so far, more specifically, the strengths and weaknesses of the ESP self-study manual “Headway”, the mechanisms and strategies of the ECTS system implemented in their HEIs and the extent to which they are similar to or different from the guidelines and key features described in the “ECTS Users’ Guide”. From Vanadzor State University (VSU) a presentation was made by Lusik Vardanyan, the SMARTI Project local coordinator, the Associate Professor of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature. Gayane Kanaryan, the VSU publicity officer of the SMARTI Project, the Associate Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics was also actively involved in these three-day discussions and a dissemination training organised by the Catholic University of Portugal (UCP). The other VSU representatives, the key persons of the VSU SMARTI working group(Arine Danielyan, Assistant Professor of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature, Nune Khublaryan, Associate Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics, Anna Khachatryan, Acting Head of the Quality Assurance Centre, and Gohar Dokholyan, International Relations and Grants Promotion Specialist) participated in the meetings online.
The ARM And RF country presentations on conducted and upcoming dissemination activities were made by Tereza Khechoyan, the local coordinator of the Armenian partner universities, Vice-Rector for Foreign Relations of PAARA and by Olga Safonkina, the local Coordinator of the Russian partner universities, the representative of Ogarev Mordovia State University (MRSU). The participants of the meetings also discussed some important tasks and issues related to the launch of the EMI Centres with procured equipment in the PC HEIs.
During the meetings there were also online presentations: Eduardo Cardoso, the leader of WP1, the representative of UCP elaborated on the EU inventory of the best practices and emphasized the importance of SCL (student-centred learning) in EMI teaching; Adam Shore, the representative of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), UK, introduced the ESP training program and his colleagues from the same University highlighted the importance of “Rosetta Stone” license in improving the EMI teachers’ English language proficiency level; Valeriya Racheeva presented the SMARTI website and raised some crucial steps that are to be taken to improve the website in terms of its structure and content.
In order to be eligible to participate in the upcoming training the ESP teachers from PC Universities took an online “English Language Audit Test”. Our subject teachers Nune Khublaryan and Gayane Kanaryan successfully coped with B1 and B1+ levels.
ESP and ECTS/Tuning Modular Training at the Catholic University of Porto, Portugal, in a Hybrid Format
On January 16-22, 2021, in the frames of Erasmus +‘‘Support for Innovative Methodology, Approaches and Tools for Teaching through the Medium of English in order to improve Educational Yield, Sustainability and Internationalization’’ (SMARTI) project a 5-day training was held at the Catholic University of Porto, Portugal (UCP) in a hybrid format. At the beginning of the meeting welcoming speeches were made by Eduardo Cardoso, professor from the host university, leader of WP1 and WP4 of the Project, and by Gerard Cullen, SMARTI Project Manager and representative of the Project grant-holder, Dresden University of Technology (TUD).
Representatives from partner universities and organizations from Europe, the Russian Federation and Armenia were participating in the training sessions which were conducted by EU trainers Gerard Cullen, Sven Riddell from Dresden University of Technology; Eduardo Cardoso, Tim Hogg from the Catholic University of Porto; Professors Maureen Royce, Ryan Wynn-Williams, Casey Beaumont from Liverpool John Moores University; Ieva Ziemele, Marina Platonova, and Tatiana Smirnova from Riga Technical University. Vanadzor State University was presented by Lusik Vardanyan, local project officer, Associate Professor of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature and Nune Khublaryan, Assistant Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics.
The training sessions were replete with theoretical materials and practical activities that were accompanied by lively group discussions. The training topics were primarily related to types and peculiarities of academic writing, ESP (English for specific purposes) and EMI (English as a means of instruction) methodologies, SCL (student-centred learning) strategies, module design, learning outcomes developed by Bloom’s Taxonomy, and criterion-based assessment.
In the frames of the Project, a series of in-house trainings are expected to be held in PC HEIs on the basis of the materials provided by the EU trainers.
In-house Multiplication Training on ESP and ECTS at Vanadzor State University (28 March — 9 April)
We are happy to announce that the in-house multiplication training on ESP launched at Vanadzor State University on 28 March within the frame of Erasmus +‘‘Support for Innovative Methodology, Approaches and Tools for Teaching through the Medium of English in order to improve Educational Yield, Sustainability and Internationalization’’ (SMARTI) Project has successfully been completed. The three -hour face-to-face sessions devoted to ESP (English for specific purposes) and EMI (English as a means of instruction) methodologies as well as academic writing peculiarities were mainly based on the materials provided during the ESP/ECTS Tuning Modular Training held at the Catholic University of Porto, Portugal on January 16-22, 2022. The trainings were conducted by Lusik Vardanyan, local project coordinator, Associate Professor of the Chair of Foreign Languages and Literature and Nune Khublaryan, Assistant Professor of the Chair of Mathematics and Informatics, both of whom participated in the training sessions at UCP. During the first session, L. Vardanyan briefly presented the SMARTI Project highlighting the main activities carried out and the tangible outcomes achieved so far. She also underlined the importance of the ESP training for the VSU academic staff who are expected to implement and/or teach courses or modules in English within two Academic Programs (Bachelor Program “English Language and Literature” and Master Program “Software Engineering”). The choice of English as the working language during the training was largely substantiated by this factor. However, the language didn’t seem to be a barrier for the SMARTI VSU working team and the internal stakeholders (VSU Rector, Vice-rector for Academic Affairs, Head of Educational Process Management Department, Deans of the Faculties, Heads of the Chairs, administrative and academic staff representatives and bachelor/master students) to be actively involved in heated yet lovely and helpful discussions that followed presentations on academic writing techniques and strategies. The participants definitely enriched their knowledge and skills of making effective presentations, interpreting different graphs and charts, identifying the main differences between formal and informal writing in general, and between the types of cover letters in particular. The in-house training sessions devoted to ECTS are to be held on 5-9 April.
In-House ECTS/Modular Training at Vanadzor State University (3 April — 9 April)
The in-house multiplication training on ECTS conducted at Vanadzor State University on 3-9 April within the frame of Erasmus +‘‘Support for Innovative Methodology, Approaches and Tools for Teaching through the Medium of English in order to improve Educational Yield, Sustainability and Internationalization’’ (SMARTI) Project has been brought to the successful achievement of the main objectives of the three-day training sessions. The key topics were related to the primary approaches of Tuning Methodology, the Tuning Project, the key features of ECTS as well as Bloom’s revised Taxonomy analysed from the perspective of knowledge and cognitive process dimensions. The participants’ fruitful collaboration and active engagement in lively discussions during the workshops livened up “the academic atmosphere” and helped them considerably to overcome the language barriers which at first seemed rather unsurmountable especially to those with a fairly low English proficiency level. Surprisingly enough, even these participants managed to successfully deal with nearly all the tasks and activities assigned at the end of each session. The training was an excellent opportunity for the participants to share their knowledge and perception of the main priorities of the 21st century teaching, learning and assessment, more specifically, the means that are making the transition from lower order thinking skills (LOTS) to higher order thinking skills (HOTS) possible. We can definitely state that the training had its intended result due to the team’s high morale and “the spirit of compromise” which was easily perceived from the outset: first contributing to the training process and then benefiting from its outcomes. It is this spirit that made the whole training procedure smooth and enjoyable for everyone.
Certificate awarding ceremony of the ESP/ECTS Modular training at Vanadzor State University
On 22 April,2022, the closing event of the in-house training entitled “ESP and ECTS/Tuning Modular Training”organized from 28 March to 9 April, 2022 within the frame of the SMARTI Project was held at Vanadzor State University.
The training sessions were attended by 22 participants (VSU academic and administrative staff, as well as students).
During the awarding ceremony the VSU Rector, Dr. Prof. RustamSaakyan, and the SMARTI Project Local Coordinator, Dr.LusikVardanyan, welcomed the participants emphasizing the fact that a team of academic staff willing to teach modules in a foreign languagehas already been formed.They expressed words of appreciation to the participants for creating awelcoming and productive atmosphere during the training. The Rector, also being one of the participants in the training, thanked Lusik Vardanyan for her great efforts and patience in organizing the productive course.
The participants of the courseexpressed their gratitude to the organizers, in particular, Lusik Vardanyan, for her high professionalism, great dedication, and the unique course design, which resulted in acquiring not only English skills, but also the knowledge related to a wide range of academic topics.
The successful completion of the training greatly motivated and encouraged the participants to deepen their knowledge and skills gained in the respective field.
Certificate Awarding Ceremony of the Participants of the “Competitive Intelligence Program” (2nd Round)
On September 14, 2023, a certificate awarding ceremony was held at VSU Smart Caffe during which the students, having participated in the 2nd round of the “Competitive Intelligence Program” (3 April to 15 June, 2023) and the volunteers, involved in the coordination of different activities of the Smart Caffe, were awarded certificates.
The coordinator of Smart Caffe, Gohar Dokholyan, congratulated the participants and the volunteers, emphasizing the acquisition of valuable knowledge and skills which they could use in the realization of their business ideas. She informed that the launch of the last –third round of the “Competitive Intelligence Program” will take place starting from 25th of September, 2023.
VSU Rector, Prof. Rustam Saakyan, also congratulated the participants of the 2nd CIP and the volunteers handing over certificates and encouraging them to continue their active involvement in all the activities initiated at SMART CAFFE.
Additionally, Gohar Dokholyan informed about the national “Digital Business” completion which will be organized within the Connect project with the joint efforts of Vanadzor State University and Brusov State University in November, 2023. Each partner institution can introduce 12 business projects at the competition. To insure active and successful participation in the upcoming event, the trained VSU staff will regularly meet students to assist them in the preparation and presentation of their business ideas.
National Awareness Day of the SMARTI Project at Vanadzor State University
On November 23, 2023, within the framework of the Erasmus+ SMARTI Project two important events were organised at Vanadzor State University for the internal and external stakeholders. The National-Awareness-Day Event, which was followed by the 1st piloting of the EMI two modules, was attended by some representatives from Lori Region Administration and regional universities; guests from the public sector and partner institutions; as well as a large number of academic/administrative staff and students of Vanadzor State University. The working languages of the event were English and Armenian.
Welcome speeches were made by Rustam Sahakyan, VSU Rector; Gerard Cullen, SMARTI Project Coordinator; Arpine Jraghatspanyan, Erasmus+ National Office representative; Tereza Khechoyan, Vice-Rector for Foreign Relations at PAARA; and Hasmik Mkrtchyan, Head of Programs at the Tourism and Analysis Department of Lori Regional Administration.
Lusik Vardanyan, the local coordinator of the SMARTI Project, presented a brief description of the current state of the Project.
The VSU students Arpine Hakobyan, Angela Ter-Movsisyan, and Ani Barseghyan, who participated in the PESTLE analysis of the Armenian economy performed by the students of Dresden University of Technology, as well as the online discussion organized by Liverpool John Moores University, expressed their positive feedback and impressions they gained from these meetings. They highlighted the importance of such events for the development of their professional competences and interpersonal skills.
The second part of the event was dedicated to the presentation of two classes which were conducted by the VSU lecturers Arine Danielyan, Armine Gevorgyan, Gohar Dokholyan, and Nune Khublaryan. These classes had been designed within the framework of the following EMI piloting modules:
Module 1: Communicative Approach — Student-centred and Blended/ICT/E-Learning based.
Module 7: EMI Student Assessment Strategies (Formal and Alternative Assessment)
The lessons were evaluated by the EU experts.
At the end of the event, the EU representative expressed his satisfaction about the work carried out by the VSU working team so far and offered opportunities for the implementation of Erasmus+ mobility programs between the two universities.