We are talking with David Rodriguez Gomez, Associate Professor at the Department of Applied Pedagogy at the UAB, researcher at the Center for Research and Studies for Organizational Development, doctor in "Quality and educational innovation processes" and a degree in Pedagogy from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.At the same time, he is also the founding father of our D-EMIND project, that aims at promoting digital entrepreneurial mindsets in HE. We are talking about challenge based learning, entreprenerial skills development, the unique aspects of the project and the benefits it is offering.

David Rodriguez Gomez

David, can you tell us how did you arrive to the D-EMIND project idea?

The initial idea for D-EMIND came about while working on an earlier European project called ForEMLink (https://www.foremlink.com/). The aim of ForEMLink was to enhance the entrepreneurial mindset and relationships between education institutions and other external actors. At that time (around 2019) the idea was to develop a methodology that, based on the foundations of design thinking, would fit into the curricular and organisational structure of higher education institutions.

A few months after starting the project, in March 2020, we entered the high alert and “lockdown phase” due to COVID-19 and all project planning, including face-to-face meetings between partners, was suspended. This forced us to slightly rethink the project and to assess the importance of being able to develop a similar proposal, but with the power of the DIGITAL SPHERE. That moment marked the birth of the D-EMIND project.


How would you describe challenge-based learning and what are its benefits compared to other ways of learning?

The development of future skills and competences in Higher Education, including entrepreneurship competences, necessarily implies rethinking the teaching methodologies used. This is where, for years, the so-called active learning methods have come into play.

Teaching based on active learning methods are student-centered teaching. These strategies promote self-regulated learning skills and emphasize that teaching should take place in the context of real-world problems or professional practice.

Challenge-based learning is one of those active learning methods and, obviously, shares characteristics with all the active learning methodologies (real-world approach, complexity, the role of teamwork or self-regulation, among others.

But there are some elements that allow us to differentiate Challenge-based learning from the other of active methodologies:

- the challenge in Challenge-based learning is open-ended and there is no model solution to be replicated.

- Both the outcome and the learning process itself are central to Challenge-based learning.

- Learning goes beyond the borders of the classroom (since external stakeholders are involved).


What would you say, in what ways is the project unique?

The project is highly innovative, as it proposes an online or digital approach to challenge-based learning (CBL) methodology, strategies, and tools for promoting entrepreneurial mindset in Higher Education, supporting co-creation among students, teachers, and external organisations (commercial and non-commercial). The project capitalizes the knowledge and good practices of previous projects undertaken by the 5 partner institutions involved and benefits from the complementarity expertise between them, as the project will come up with activities which complement previous and current actions. For the moment all HEI partner adopt different tools to deliver on-site curricula linked to entrepreneurship and, as we will see in the next section, has experience working, teaching and researching about topics directly related to CBL and/or entrepreneurship (e.g., change management, innovation, knowledge management, communities of practice, creativity, co-creation, start-ups). D-EMIND will complement this by bringing stakeholders in the partner institutions – external organisations, teachers, and students – together to create a common online methodology and digital toolbox. An innovative feature of this will be that the methodology and toolbox will be the product of a co-creation process involving all three target groups. This will have a transformative effect in how entrepreneurship education is delivered to students.

Whilst various methods and tools exist, COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need to rethink and “recreate” them for online environments. The new digital approach and tools to be developed will provide a digital space in which companies across the five partner countries may upload real-life practical problems which HE students in all five countries will be able to access and tackle in national or transnational teams. The methodology to be developed, using CBL and cocreation approaches, will support, manage, and sustain this process. The D-EMIND results and, in particular, the Digital Toolbox and Platform will be open access and negate the impact of national frontiers in the matchmaking process. It will not be sector specific and therefore will be usable by students from different academic and vocational disciplines. The common feature will be that the platform focuses on developing entrepreneurial mindsets, regardless of vocation or academic interest. In developing the project’s outputs the partners will extract valuable learning from other initiatives like the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework and EU projects focus on on-site entrepreneurship (e.g., GETM3, INTRINSIC or BEYONDLIMITS, among others).


Who can benefit from the project and how?

The D-EMIND project expect to produce beneficial impact at the local, regional, national, European and/or international levels.

At LOCAL, NATIONAL/REGIONAL levels and - to some extent – EUROPEAN/INTERNATIONAL levels, the D-EMIND Methodology and Self-Assessment tool (PR1) will expand the range of approaches available to educators in the field of entrepreneurial education in higher education. However, it will, also, offer something distinctive and innovative that has practical as well as theoretical learning embedded within it.

At LOCAL and NATIONAL/REGIONAL levels, the D-EMIND Toolbox and Platform (PR2) will make a direct contribution to entrepreneurial education resources in higher education, offering teachers and HEIs a Digital Toolbox and a platform via which meaningful and mutually beneficial engagement with external organisations can be initiated and sustained. It will also offer students in higher education a mechanism for participating in real-life challenge-based learning.

At NATIONAL/REGIONAL levels and - to some extent – EUROPEAN/INTERNATIONAL levels, the DEMIND Training pack (PR3) and MOOCs will not only describe a means by which HEIs and others might adopt a more pro-active means of engaging with external organisations and demonstrating the value of higher education, but also will demonstrate that working transnationally in a co-creative context is not as difficult as it may seem and may encourage greater interdisciplinary work in co-creation and entrepreneurial education.

Additional impact at EUROPEAN/INTERNATIONAL level is likely to be manifest in the fact that projects, such as D-EMIND, contribute to raising awareness of the significance of entrepreneurial competence in Member States’ economies and in the European economy.


How can one join the D-EMINDER community?

Although we are still working on our platform you can follow us in any of our social networks (https://www.facebook.com/demindproject ; https://www.instagram.com/demindproject/; https://www.linkedin.com/groups/9242594/) and as soon as we open our platform we will invite you to join us and “change the world through challenge-based learning”.