Campus Osttirol /
|A New Approach to Higher Education in the Eastern Tyrol:
Developing Patterns for the “Campus Osttirol”
Franz Nahrada, Helmut Leitner GIVE Forschungsgesellschaft
A regional development project actively seeking innovation in the field of higher education provides a setting to apply and research pattern methodology.
In the framework of an Interreg IV project called "Bit Generation", the regional development bureau of Eastern Tyrol has commissioned research and instigation work to create a favorable climate and also precise information that would lead to political decision making based on a participatory process within the region.
Our proposal was successful to base this participatory process on the design pattern concept. The complexity of the situation is obvious: there are many players big and small, a couple of serious regional problems, with lots of general conceptual ideas, neither goals nor budgets defined, therefore an inventiveness is called for which transcends the ability of even the best experts.
Therefore, in the framework of this PURPLSOC workshop contribution, we do not only want to report on the steps we took to implement pattern language construction and public participation in this process, but also want to get feedback and ideas from the pattern community assembled at the PURPLSOC workshop, and perhaps later at the conference, to improve this work. We think this is an exciting project in progress, one peripheral region that could become a model for other regions, and everyone is invited to contribute to the shaping of the process and its final results.
The region Osttirol is a district of the Tirol, which is a province of Austria. Geographically it is separated from the "mainland" by a high mountain range that is not directly crossed by traffic routes. All traffic has to pass at least through one other state or province. The region can be seen as the most peripheral region in Austria, rather small in terms of 50.000 inhabitants, a NUTS 3 region well outside the typical range of 150,000 to 800,000 inhabitants.
Osttirol has 32 smaller communities and a vivid urban center (the town of Lienz, 10.000 inhabitants). It has a solid infrastructure, based on traditional agriculture and forest economy, and some summer and winter tourism. Big assets are its natural and cultural landscapes (a large part of which is protected by a national park and other protection areas) and the practical mindset and the community spirit of its population.
Focal point of the project: a missing institution for higher education
Although Lienz has several educational institutions, an institution for higher (scientific) education is missing. There is a widespread consensus within the region that such an institution is urgently needed - as a partner for Osttirols economy, as a local provider of higher education, as a job provider for the educated, and as an organic center of the intellectual life, self-understanding, and self-reliance of the region. To study a scientific profession, young people have to move to universities relatively far away, at least 2-3 hours by car, in Austria, Germany or Italy. Vocational education opportunities for professionals deepening their knowledge are limited. This all contributes to an exodus of many talented young people, a large number of which never will come back. On the background of a stagnating population that is predicted to even start declining seriously during the next 10-20 years, this is commonly seen as a major problem.
The region has already started to initiate a discussion from inside which covers key fields of regional development and also education, and the term "Campus Osttirol" was coined by regional actors to designate a desired development towards a local institution that catalyzes higher education in and for the region.
A "Campus" in this sense could and probably should comprise the whole region, local communities and their institutions and even regard the existing enterprises and farms as places where higher education activities can take place. We have focussed on these broad options also because they are in alignment with the general development goals cited below.
Our work with design patterns around the notion of “Campus Osttirol” serves as a tool of information and evaluation for a wide range of actors who engage in a participatory process - our project constituting the initial stage of a series of activities towards appropriate higher education within the region. All of these actors have acquired a lot of active competencies, but they were mostly formed in an environment of specialisation and expert-based practise. Our goal with the roll-out of a pattern language is to increase "passive competencies" of all groups involved, which means to understand the complexity of the field they are acting in, understand the different options they have to reach their goal, understand the thinking of other people, professions and groups involved, get aware of win-win-constellations and opportunities, get a clear understanding about long-term sustainability and possible "side effects" of solutions.
This must be achieved by "condensing" proven solutions with the help of experienced experts, analyzing their context and focusing on alternatives, sequences, synergies, blockades and so on.
The purpose of all this is to enable regional actors to shape an optimum educational environment (with focus on higher education) in the context of their overall development goals, which have already been canonized by a Forward Thinkers Group. The main goals for regional development have been expressed as following:
The project team consists of four persons with core competencies in digital education, local networking, pattern language building and future research. They are located at the cities of Lienz, Salzburg, Graz and Vienna.
The project team is supervised by a steering group that consist of the regional development team (RMO) manager and advisors from several regional institutions.
The regional Forward Thinkers Group is currently the most important regional "inner circle" in Osttirol from which we take impulses and ideas, evaluation and refinement for the pattern language building process.
The project team is working with several communication tools, primarily email, doodle, Skype, and Adobe Connect. Some websites serve for internal communication of the team (Campus Facebook group internal, 2014), others will be used to foster participation: a weblog (Campus Blog, 2014) and a public Facebook group (Campus Facebook group, 2014). A wiki serves as a pattern repository (Campus Osttirol Wiki, 2014).
The project teams envisions to create a spezialized pattern collection or pattern language (EPL). The purpose of the EPL is to bring the envisioned "Campus Osttirol" as regional educational enhancement and policy center to life. We were entrusted to create the framework for further pursuit of this goal. We agreed to keep many paths of development open, virtual and physical ones, and on different scales, yet create more clarity about the “landscape” and the options of realizing the goal. The “Campus”, in the way we understand it, is rather a metaphor for synergetic cooperation than for a physical place, but we do not intend to exclude the vision or option of an architectural innovation that embodies the project Campus Osttirol both physically and visually.
From the things stated so far, it is clear that we do not only look at the immediate educational process alone, but also on supportive environments of any kind that foster higher education and learning as well as the content - building factors.
We figured out we need to deal with:
The wiki pattern repository (Campus Osttirol Wiki, 2014) is currently internal but will be opened to more and more participants as soon as we think it is mature enough.
(Now publically accessible: http://campusosttirol.mustertheorie.de/wiki.cgi?Startseite)
In the first phase, we started to collect possible patterns in interaction between the team and target groups, experts, the Forward Thinkers and many others.
At some point, we plan the publication of patterns via the weblog and Facebook group. An important role is given to regular workshops.
Patterns will be constantly re-evaluated, selected, cross-referenced and will also receive "value points". We want to experiment with several methods to do this.
We expect a robust pattern collection that also serves as the background for recommendations. A shortened version of the pattern language, together with suggested pattern sequences and their rationale, will serve as the main body of the final report.
Another important goal is to make the pattern collection available to peoples design thinking and help them to order and structure their needs and actions, as a flexible and strategic tool set.
Whilst there is a widespread conviction among researchers that pattern work must be perceived as innovative and people-centered in comparison to other approaches, we faced interesting initial discussions with other schools of thought like action research etc. related to communication problems.
In their perception, the word "pattern" (the German word “Muster”) is associated with habits, unconscious barriers to facing problems, rather than the very means to solve them. Patterns were intuitively seen as prescriptions, hindering creative action and discovery. So it is important to notice that pattern researchers in contact with laypersons cannot expect to use the word pattern as if it was a neologism. To cope with this problems, we started to be more flexible in our language use. Internally we used the term “design patterns” (German: “Gastaltungsmuster”), whereas in the broad communication we are talking about “building blocks” (German: “Bausteine”). We saw a similar reaction in the Transition movement switching from patterns to ingredients (Transition Network 2014), but did not follow that example.
We will put special attention in our work to this and similar blockades to adopt pattern methods. In the PURPLSOC workshop, we seek to discuss successful strategies of overcoming these language problems and also of evaluating and “harvesting” whatever truth they may contain.
Our project plan contains 5 workshops: the first introduced the most important forms of digital education, the second gave an practical introduction to patterns. The third workshop will seek to identify and structure the educational needs, the fourth workshop will focus on possible cooperations and cooperation partners, and the fifth workshop will present the overall results of the project.
Here we give a short account on the second workshop which took place in the end of October, starting with a 15 minute introduction to pattern theory and methodology: Christopher Alexander and his pattern concept, examples effects in software and Wikipedia, 5 example concepts taken from the 64 concept cards (Leitner 2013), and the main attitudes that relate well with the regional traditions.
The workshop then continued with 2 hours of practical group work on patterns. The patterns selected were not typical for the patterns involved in the sense that these five pattern do not seem optional, even at a rather early stage of the project (2 of 5 months). Typically the patterns in the EPL will have a lower probability to be actually implemented. But in an almost definite way online education will play a significant role (3 of the selected patterns) and the campus idea needs clarification and implementation (2 of the selected patterns).
The reason for selecting these patterns were to give the attendees the feeling that they give their ideas to something real and practical and not to something that is just a faint possibility. This does not mean that all these five patterns had or have already taken a concrete form, quite to the contrary, e. g. the pattern “Campus Osttirol as an organizational structure” is to a large degree “up in the air” and its concrete form might be object of contention. But it is clear to everybody that a defined organizational structure will be needed at some point and with literally “putting that card on the table” people started thinking about this in a different way. We included the main challenge, to involve “big”, “medium” and “small” actors alike, allow for contributions from everybody whilst facilitating them in a manageable structure.
Throughout the whole process, the reactions to the cards as means to present patterns and to the visualizations involved were positive. People seem to understand intuitively that the images will stick to their mind and allow them to grasp the essential design problem, and continue to work in a more intense way than any pure textual arrangement could.
We use the following patterns / pattern cards:
pattern 1) Webinar / Online-Meeting pattern 2) MOOC / Online-Course pattern 3) Online-Support for Digital Education pattern 4) Campus Osttirol as point of cristallisation (functions) pattern 5) Campus Osttirol as organizational structureAccording to a second set of cards, each proposed pattern was intentionally looked at from four perspectives:
perspective 1) Opportunities (aka problem-solution(s)) perspective 2) Connections (aka forces) perspective 3) Problems & Conflicts (aka side effects, resulting problems) perspective 4) Implementation. How can we make it succeed?The idea somehow derives from influences like SWOT methodology or some modern interpretation of the native American medicine wheel (Nahrada 2013), but was intentionally boiled down to work with patterns and their combinations, sequences and conditions. In the actual workshop situation, the whole group of participants was encouraged to take each perspective and “role” subsequently.
Participants included people from large institutions like the chamber of commerce or the regional marketing office, people from educational institutions / providers, but also people interested in new and less formal educational endeavours. The workshop was open to everybody, but the number of participants allowed the unsplit contribution in one round.
Our workshop experience was positive, after a short “warm-up” time of 5-10 minutes contributions began to flow and we got typically 3-10 contributions to each pattern-perspective combination. Our time budget was rather constrained, 2 hours total for the work with patterns, typically 3-5 minutes for each pattern-perspective combination. It was explicitely not our goal to reach final results, but to introduce the method, introduce the patterns and just advance the work by elaborating them further.
The two technical patterns at the beginning, which continued the introduction of digital education at the first workshop, were not familiar to everybody - but they created a sense for the method of treating and combining patterns. The last two pattern, however, actually touched the core of our project, to give a form to the very idea of the Campus Osttirol. In a way this was irritating to the participants, because of the complexity of the problem, but on the other hand it challenged them as really touching their vital interests and concerns.
Concerning the fourth pattern card (functions): We presented the pattern as a “flower” with the “brand Campus Osttirol” at its center, with the plausible functional options as petals. The discussion of this was vivid but unfocused. It seemed that the given framework of the pattern seemed not sufficient to advance within the separate functional “petals”. It showed the need to evaluate and prioritize the functions one by another, to get a clearer notion of “what the Campus exactly is”. (see the “Excursion” in the next section)
Concerning the fifth pattern card (structure): At that point the contributions and discussion heated up. How can responsibility and influence be shared, who has the say, who determines what happens, what is the relation between organisations and individuals, what is the relation between the local or regional actors and the networks who span the whole federal state of the Tyrol or beyond. Is there a need for a separate group of local stakeholders, comprising the non-institutional players?
The idea to present the functions of the Campus as petals of a flower did not really expose the strong forces connecting one “petal” to another. Participants later on asked for a more “onion” style image that would prioritize functions and identify “key functions”. But here we ran into a problem: none of the functions can be really dismissed or “peeled away”. The function of the Campus as a whole is not to provide single educational offerings, but to catalyze the interplay of the functions. For example: “educational marketing” is by no way an ephemeral function, but a way to strengthen the plethora of existing educational offerings. The campus is not here to compete with single educational institutions, but to catalyze their optimal interplay by presenting their offerings as a common resource. The quality of this resource, however, needs certain “ingredients” that we cannot let go or downgrade from the beginning, even if their relative weight is tiny. For example: we cannot imagine a brand of “Campus Osttirol” in the sense of “Eastern Tyrol Higher Education” without a minimum element of scientific research, a seed that may be allowed to grow, however small and insignificant it might be in the beginning. So research contributes organically to the authenticity and originality of the “product”, which in return forms an organic contribution to the regions overall attractiveness. This scientific ingredient means that the Campus Osttirol aspires to be a serious partner for those seeking top expertise and innovation.
So, while it was important to put the initial image on the table and structure and focus the discussion on the problem, we learned that we need to show the connection of the “petals” by clarifying their multiple relation to concrete patterns. Thus their interplay and what they can effect in reality should be made clearer. The next step in that direction, in reaction to the stated problem, is to create a cross-matrix of the most relevant EPL patterns (probably 30-40) with the Campus functions, indicating “no”, “moderate”, or “strong” connecting forces. This can be seen roughly as equivalent to the scheme of a sensitivity matrix (Vester 2002).
Regional Guidelines Development Process (Regionaler Leitbildprozess)
Short description: Involve actors of all relevant regional constituencies to formulate concepts intended to address urgent local problems and to guide the future development of the region.
Example: The process of the Forward Thinkers Group is regional participatory process in Osttirol, involving about 150 persons in six workgroups on special topics in 2013 and 2014.
Short description: general criteria for decision-making and cooperation of regional actors by setting priorities
Example: “The problem of population decline is to be taken seriously and should be met by common measures.”
Higher Education in Regional Context
Problem: regions have limited means to offer a full range of higher education and need to select and focus according to their own development guidelines
Short description: education of high quality adapted to the regional needs, whereby regional needs are assessed in various and dynamic ways.
Example: Higher Education in Osttirol - we assume that this must be seen different to higher education somewhere else. What this means has not yet been clarified.
Short description: Denotes a variety of Institutions working together on educational offerings, without necessarily being in one physical place (but physical proximity is very useful). The “Campus” allows for a mix of institutions that range from adult educational institutions, university branches to enterprises and NGOs, to work together with a thematic focus and strong coordination.
Examples: several communities in Austria having introduced “campuses” to forge combinations of schools with “first steps” institutions that allow for entrepreneurial and professional activities. Thus they channel energies to their local development goals.
Short description: the Campus guidelines are derived from the regional guidelines to translate them to the context of its educational activities;
Example: enabling a large scope of educational activities in the region.
Example: educational offerings not only in the town Lienz, but also in the peripheral parts (the side-valley communities) of the region.
Short description: the development of the Campus is a process that started years ago as the vision of a single actor, Elisabeth Ziegler-Duregger, at that time head of the city library of Lienz, who started to talk with people, invented the label “Campus Osttirol” and promoted the idea. It is crucial to keep this spirit of inclusiveness and general support alive.
Short description: Major stakeholders in the region team up and support a team of professionals and volunteers to instigate educational processes and realize the Campus guidelines; On the stakeholder side it is crucial to integrate all educational institutions, but also economic, social, political and cultural actors. Nevertheless, the team should be able to act flexibly and creative.
Short description: the Virtual Campus contains all activities that relate to online activities, resources and collaborations.
Short description: Though the development of the Campus does not fully depend on a physical presence, for many people a visible physical presence will be a condition for trust and collaboration. The Physical Campus depends on the creation of a Campus Institution.
Short description: the first agenda of the campus institution is to highlight regional opportunities and to enrich the regional vision, so that people and organizations want to participate.
Short description: allow and encourage learners to enter in a space of encounter, collaboration and common goal-finding. Online Education Resource Bundling
Short description: The Campus institution makes use of offerings that are available via the networks and composes complementing and integrated series of these offerings. It also builds capacity of people (language, broadband access)
short description: The campus as a living process needs to communicate to its regional constituency in various ways, fulfilling the needs of motivation, integration and resource building; allowing low-level entry into the stakeholder process; and make the educational activities a point of attraction even for outsiders.
Example: Facebook groups
Example: presence in regional media (print, radio, film)
Example: presence in external media (Wikipedia, ...)
Regional Mentoring (proposed pattern)
Short description: Students and scientists that leave the region are informally supported to keep in touch and repeatedly supported to reflect their opportunities in the region.
Online Toolbox (meta pattern)
Short description: increase of media literacy by treating available online services as proto-patterns and describe their distinctive qualities, build a feeling of coherence.
Example: Wordpress (for “journal-like” website creation, that brings out main messages and viewpoints)
Example: Facebook (twofold - fastest message medium for small organizing teams and inclusive public medium for building critical mass)
Example: Wiki (for collecting system information and authoring of patterns)
Example: Skype (for small collaborative sessions and introduction to videoconferencing)
Example: Adobe Connect (professional tool for video conferencing in an educational setting, chat, file sharing, screen sharing, whiteboarding, streaming, recording)
Example: Youtube (source of educational content, archive for recordings)
Example: Google Docs (collaboration on documents: texts and spreadsheets and also “quick surveys” with Google Forms)
Educational Formats (meta pattern)
Each of this educational formats should be seen as meta pattern that needs further configurations/specifications to be seen as a cluster of problem-solving patterns.
Example: Webinar (online seminar, indepent of participant locations)
Expert Consulting Webinar: a webinar used by a group to consult an external remote expert as a group
Example: MOOC (online courses for an unlimited number of participants)
Example: Online Lecture (recorded lectures that can be consumed as videos)
Although we are only in the middle of this project we think that the exceptional setting and our initial experiences justify reporting preliminary results in this paper. There have been concrete steps to simplify the communication of pattern methodology and strip most of the abstract overhead that sometimes hinders people to understand and make use of it. These steps were basically successful. Theory can be introduced just in time, not as a prerequisite. The practical participatory work was more satisfying and successful with more concrete patterns. We had not been fully aware how many levels of abstractions our patterns contain and are now working to increase our perception of this. Visualizations seem essential to the participatory process, but using them to solve a communication problem may also create new problems by expressing only a partial view of the whole. We hope to be able to report further experiences and insights with the project Campus Osttirol at the PURPLSOC 2015 conference.
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