Higher Education Global Evidence Summit: Lightning Talk Sessions - Innovation
Enhancing HEI Teaching and Learning To Promote Research and Innovation
- Gordon Adomdza, Associate Professor, Ashesi University
- Kendra Leith, Associate Director of Research, MIT D-Lab
Research is central to the mission of higher education institutions (HEIs). However, research can be disrespectful, irrelevant, and not actionable (Leith & McCreless, 2019). Researchers often neglect to place the user at the center of the work or employ a lean data collection and dissemination process. This talk highlighted a case at Ashesi University in Berekuso, Ghana, where university students were banned in 2014 from coming into the nearby town to conduct research with the same families who had previously been burdened with participating in data collection but not being informed of the study results. Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab sought to address this ineffective and intrusive research problem with vulnerable communities as part of the NEXTi2i project under USAID’s Accelerating Local Potential Program. The team addressed these challenges by teaching students, entrepreneurs, and practitioners about the Lean Research approach, emphasizing relevance, rigor, right-sizing, and respect in research.
Mental Health Capacity Building in Higher Education
- Adam Brown, Associate Professor and Vice Provost for Research, New School for Social Research
Mental health is an important issue facing higher education students globally. Higher education institutions have witnessed a sharp rise in students’ mental health concerns, placing significant strain on services. In many cases, the rates of mental health issues far outpace the availability of services. In response to similar challenges at the New School, the Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab currently partners with Student Health Services to adapt and deliver a brief psychosocial intervention. Problem Management Plus (PM+) builds capacity for mental healthcare for students experiencing mild to moderate levels of distress. This session explored how evidence-based capacity-building strategies can be used to increase the availability and accessibility of psychosocial support. In particular, this talk presented systems that integrate into existing education structures to provide educators and staff with sustainable models of mental health support.
Lessons Learned in Incentivizing Academics To Participate in USAID-Funded Research
- Gabriela Alcaraz, Research Director, NORC at the University of Chicago, Research Technical Assistance Center
- Sutherland Miller III, Project Director, NORC at the University of Chicago, Research Technical Assistance Center
Increasing the participation of the academic community to contribute to actionable government-funded research is a challenge that requires understanding and managing incentives and expectations. While many USAID-funded activities may not directly contribute to the core academic incentive of generating publications that lead to tenure, the Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) experience demonstrates that there are other ways to incentivize faculty and student researchers to participate in conducting evidence-based research. These incentives include financial compensation but also non-monetary enticements. The presenters discussed some of the barriers to engaging academics in implementing USAID-funded research and technical assistance and some of the incentives used to create a global network of researchers interested in implementing USAID work.
Coaching as a Tool for Success in Higher Education
- Cait Goddard, Capacity Development and Design Thinking Specialist, Michigan State University
- Sera Gondwe, Lecturer and Business Economist, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources
During this talk, the presenters suggested how to support innovation within higher education institutions via implementing a coaching program, through a case study example of a coaching program for the Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Innovation Scholars Program (ISP). Informed by data collected from previous ISPs working with Malawian universities and data from the current iteration with CAES in its second year, they explored the dramatic shifts that higher education must undergo to address both pressing challenges and take advantage of technological opportunities . This includes a literature review, individual coach interviews, and monthly coaches’ surveys and group meetings. The presenters highlighted best practices and practical takeaways on developing, implementing, and evaluating an effective higher education coaching model, addressing specific challenges that include bringing innovative practices into traditional education systems.
Teaching Human-Centered Design to Kenyan Computer Science Students
- Susan Wyche, Associate Professor, Michigan State University
Digital technologies are transforming Kenya, but few Kenyan-born software developers play a significant role in building these technologies. Kenyans should be developing technical solutions to their country’s problems. One way to achieve this is by providing these students with the skills needed to design digital solutions that respond to local people’s needs. However, universities’ computer science programs tend to prioritize developing students’ technical skills over human-centered design approaches. This creative, interdisciplinary, and iterative process places humans at the center of technology development and increasingly develops innovative technologies. The presenter developed and implemented a short course that introduces Kenyan students to huEman-centered design to address this problem. In this lightning talk, the presenter discussed her experiences teaching this course. Her observations suggest that the course encourages students to collaborate with students from other disciplines to imagine novel technical solutions to their everyday problems.
Measurement of Capacity To Innovate Across Project Participants (During and Post-Project)
- William Heinrich, Director, Orbis Mindset
- Timothy Silberg, Outreach Specialist, Michigan State University
Project management teams are encouraged to assess their programs’ impact on higher education institutions (HEIs) post-funding. Teams must show evidence that participants possess a capacity (or rather competency) to apply research, engage local knowledge, and address local problems with innovative solutions. However, measuring “competency” to innovate is complex, requiring the collection of various artifacts across a project cycle, training of artifact reviewers, and conducting several review phases to analyze artifacts in two respects- cognition and application. This lightning talk presented a participatory process for measuring HEI contributions to innovation. Methods were installed to review various artifacts from project activities (e.g., field trip interviews, workshop diaries). The approach to collecting and assessing artifacts introduces practices that can be replicated across the international development arena. By the end of the presentation, attendees learned about a process to measure competencies for innovation and scales for measuring these competencies.