Connected learning in crisis settings
The University of Edinburgh is a key partner in the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC) - a collaborative effort of academic institutions and organisations focused on advancing the field of education in crisis settings – conflict, natural disasters, and displacement.
Addressing the challenges of crisis
The University has made a commitment to addressing global challenges related to education and connected learning in times of crisis.
Since 2022 when we joined the CLCC we have been playing a crucial role – we are actively engaging in research and projects working towards the consortium’s goals.
The aim is to develop and promote innovative approaches to learning and education that can be applied in challenging contexts. The focus is on leveraging technology, connectivity, and innovative teaching to provide quality education to individuals facing crisis situations.
The University of Edinburgh is committed to improving access to higher education for refugees and displaced communities by using our expertise in research, digital education, and holistic support for refugee learners through various University projects and initiatives. We understand the importance in working in partnership to achieve these goals and have already learnt so much from our engagement with the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC) – including participating in a bi-annual meeting in Copenhagen where members of the consortium reflected on new ideas and inputs to drive the CLCC forwards. The next few years continue to provide an opportunity for collaboration and alignment with wider global movements, and we will continue to play an active role in this work.
Ambition for ‘15 by 30’
This ambitious target is part of UNHCR's efforts to address the global education gap among refugees, as higher education opportunities for displaced individuals have historically been limited – achieving 15% enrolment of refugee learners in higher education by 2030.
The University of Edinburgh is playing a leading role in building the evidence base for refugee education and action; looking at the conditions in 12 pilot countries (Cameroon, Chad, Ecuador, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, and Zambia) that may enable or inhibit pathways to greater numbers of refugees entering higher education; designed to understand the impacts of connected HE programmes for refugees on labour market outcomes, community engagement and social outcomes.
We invited Michael Gallagher, Centre for Research in Digital Education, to tell us more about the work of the Edinburgh-based research team, which includes Andie Reynolds, Georgia Cole, Ian Russell, Sarah Austin, Ozlem Kocyigit, and Lindsey Horner.
What does Edinburgh’s membership in CLCC mean for this area of research?
“Although a relatively recent member of CLCC, we have enjoyed a good relationship with members of CLCC and UNHCR for quite some time now, due to past work on refugee inclusion in higher education.
What our membership does, I believe, is to signal to the institutional network around refugee education that the University is fully engaged in helping meet the ambitious targets of 15 by 30
It opens collaborations and possible partnerships to realise all of this. At the same time, it helps reinforce internally at the university our long history with this work and encourages, hopefully, more institutional transformation to accommodate refugee students more fully.”
What impact do you think the research will have in HE?
“I think anyone in this space will quickly realise that while there are certainly patterns in the barriers that refugees experience when trying to access HE (economic, social, linguistic, cultural, legal, administrative, and increasingly technological barriers all intersecting to create stacks of disadvantage), the way forward must reflect the diversity of the contexts that this research is presenting.
Universities, and larger regional networks of universities, will need to identify what works for them, move assertively on that conviction, and engage non-educational actors in the process. So, if this research lends itself even a wee bit to that undertaking, that is enough.”
If there was one thing you’d like people to know about the work, what would it be?
“I think there is perhaps a natural tendency to 'other' this work. That is happening over there, in a place where I have little emotional investment or semblance of agency. But, unfortunately, forced displacement is a hallmark of our age, one that is set to accelerate in the wake of political and environmental instability, one that is and will be everywhere.
It is important that we get this right, that we learn to adapt our institutions to respond to this crisis.
I am biased in this respect representing as I do Moray House, but education is the vehicle for seeing that adaptation most fully realised. It is a vehicle for seeing our most marginalised become fully contributing members of our society and to combat the fear (from others) that can stunt that contribution. So, I would like people to know that this work is happening, that it can use everyone's help, and that universities have a strong role to play in all of this.”
Celebrating our combined efforts
With ambitious targets set, and Michael and the team’s vital research in progress, there are already positive impacts to celebrate.
The 2022 CLCC yearbook highlights digital education provision and other influential contributions from across the consortium.
Edinburgh’s commitment to improving access is featured in the yearbook - the Foundations for All project, student and staff led initiatives, our work with the Council for At Risk Academics (Cara), the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, our research contributions, and cross-university strategy.
- STAR - Connects students with opportunities to campaign, fundraise and volunteer on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
- Chaplaincy – Contributes a range of services and initiatives for refugees and in response to refugee crises.
- Syrian Futures – Works in and beyond the University to help Syrian students connect with higher education and employment opportunities.
- English Language Education Team – Works closely with refugee students and have expertise in trauma informed pedagogy.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program (MCFSP) is the largest education and leadership program of its kind, enabling young people, primarily in Africa, to pursue quality education and transition smoothly to impactful and fulfilling work, with transformative outcomes.
In 2023, the University will lead discussions to highlight the critical role higher education institutions can play in ensuring refugee inclusion. Through the University’s Refugee and At-Risk Advisory Group, we are strengthening our cross-University strategy for supporting displaced learners across professional and academic services.
The work of CLCC is clearly vital to advance the education sector’s responses to crises.
The University remains committed to contributing to the research and initiatives that will ultimately impact the opportunities available to young people in challenging situations.
Although there is obviously more work to be done to achieve the ambitious and worthwhile aims, it’s evident that within our community there is already motivation, incentive, action, and progress.
Can you contribute to connected learning?
Michael Gallagher, Dr Koula Charitonos (Institute of Educational Technology, Open University), and Dr Rovincer Najjuma (Department of Foundations & Curriculum Studies, Makerere Univeristy) are editing a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, to explore connected learning provision in HE in emergency settings, and in resettlement and asylum contexts.
Academics and practitioners are invited to submit papers on ‘Connected Learning in Contexts of Forced Displacement’ for a special edition the Journal of Interactive Media in Education.
The deadline for abstract submissions is 1 September 2023.
Contact us to discuss the role you could play in advancing connected learning.
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