Education in the world today is faced with numerous challenges, some of which are generated by the 5th technological revolution, which is rapidly changing the industrial and social face of the modern world. Rapid changes present a special challenge to the education system, and especially higher education, which provides the necessary knowledge and skills for future experts on whom the prosperity of the human community depends. In this context, the education in STEM field is under special pressure to keep up with rapid technological changes and provide students with adequate knowledge and skills. Keeping in mind that education of new specialists takes three to six years, curricula modernization processes also require time, and securing financial resources for access to cutting-edge technologies is a constant challenge, coping with technology modernization is an impossible mission for many universities. The above-mentioned situation brings higher education, especially in countries with weaker economic power, to a position of constant delay in the modernization of study programs, especially in the practical part of teaching, that is, the acquisition of skills.
Recognizing the limitations and challenges faced by universities in the regions of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, an idea was formed to ensure the modernization of study programs in step with the progress of technology and deliver experts to the business and society who will be better prepared for work in the real sector and contribute to society development. The idea transformed into a model is based on the strengthening of cooperation between the business and academic sectors, the active involvement of business entities in the teaching process, adaptation of teaching content, especially in the practical part, with cases from business practice and the solving them implementing problem-based learning. On these bases, a consortium of partner universities and companies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova and Montenegro and program universities and companies from Belgium, Germany, Serbia and Criatia was formed, which applied to the Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education call in 2019 with the proposal of the GEOBIZ project, which has been accepted for implementation.
The establishment of an active model of business-academic cooperation in higher education, based on examples from the economy translated into the practical part of technologically advanced subjects for the solution of which the model of problem-based learning will be applied, represents a major task. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic at the very beginning of the project realization, this task became even more complex. Nevertheless, GEOBIZ consortia managed even in those demanding circumstances to perform and fulfil set targets. The structure of consortia, involving, beside universities also three geoinformatics companies visibly contributed, together with intensive trainings and project meetings, to better problem understanding and cooperation model development. Recognizing importance of business-academic cooperation for modern higher education in technology driven GEOBIZ consortia has conducted additional activities towards strengthening and expanding this cooperation resulting with 24 business cases transferred into practical parts of new or modernized courses which have been introduced in 28 courses at partner universities, cooperation established between 47 companies and 9 partner universities.
In order to present the project results, above all the development and implementation of the business- academic model and modernization of study content based on the established cooperation, in this publication we tried to present the project activities and their outcomes. Partly through a brief review of certain key activities, and partly through examples of how the model of business-academic cooperation was implemented. Contributions in this publication present the effects of the implemented cooperation on the modernization of the partners curriculum, how new contents were implemented in the partner universities study programs, and how the cooperation between companies and universities was executed.
We believe that our experiences can also serve other academic institutions in modernizing their study programs and strengthening cooperation with stakeholders, whether economic or public entities. Therefore, individual reports, business cases elaborated into practical exercises, i.e. course contents are available to everyone in the established repository via the project’s website https://geobiz.eu.