The Municipality of Vejle now has a university. The first 50 students have signed up - mostly of them from Vejle, but students from other municipalities have also signed-up. Smart University Vejle addresses the growing need for knowledge and skills in the municipality.
Smart University Vejle is not a university in the traditional sense. Why build a university when you already have the necessary facilities? Why not take advantage of the fact that college education can also take place on the web? The university invites researchers and provides the research environments so they can study how to teach workers so they can be equipped to develop the municipality's different disciplines. The research environment offers good opportunities for researching the issues covered by Vejle's strategic initiatives and where such environments are internationally renowned.
Aalborg University's ForskningsLab: IT and Learning Design (ILD, Research Laboratory,: ICT & Design) which provided modules in M.A. in ICT and Learning. Last spring, the ILD completed its research project, "Pads in a school in Motion - My first days with the iPad," University College Little Belt, which has some of the country's foremost teaching aid researchers cooperated with ILD on the teaching of the masters modules.
The university is also in discussion with the Aarhus University for possible cooperation on education and research in other areas in the municipality.
A rapid developing field
Smart university, in cooperation with Aalborg University's (AU) ForskningsLab: IT and Learning Design (ILD, Research Laboratory, ICT & Design) offers modules in Masters in ICT and Learning for schools in Vejle.
Schools need to educate teachers that can function as "Digital Leaders" who can inspire colleagues on how ICT can be used in teaching subjects at the primary schools. AU's masters program has modules that address these subjects, including Danish and mathematics. The modules provide for 3 days of face to face lessons; the rest is done online (i.e., teaching, group work, tutorials).
Last February, Smart University offered the initial module in ICT, educational design and Danish. Another module - focusing on mathematics - has, since, been added. Aside from the Learning Lab at the municipality, the Vejle Library also provides facilities for the course. The library is essential for the continued development of Smart University Vejle as it offers ample space for teaching, a library guide, study areas, meeting rooms and video conference rooms.
At present, the university has 50 students. The students are close to their home, and they meet colleagues and form networks across schools. The modules' design takes into consideration the teachers' actual practice.
The collaboration with ILD supports the ambitious strategy Vejle Municipality's Child and Family Committee adopted in 2011 that aims to ensure the educational development of schools in ICT. The strategy is also in consonance with the Digitalization in Primary Schools strategy adapted by the Leagues of Danish Municipalities (KL).
A university in Denmark's sixth largest municipality
Danish (and foreign) universities are interested in cooperating with relevant institutions that can help universities cope with the increasing demand for university education. Vejle Municipality is such an institution - 6 largest municipality in Denmark.
It may prove to be not just good business for universities, but also an opportunity to develop amid the landscape of increasingly varied university forms. The emerging picture is one of three university types:
- The traditional (physical) university
- The virtual university (full online training, guidance, etc)
- The hybrid university (different mixtures of physical and online training)
Vejle Municipality takes the best of these three and blends them into a fourth university form:
- The smart/intelligent university (with reference to the concept of "smart city")
"Smart University" is the smart or intelligent way of establishing future universities. It is the blending of the traditional and the virtual universities in a hybrid form - targeting not only new ways of educating, but also targets new, strategic development of knowledge and skills in the community that a municipality represents.
Industry & Smart University Vejle
Smart University Vejle will naturally approach business and citizens. Smart University Vejle will increase the skills and knowledge in a municipality that must constantly evolve to remain competitive - specifically in relocation and retention of business and labor. Here, a university would both create attraction and retention through valuable knowledge and skills.
Smart University Vejle has so far been a partnership between the municipality's Child and Youth Division, VIFIN and the Vejle Library. It is part of Vejle's overall Smart City strategy.