The PBLMD project at its finish

For 4 years, 6 universities from the Republic of Moldova have coagulated their efforts, collaborating as partners in the ambitious project “Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Toward Enhancing Students’ Competitiveness and Employability” (PBLMD), funded with the European Union support under the Erasmus+ program.

After the 4 years of project implementation, the consortium of the 6 partner universities – Technical University of Moldova (UTM), State University of Moldova (USM), State University “Alecu Russo” from Balti (USARB), State University from Cahul (USC), the State University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Nicolae Testemițanu” (USMF) and the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (ASEM), met on October 2nd, the team leaders presenting their final reports in front of the external evaluators.

The biggest accomplishment of this project consisted in the re-design of 6 higher degree programs according to a new concept at the most requested specialties offered by the universities of the Republic of Moldova by introducing innovative teaching-learning methodologies based on problem solving, according to the PBL model – Problem Based Learning: “Software Engineering” (UTM), “Law” (USM), “Business Administration” (ASEM), “BA in Public Health” (USMF), “Entrepreneurship and Business Administration” (USC), “Public Administration” (USARB), mentioned the national coordinator of the project, prof. Larisa BUGAIAN, vice-rector for Financial Affairs and International Relations, UTM.

The new programs of university studies are implemented from September 1, 2017. The students benefit from modern methods of teaching-learning mainly in the foreign language (English), and, starting with the second year of studies, of academic mobility at the partner institutions in the EU.

“- This project represents an innovative model of reconceptualizing higher education through teaching methods based on problem solving. Real problems that cause the minds of young people to launch into projects, discover solutions, give them the chance to feel useful even as students and give them the confidence that they will be able to work and will have the opportunity to prove themselves, to develop their skills and abilities” said Elena BELEI, secretary of state in the field of research, Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, recalling that “the 6 programs open for change are now at the threshold of evaluation. The question is whether our national standards are the engine that will further develop these great achievements. The concern of the MECC and ANACEC is to take into account the expansion of those interested in implementing the new teaching methods, so that they can be accredited. Our vector further is to encourage these initiatives, to further legislate and implement these new teaching-learning methods.”

“- For UTM and for me personally, this project has become one of the heart,” stressed the prof. Viorel BOSTAN, rector of UTM, institutional coordinator of the project. “Four years ago, when discussing this opportunity, as the director of the Anglophone Branch, I enthusiastically accepted that the program of the “Software Engineering” branch, one of the most successful in UTM, to become a platform for implementing the new PBL methods of teaching, through which we can experience this new vision of education. It was a right decision. If in the previous years the admissions to this program were of 25-30 students, the number increased to 88 in the current year, and more than 300 students remained, unfortunately, over the admission line. I am also proud of the fact that in the discussions with the representatives of the largest companies in the IT industry from us, meetings that we organize constantly every few months, I have the honor to receive thanks for the students prepared for this specialty, they are excellent both within the internship, as well as in various other activities. I will emphasize with satisfaction the quality leap in the preparation of our students, a leap that is also due to the interest that these proactive students show in curricular and extracurricular activities. For example, the first question they asked when they stepped into the threshold of the company that accepted them to the internship was: “Maybe you have a problem that we could solve?”, thus impressing the employers with the courage and confidence that they can face the problems and challenges in the field even if they are still students. Moreover, those students were also involved in solving several problems in the company and were accepted in some of its perspective projects.”

Rector Viorel BOSTAN also specified that PBL means not only training and content change, but also adequate infrastructure, collaborative spaces. “A joyous occasion for the implementation of this project is also the fact that I understood the need to change the learning spaces and made the necessary investments in infrastructure. These changes have attracted the attention of teachers and other study programs that have requested the extension of renovations in their areas of activity. Thus, we had a very effective lever to motivate them to accept and promote change, new content and modern learning methods. Today, we already have over 10 rooms – collaborative spaces for various study programs. After the completion of this project we will ask the teachers involved to simulate the dissemination of the experience gained in this project to other study programs and faculties and therefore to extend the application of PBL throughout the university, in order to become more attractive, more requested and thus contribute to the diminishing of the phenomenon of migration of our young people to universities abroad, creating the necessary conditions here, at home.”

The representatives of the 6 university teams and the European experts reported the results obtained within the project, especially regarding the implementation of the operational plans, the project management, the evaluation of the programs in force, the elaboration and approval of the new programs, the exchange of experience and the dissemination of the obtained results, the mobility stages carried out by students and the teaching staff, strengthening the technical-material base, developing teaching-learning methods, ensuring the sustainability of the project.

The UTM team report was presented by the associate professor, dr. Dumitru CIORBĂ, dean of the Faculty of Computers, Informatics and Microelectronics, who wanted to thank the team members for the effort and dedication they have shown – first of all, the rector Viorel BOSTAN and to the vice-rector Larisa BUGAIAN – the key people in this project, as well as the FCIM professors, dr. Irina COJUHARI, head of the AI ​​program; lect. Mariana CATRUC; lect. Elena GOGOI, head of IS / FAF program, responsible for internationalization; lect. Rostislav CĂLIN and many others. He proudly mentioned that the project attracted many students, their number varying from year to year, now reaching 83, who, despite the fierce competition with the universities in the West and in Romania, chose the PBL program from FCIM. However, this choice opened up the opportunity for them to move into EU partner universities, such as the University of Gloucestershire, part of the consortium of European universities, along with Aalborg Universitet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Siegen University, which shared their experience and problem-based teaching methods within the Erasmus+ PBLMD project.

Dr. Romeo ŢURCANU, associate professor at the University of Aalborg, Denmark, the main coordinator of the PBLMD project, mentioned that all the 6 teams involved in the project achieved more than initially planned, each institution choosing an innovative pilot project for the implementation of the study programs based on PBL problems. Therefore, in addition to the successes achieved at the chosen program level, this project will serve as support to the international institutional accreditation.

John E. REILLY, external quality auditor, UK, highly appreciated the activity of the 6 university teams, emphasizing that each institution had mentors from European universities and that it came with continuous positive feedback for 4 years. The European official found that the presentations of the universities in the consortium show that the project was very useful: “Obviously, as in any project, you set realistic goals, but we find that for 4 years, it was more successful than planned and that the benefits of the project have a bigger impact than expected.”

PBLMD is a national project that was launched on October 15, 2015. It was implemented with the aim of improving the quality of teaching and learning methodologies and of higher education programs in the Republic of Moldova. The total budget of the project was € 1,544,760, of which € 657,275 were provided for the mobility of students and teachers. In total, during the 4 years of implementation, 34 students and 101 teachers benefited from academic mobility.

The PBLMD project is implemented with the support of the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.

More information about PBLMD can be found at  www.pblmd.aau.dk and https://www.facebook.com/pblmd.erasmusplus/ and the PBLMD UTM page https://proiecte.utm.md/pblmd/