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2.1 Introduction

There are four main elements in the CEPHEI Project: leading the development of innovation in industry; building connections between universities and industry; taking a digital approach to education; and providing a freemium model of education.

2.2 Innovations in Industry

Innovation gives nations a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. It is a route to economic growth, as it leads to the creation and transformation of new knowledge into new products, services or processes that meet the needs of the market. It also enables companies to cut costs through downsizing or re-engineering, thus leading to higher profits and greater revenue. Innovation is at the heart of growth for business and industry; when businesses grow, employment opportunities grow. This leads to an increase in personal income which supports an increase in the well-being of individuals and to the progress of society. Innovative new products and processes also meet the changing needs of populations. This leads to better standards of living. Without innovating, nations will start to lag behind. Thus, the development of courses in innovation is at the heart of the CEPHEI project.

2.3 Links between Universities and Industry

At the core of the CEPHEI Project is the aim to link universities to industry. Linking universities to industry brings many advantages. Mutually beneficial links between universities and industries can support students in acquiring the skills and knowledge they need for the workplace. Furthermore, linking with industries provides many benefits such as: research into commercially viable products or processes; increased prestige; profit through royalties; shifting the responsibility and cost of in-house training from industries to universities; providing authentic experiences; preparing students for the corporate world; increasing the employability of a university’s graduates; and creating a talent pathway between universities and companies. Such a connection also enables universities to gather information on the skills and competencies that industries currently require and incorporate these into degree and course outcomes. Moreover, industry internships and mentorships can be set up. Therefore, universities that place the needs of industries at the heart of their educational programmes will create mutual benefits, for both students and industries, through connections and hiring pathways. This is one of the main aims of the CEPHEI Project.

2.4 A Learner-centred Digital Learning Approach

CEPHEI believes that the best educational approach for today’s students is a learner-centred, active learning approach supported by digital or blended learning. Active learning involves actively engaging learners in the learning process by getting them to undertake meaningful learning activities and to think about what they are doing. It places a greater degree of responsibility on the learner and promotes higher-order thinking skills. Blended learning involves the practice of using both online and face-to-face learning experiences for students. In a blended learning model, students access online educational content outside the classroom on a learning platform as well as attending a class led by an instructor. The online component may include video-recorded lectures, live video, discussion boards, readings, quizzes and other digitally-enabled learning activities. The online components are used for information transfer. Then, in class (a real class space or a virtual class space) the instructor provides student-centred, active learning activities through which students put the information they have learnt into practice. Practice activities often include authentic projects, experiments, designs and presentations. Thus, while technology plays a major role in blended learning, at the heart of blended learning is active learning – learning by doing. The blended learning approach aims to reduce time spent on information transfer and to use the time that has been freed up to increase hands on, active learning in class. For these reasons, the CEPHEI Project takes a blended learning approach to education.

2.5 A Freemium Educational Model

The CEPHEI project believes that in order to meet their social responsibilities towards the democratization of education, universities should provide freemium models of education. A freemium business model allows a consumer to access basic services free of charge but requires them to pay for any additional services considered to be premium. For example, LinkedIn provides a basic service free of charge to all users, but charges extra for additional features. Freemium educational models provide educational content and fully online courses free of charge. On completion of the course, should they wish, individuals can pay for an accredited certificate as evidence of their learning. This is possible on the CEPHEI learning platform as there is open access to all course content without registration: https://iblnews.org/the-open-edx-platform-will-allow-to-access-course-content-without-registration/. Thus, the CEPHEI Project provides open access to a freemium version of its courses.

2.6 Conclusion

To meet the needs of today’s students, industries and societies, the CEPHEI Project brings together four major elements: innovations in industry; links between universities and industry; a blended learning approach; and a freemium model of education. How each of these elements comes together is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Inputs and Outputs of the CEPHEI Project