Aims and objectives of OPTIMA Project

Project aim
In general, our proposal aims at improving the quality of higher education in Ukraine by increasing the level of academic integrity through bringing open practices and transparency to relevant content and services, as well as through modernisation and internationalization of Ukrainian HEIs. We consider introducing open practices as a quality assurance process and its means (IT solutions and international virtual community) as a quality assurance mechanism.

The project includes 3 specific objectives:

1. Introducing a new quality assurance mechanism – online open peer review platform for transparent research results evaluation at academic conferences in Ukrainian HEIs

Transparent and bias-free peer review of academic and scientific materials is an essential part of open and transparent research and education. Development of an online resource for the implementation of open peer review for scientific materials will promote open principles and practices among Ukrainian students, academic staff, researchers and librarians. Engaging Ukrainian academic conferences of early-career researchers in different scientific areas and their mentoring will help to provide a fair and transparent selection of materials for the conferences with the common principles of academic integrity. It is expected to involve at least ten different academic conferences for mentorship and support for their activities. Organizers of academic and scientific meetings will get a very useful tool and strong motivation for the modernization of such meetings’ information management. Open peer review is the current practice of many EU conferences, journals and publication systems, and it will be good to implement it in Ukraine as well - at national and international conferences. It should also be the first step for the creation of a virtual community of professional scientists which adhere to the open science principles.

2. Foster EU-Ukrainian cooperation and internationalization of Ukrainian HEIs by building an international online virtual community of peer reviewers and researchers within the online peer review platform

The virtual community of the National web platform will improve the international cooperation of European and Ukrainian HEIs. Its growth will enhance the culture of academic integrity in Ukraine and will embed innovative best practices and experiences in educational processes in Ukraine.

3. Raising awareness on academic integrity and Open Science, improvement of open practices and Open Science skills at Ukrainian HEIs and society at large through implementation of new subjects on open practices within modernised academic courses and open online course

Academic integrity is the foundation of any educational or scientific institution. However, open science principles aren’t widely known in Ukraine, even though they are essential in the academic integrity culture. Creation of such culture through updating the existing educational courses with innovative subjects, interactive content and learning ICT tools with simultaneous improvement of competencies and skills of students are the points for long-term popularization of the open principles. Modernization and updating of existing courses, instead of the creation of new ones, will allow the introduction of the necessary study subjects quickly and efficiently. Open Science skills are increasingly essential for students, PhD students, early career and already established researchers etc. Embedding Open Science in Master and PhD programmes will positively influence the development of their research careers. Basic Open Science principles integrated in selected academic subjects will help to create a more equitable academia and incentivise ethical behavior on the part of researchers. In addition, it will advance the professional qualification of academic and laboratory staff.

The open principles are already widely known in the EU and it will be helpful to transfer experience of the EU experts. It also is going to help to enhance international cooperation between the EU and Ukrainian HEIs.

The project is fully consistent with the main goals and objectives of the Capacity-Building in the Field of Higher Education program. Solving the specific tasks of the project - namely updating existing academic courses by introduction of specialized subjects on OS, promotion of OPR and mentoring during the organization and holding of scientific and educational events, the creation of a scientific virtual community, etc. - all of that will increase the transfer of knowledge, and contribute to modernization and innovation of educational process in HEIs of Ukraine.

Educational subjects of various thematic directions united by the common principles of OS, will improve the quality of education and broaden the outlook of young people who acquire academic degrees – a Master's degree and a PhD. These courses will be introduced for students of different specialties in various national HEI-partners of the project. The development and implementation of these courses should also increase the professional level of lecturers and support staff.

An open online course implemented on a professional platform will be an important step for promoting project ideas and improving the quality of education for people who do not have other access to educational materials, except via the Internet - especially concerning displaced students. Also, the online course is going to be an important tool for self-education and will promote innovative teaching methods and the use of ICT in the educational process.

Collaboration with educational and scientific events will expand the reach to ECRs and will promote the principles of OPR in the Ukrainian scientific community. At the same time, organizers of these events will get a mentoring and communications tool for establishing contacts as interacting with participants.

An OPR platform for supporting these academic events will be an important step in creating a virtual online community united by the principles of academic integrity. Creation of such specialized website with the necessary tools for running conferences from paper submission stage to peer review and publishing of conference materials will be attractive for academic conferences in various fields and thematic directions.

Use of ICT technologies, accessibility from any device, and the convenience of authorization, including through social networks, will allow the creation of a virtual community in Ukraine with the involvement of foreign scientists which should expand and enhance cooperation at the level of as universities as personal contacts.

Contacts with the global research community will promote the development of an open culture of and will create the basis for academic integrity. An additional advantage is that the project's main partners-universities are covering different regions of Ukraine - the West, the East, the North and, unfortunately, forced through the war - at present the Vasyl' Stus Donetsk National University represents Central Ukraine and temporarily displaced persons. Thus, the combination and exchange of experience in introducing updated academic courses among the staff of Ukrainian universities will be of great importance.

Within the framework of the project, professional academic courses will be created and will be available in the virtual learning environments of the partner universities, in which they will be taught: at LPNU, at SumDU, as well as at Vasyl' Stus DonNU. On top of that a professional online course will also be created, which will be available publicly for everyone interested on the specialized web-based platform “Examenarium”. This will facilitate the availability of educational materials and promote educational innovation for those who will not be able to access in-class teaching and training. Furthermore, LPNU and SumDU will get additional training from WUST focused on web content accessibility, especially regarding people with disabilities. The core of the project – OPR platform with virtual community of experts is intended to become an inclusive environment for everyone regardless of their physical, economic or cultural challenges.

The mentioned above is even more important as one of the project main target groups is still disadvantaged academic communities of displaced HEIs. These communities will be specifically approached by supporting of 6 their academic conferences and securing a quota for their representatives at multiplication event in Vinnytsia and OS Forum in Lviv. Vasyl’ Stus DonNU and associated partners will assure effective communication with the displaced HEIs.

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