Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the National Agency. Neither the European Union nor National Agency can be held responsible for them.

In today's rapidly evolving world, the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth knows no age limit. While the traditional image of a college student may conjure up images of fresh-faced youngsters, there is a growing trend of mature students returning to higher education. These individuals, with their unique life experiences and perspectives, bring a wealth of benefits to the academic environment. In this blog post, we will explore the numerous advantages of returning to higher education as a mature student and why it's never too late to embark on a transformative educational journey.

Valuable Life Experiences
One of the primary advantages mature students bring to the table is their rich tapestry of life experiences. These experiences encompass diverse personal and professional backgrounds, which enhance classroom discussions and provide unique perspectives that enrich the learning environment. Mature students often approach their studies with a heightened sense of focus and purpose, leveraging their experiences to delve deeper into their chosen field of study.

Enhanced Motivation and Determination
Returning to higher education as a mature student is a conscious decision driven by personal goals and aspirations. Mature students often exhibit a heightened level of motivation and determination, recognizing the value of education and its potential to open new doors and create meaningful opportunities. Their commitment to personal growth serves as an inspiration to fellow students, fostering a culture of dedication and perseverance within the academic community.

Expanded Networks and Collaborative Learning
Higher education provides an ideal platform for networking and building valuable connections. Mature students, with their established professional networks and life experiences, contribute to a vibrant and diverse community of learners. Collaborative learning benefits from the unique perspectives and insights brought by mature students, leading to enriched discussions, innovative problem-solving, and a broader understanding of complex topics.

Bridging the Generation Gap
The intergenerational dynamic that mature students introduce to the classroom creates a bridge between different age groups. By engaging in dialogue and exchanging ideas with younger students, mature learners foster mutual understanding and break down stereotypes, nurturing a sense of generational solidarity. This intergenerational exchange also equips younger students with valuable insights and wisdom, promoting a holistic and inclusive learning environment.

Personal Growth and Career Advancement
Returning to higher education as a mature student is an opportunity for personal growth and self-fulfillment. It allows individuals to explore new academic interests, hone existing skills, and gain specialized knowledge that can open doors to career advancement or transition. With their life experiences and newly acquired qualifications, mature students are well-positioned to excel in various professional arenas and pursue new career pathways.

Returning to higher education as a mature student offers a host of advantages, ranging from the rich tapestry of life experiences to enhanced motivation, collaborative learning, and personal growth. By embracing the transformative power of education, mature students contribute to the academic community in unique ways, enriching the learning environment for themselves and their peers. As we celebrate the diverse paths taken by learners of all ages, let us embrace the opportunities that higher education offers at any stage of life. It's never too late to embark on a journey of knowledge, growth, and personal fulfillment.

On 17th July, partners of the IDOL project convened virtually for an intensive full-day session to discuss the progress of the project and plan upcoming events. The agenda was packed with significant topics, including the refinement of the much-anticipated PR3 Hackathon guide.

Focus on the PR3 Hackathon Guide
The day's primary focus was the finalisation of the PR3 Hackathon guide, a collaborative effort led by EUEI and JGU. This guide is seen as a cornerstone for the upcoming series of hackathons, offering a comprehensive roadmap for organising these events. The discussion centered around the design and pilot testing of the guide, ensuring it meets the diverse needs of our higher education partners.

Plans for Upcoming Hackathon Events
Our higher education partners shared their excitement and detailed plans for hosting their own hackathon events. Utilising the IDOL hackathon guide, these events are poised to be a blend of innovation and practical learning. The partners discussed various logistics, including the structure of the events, potential topics, and the selection of prizes that would appeal to both higher education students and adult learners. The brainstorming session brought forth a plethora of ideas, reflecting the diversity and creativity inherent in our network.

Looking Ahead: Promoting IDOL Project Results
The meeting concluded with a forward-looking discussion on sharing and promoting the IDOL project results. Partners put forth strategies to reach our target audience effectively, ensuring the visibility and impact of our collaborative efforts. Plans were set in motion to achieve these goals, promising an exciting phase ahead for the IDOL project.

What is a Hackathon?
A hackathon is an event, often hosted by a university or a higher education institution, where students, sometimes along with professionals, come together to engage in collaborative computer programming. The term "hackathon" is a blend of the words 'hack' and 'marathon', where 'hack' is used in the sense of playful, exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning related to computer security.

Why are Hackathons Important in Universities?
Hackathons in educational settings serve several purposes:

Skill Development: They provide students a platform to apply their theoretical knowledge in practical situations, enhancing their programming, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.
Innovation and Creativity: These events encourage creativity and innovation, as students are often tasked with developing software solutions to real-world problems.
Networking: Students get the opportunity to interact with peers, faculty, and sometimes industry professionals, expanding their professional network.
Career Advancement: Participation in hackathons can be a valuable addition to a student's resume, showcasing their practical skills to potential employers.

How Do Hackathons Work?
Typically, a hackathon lasts from a day to a week. Participants form small groups and work on a project. The project can be anything related to software development, such as a mobile app, website, or a computer program. At the end of the event, teams present their work to a panel of judges or their peers, and winners may be declared in various categories.

In March 2023, the bustling city of Valencia, Spain, became a hub for e-learning innovation. It played host to the important IDOL  project meeting, held at the University of Valencia. Representatives from the European e-Learning Institute, Momentum, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, and FOLK University attended this key meeting.

The central focus of the meeting was the finalisation of the PR2 Toolkit, the result of collaborative efforts, this toolkit showcases the synergy of these esteemed institutions and their shared commitment to e-learning excellence.

Planning for the Hackathon Guide was another significant aspect of the meeting. A comprehensive workplan was outlined, setting the path for a resource aimed at fostering creativity and technical skills in the dynamic world of hackathons.

Not forgetting the Spanish charm, the partners took some time to immerse themselves in Valencia's vibrant culture. A tour of the Cultural Centre La Nau and a taste of delightful Spanish cuisine added a dash of cultural flavor to the professional meet.

In summary, the IDOL project meeting was a celebration of collaboration, innovation, and cultural exchange. It marked a milestone in the journey towards transforming the future of e-learning.

Social problems are complex, ill-defined, wicked problems. Finding effective ways to tackle and deal with them is often quite difficult. Because of that, organizations and practitioners recently started embracing design thinking as a preferred approach to address similar challenges. But what exactly is this design-driven approach, known with the name of “design thinking”?

Design Thinking: an overview
The term “design thinking” has gained momentum and popularity over the past decade. Although a unique definition is still missing, we can describe design thinking as a problem-solving process that brings design principles, methods and tools to fields afar from more traditional ones. As a matter of fact, design approaches have long been confined within the boundaries of architecture and engineering. However, such attitude turned potentially beneficial to other fields too, making design thinking a cross-industry, problem-solving methodology.

In its essence, design thinking is an iterative process that aims at “changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996). In her book “Designing for Growth”, Jeanne Liedtka describes design thinking as a four-step model corresponding to four basic questions:

  1. “What is?” phase, which explores current reality and seeks to gain a deep understanding of customers’ lives and struggles.
  2. “What if?” phase, which envisions opportunities and translates the insights collected into new possibilities to pursue.
  3. “What wows?” phase, during which the concepts previously developed are culled down to a manageable number. Here, designers create “low-fidelity” prototypes to rapidly test and improve their ideas.
  4. “What works?” phase, in which the product/service is actually launched and brought to the real world.

Design Thinking for social innovation
Now that we know what “design thinking” looks like, let’s go back to our starting point. As said, design thinking has been recently embraced to tackle social problems too. But why so? In an article written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tim Brown discussed the reasons why this approach can benefit the non-profit sector too.

For instance, DT tools such as journey mapping and field observation can provide practitioners with a faster, deeper and better understanding of specific issues people and communities are experiencing (“What is?” phase). Furthermore, design thinking relies on creativity as a generative force able to lead to disruptive solutions. In this sense, setting up interdisciplinary teams to brainstorm and envision wild, innovative ideas (“What if?” phase) can indeed help non-profit organizations avoid “restricting choices in favour of the obvious and the incremental “.

Also later phases of design thinking (“What wows?” and “What works?“) can bring significant benefits to social innovators. “Quick, cheap and dirty prototyping” can in fact solicit beneficiaries’ feedback early on, improving the overall problem-solving process. As a result, concrete action plans get conceived only for the best, validated ideas, which end up heading towards real-world implementation.

As we have seen, design thinking is a creative, problem-solving process originating from the application of design principles and tools afar from more traditional fields. In recent years, this methodology proved to be effective for both profit and non-profit organizations. As a matter of fact, design thinking allows social entrepreneurs and organizations gaining deeper understanding of social problems, unlocking innovative ideas and ultimately “creating better outcomes for organizations and the people they serve. “

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As the COVID-19 vaccine slowly makes its way across the world and we begin seeing a little light on the horizon, we need to think carefully about how we are going to emerge from these challenging times. This global event has slowed the world down, making it impossible for us to ignore the fractures and chasms in our systems, especially when it comes to the 1.2 billion youth in the world that have lost ground in their development.

We will be going through a global reset, and we should use this opportunity to engage youth as partners in rebuilding. It is time to not just hear their voices about the challenges they are facing, but also create an enabling environment for their leadership and contribution.

Unfortunately, we know that, in many low- and middle-income countries, youth are not as engaged as we would hope. The efforts to involve youth often result in tokenism. Youth are brought in after the fact to give a ceremonial blessing of a plan that was decided upon without them.

We heard words to this effect repeatedly from approximately 10,000 youth between 2015-2020. During this period, USAID’s YouthPower Learning and YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation conducted 17 country and regional assessments, identifying opportunities to advance youth development so that youth can effectively contribute to development objectives. We found that, while it was something youth wanted, they seldom had a true opportunity to meaningfully engage. As an Ethiopian youth participant in a focus group discussion put it, “We are usually called by the government official to listen to what they have already decided, and [they] simply consider our participation a decoration.

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By Cassandra Jessee, Director and Senior Advisor, International Center for Research on Women

Jakarta. The famous quote of Indonesia’s founding father Soekarno on youth's power was repeatedly heard on the first day of the Y20 Summit, which saw participation from many youth delegates from across the globe.

Opening speeches were making references to Soekarno's "give me 1,000 elders, I will undoubtedly rip Semeru from its root. Give me 10 youths and I will undoubtedly shake the world" in a bid to show how powerful youth can be as agents of change.

A fitting quote as dozens of young people of different nationalities will discuss pressing matters related to youth employment, digital transformation, sustainable and livable planet, as well as diversity and inclusion.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was among those who referenced one of Soekarno's famous quotes. The senior recited Soekarno's saying before the youth delegates as she kicked off the Y20 Summit at the Nusantara V building in Jakarta on Monday. According to Retno, the Y20 should promote the roles of youth as both agents of peace and change. The world is now home to 1.2 billion young people — all possess transformative capabilities that can provide immense contributions amidst global challenges.

“As future leaders, youth should take a bigger role in ensuring a peaceful, more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future. In today's globalized and interconnected world, this can only take place by fostering dialogue, building bridges, and not building walls," Retno told the Y20 delegates.

"Bridges that are based on diversity, made through collaborations, fortified by inclusion. These are the streams that keep the river of peace running," Retno said.

As change agents, youth must think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions for the various challenges that the world is facing today.

"Youth must invest on issues that will determine the fate of tomorrow such as health, digital transformation, energy transition," Retno said.

At the gala dinner later that day, Co-Chair Y20 Indonesia 2022 Budy Sugandi also made another reference to Soekarno's speech. "President Soekarno said ten youths would be able to shake the world. This room has more than a hundred young people, so nothing is impossible if we unite and join hand in hand with each other to make a better future," Budy said at the gala dinner.

The Y20 summit discussions will result in a Communiqué, a document of public policy recommendations which the youth delegates will present to the G20 leaders.

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The Global Alliance for YOUth, in partnership with Nestlé, HCLTech, Microsoft and Publicis, has opened today the registration for its first hackathon, Code4YOUth. Powered by the global technology company HCLTech, the hackathon aims to promote digital inclusion, spark creativity, and support young people develop digital skills.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there are currently 70 million young people unemployed around the world, and that number is still rising. "Young people are a source of inspiration and creativity. In a context of a digital revolution, it only makes sense to invite future generations to help us drive the development of innovative and inclusive solutions to achieve an equitable access to digital devices and the internet," said Laurent Freixe, Nestlé's CEO Zone Latin America and Chair of The Global Alliance for YOUth.

All hackathon participants will meet virtually and work collaboratively on solutions according to four different challenge tracks:

Participants will have a total of six weeks to develop a prototype and submit it to the jury panel. During the hackathon they will benefit from trainings and expert mentors from prominent universities, leading companies and start-ups, and international organizations, including IMD, the University of St. Gallen, Cambridge University, World Bank, Resilyou consultancy and NielsenIQ.

Winners will get the chance to share their ideas with top industry leaders, get the opportunity to go the annual technology conference Vivatech and to receive financial rewards from a prize pool of USD 25,000.

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