Innovations Through Education

Three schools are having an impact on education through innovations that train teachers, upgrade courses, and deliver new programs to partner universities.
Innovations Through Education


THE INNOVATION: A collaborative program with Peruvian Public Universities Faculty that aimed to strengthen their capabilities in several fields, including business, economics, and public management.

THE SITUATION: El Programa de Intercambio Educativo (PIE)—also known as the Academic Exchange Program—was devised as a way for Universidad del Pacífico to have a positive effect on the socioeconomic development of the country.

Through the PIE program, professors from throughout the region apply for one-month residential programs in business, economics, and public management on the UP campus. Each program includes approximately 100 hours of lectures, seminars, and field visits to private and public organizations. Because UP faculty train fellow teachers from public universities, PIE is considered a peer-to-peer collaboration.

Through the program, participants are exposed to innovations in teaching methods, discover new ways of disseminating knowledge, and learn to develop research capabilities anchored in local needs. Many have returned to their own schools and instituted new instructional methods, including hands-on learning experiences and collaborations with local businesses.

A mix of junior and veteran faculty are selected for PIE every year, and they all receive grants that cover tuition, transportation costs, and living expenses while they’re in Lima. The school also offers students scholarships to its social investment management master’s program.

The PIE program is funded to a large degree by the university’s Patronato, or association of benefactors who are both corporations and individuals; group members also help identify the major national and regional needs the PIE program should address.

Currently, the school is looking for additional funding from sources such as the Ministry of Education and the National Council for Science and Technology, which support teacher training programs. It also is considering presenting the PIE training model to international cooperation programs, says Cecilia Montes, director of institutional relations.

The school offers follow-up activities that include an annual academic conference, where selected professors present research papers. In addition, the school holds an innovation contest, where participants submit descriptions of their teaching innovations. The winning professor is invited to the next course to receive an award and share his innovation with the new class.

“This motivates more faculty to take part in future editions of the contest,” Montes notes.

While the school is still designing methodology that will measure the program’s impact, it’s clear that it has attained far-reaching success. Originally launched with fewer than ten participating universities, PIE now is nationwide: It has spread to all 25 regions of Peru and trained more than 400 public university faculty members.

Learn about the PIE program. Read a Spanish-language paper describing the impact PIE has had on participating faculty over the years.


THE INNOVATION: The delivery of two undergraduate degree programs to a Saudi Arabian university for women.

THE SITUATION: Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University, constructed in Riyadh in 2011, was designed to cater to 60,000 female students. In 2012, Dublin City University Business School entered into a collaboration with PNU to design and deliver two undergraduate degree programs: one in international finance, the other in marketing, innovation, and technology. Graduates earn degrees from both institutions.

“Contextually, the transfer of knowledge and pedagogy to any international university—and to Saudi Arabia in particular—can be challenging,” notes Anne Sinnott, executive dean of DCU Business School. “Many aspects of course design and delivery must be meticulously created so the material is culturally sensitive and appropriate for Saudi nationals between 18 and 20 years of age.”

While the degrees were based on existing accredited programs offered by DCU, they were redesigned to suit the needs of PNU, particularly because the responsibility for teaching them ultimately would be transferred to PNU staff. A team from Ireland and Saudi Arabia collaborated to ensure that course material was sensitive to culture-specific issues such as gender, religion, and access to role models; that the content matched curriculum and quality standards for both countries; and that the language used was suitable for the content, the professors, and the learners.

Course material and language had to be sensitive to culture specific issues such as gender, religion, and access to role models.

At its height, the project will involve more than 20 DCU staff teaching for a full semester in Riyadh. Eventually more than 600 Saudi students are expected to take classes; currently, classes are full and there is a waiting list of participants. The program also has garnered interest from business. To date, more than 80 companies have participated in student projects, and a growing number of firms have indicated interest in hiring the first graduates, who will earn their degrees in 2017.

The DCU programs have included educational elements that are common in the West but new to Saudi Arabia, such as peer learning, industry field trips, global virtual teams, serious gaming, and telepresence robots. “While these elements occasionally have been challenging to PNU faculty and stakeholders, the innovations have been embraced and extended,” notes Theo Lynn, professor and associate dean of industry engagement and innovation. He adds, “Numerous other universities in the Arab world are seeking to replicate the approach PNU has taken at an institutional and business school level.”

And success has come in other forms as well: The program has been nominated for several teaching and learning awards, and it recently won the Bronze Award for the Middle East region at the Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2015. It also has been the subject of presentations at conferences and workshops, and research papers relating to the programs will be published this year. Just as important, the programs have led to research collaborations between PNU and DCU personnel at the doctoral and post-doctoral levels.

Learn more about the program.


THE INNOVATION: The Innovo Scholars Consulting program, which pairs instructors with students to innovate business school courses and programs.

THE SITUATION: Although flipped classrooms, blended instruction, and experiential learning are transforming the educational experience, some faculty and administrators are uncomfortable using new technologies and teaching methods. Not only that, redesigning courses takes time and money, and some schools don’t have many resources to pour into this crucial task.

The Smith School created the Innovo Scholars Consulting program in 2015 as a high-impact, low-cost way to support undergraduate curriculum innovation by targeting faculty and administrators who want to participate but don’t know where to begin. Faculty who are interested in innovating their courses recruit top students, describe the program, and ask if the students will become their Innovo Scholars. “There also have been some instances where students have reached out to professors to inform them of the program and offer to be their Innovo Scholars,” notes Sandra M. Loughlin, the school’s director of learning and innovative instruction.

Students who want to participate enroll in a semesterlong, three-credit course where they learn the fundamentals of design thinking, the ways college students learn, and the principles of management consulting. They then conduct research to assess the needs of stakeholders—instructors, students, alumni, and employers—and to identify the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of existing courses and programs.

Midway through the semester, Innovo Scholars present an analysis and recommendations to their faculty members, and then they work with the professors to identify the deliverables, called Teaching Tools. Innovos spend the rest of the semester prototyping and refining their ideas so that, at the end of the course, they can deliver plug-andplay Teaching Tools that professors can implement in future offerings. Throughout the program, Innovo Scholars receive professional coaching from management consultants to help them act professionally, address problems quickly, and communicate effectively.

Within the first two semesters of the Innovo program, more than 20 undergraduate courses were revitalized. Teaching Tools developed by Innovo Scholars include curated videos for flipped classroom instruction, anchors and prompts for online discussion boards, projects that apply course concepts to current events, and resources that help students develop a global mindset during faculty-led global programs.

Students generally work alone or in pairs, says Loughlin, although sometimes projects dovetail, which allows students with different faculty clients to collaborate on an innovation. For instance, last semester Innovo Scholars worked with faculty in five quantitative core courses to design a coordinated, flipped instruction model that emphasized active learning in class; as part of this project, Innovos developed and implemented an electronic student response system called Clickers.

The program has gotten high marks from students, administrators, and industry partners. Faculty appreciate the fact that problems in their courses aren’t just identified, but also solved. Employers and recruiters appreciate the fact that the Innovos Scholars program helps them identify top students who have mastered problem-solving skills in complex environments. Students like having the opportunity to receive professional coaching, build relationships with faculty, have an impact on the school, and act as consultants who solve real problems, thus gaining experience for jobs after graduation.

The university has recently decided to expand the Innovo Scholars concept beyond the business school by adding a course on innovating higher education to UMD’s Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The academy offers a series of “Fearless Courses” led by multidisciplinary teams of faculty who teach students to attack tough problems through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Learn more about the program and read about the Fearless Courses.