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British Council INTERLINKS UK-Kazakhstan Small Grants Scheme for Trans-National Education Strategy Design

The University of Reading is partnered with the Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU), a longstanding partner of Henley Business School's Centre of Euro-Asian Studies who also collaborated on the British Council's Creative Spark project. The overall goal of the INTERLINKS project are to determine the factors behind the acceptance academic staff and students may or may not have towards digital teaching and learning. The aim is then to adopt a consultation, dissemination and capacity building approach to convert this knowledge to best practice for the widest benefit and reduce the accessibility gap for high quality digital education.

The digitalisation of education has been raised for a long time, especially since the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the economy. However, this process is proceeding at a slow pace. Though the strategy of most universities indicates the goals of digitalisation, implementation of real actions requires findings about the perception of digital technologies in education from the teachers and students.

The enormous growth of digital learning in educational institutions, particularly in the higher education sector, has prompted many universities worldwide to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees with teaching and learning elements that occur across distances and not in a traditional classroom. This shift in strategy was compounded by the sudden transition to online learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which opened new opportunities for transnational learning, delivered across countries.

Given that both the University of Reading and KBTU are delivering education programs and facing similar challenges, the project will drive joint research in this area by collecting data in both the UK and Kazakhstan and providing recommendations on how to improve the implementation of digital technologies for university management and faculty. The experience of foreign universities that have already implemented digital technologies in teaching is crucial to help develop this understanding, whilst partners in countries like Kazakhstan can benefit from the expertise and best practices of top-ranking international partners from the countries that are world-leaders in education, such as the UK.

Through developing the understanding of how the digitalisation of education can be improved, this project will create a foundation for the development of a transnational educational tool. Future projects will advance teaching delivery models, allowing students to participate in lectures online, develop online learning materials etc. These outcomes will be reported on in policy suggestions for the Ministry of Education and contribute to the successful implementation of digital learning within higher education institutions.