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31.5.2024 Avtor objave: Sara K. Zver

HAWKING Project Pioneers Digital Transformation in Higher Education for Students with Disabilities in the Western Balkans

In a groundbreaking initiative inspired by the resilience of Dr. Steven Hawking, the HAWKING (Harvesting (digital) Alternation in Ways that Knock-down Inaccessibility of New Generations) project is set to revolutionize the landscape of higher education for individuals with disabilities in the Western Balkans. Led by the University of Montenegro, this three-year Erasmus+KA2 CBHE strand 2 project (2023-2026) aims to address the profound disparities faced by people with disabilities, particularly in terms of education and employment opportunities in the region.

The core focus of the HAWKING project is to promote digital transformation in higher education through a lens of social justice, emphasizing equality, equity, and accessibility for students with disabilities. By collaborating with higher education institutions and community organizations in a partnership involving 15 institutions, 7 beneficiary WB HEIs—University of Montenegro, the project coordinator and University Adriatic from Montenegro, University of Tuzla, Bijeljina University, and University of East Sarajevo from Bosnia and Herzegovina, University of Vlora “Ismail Qemali” and University of Korça “Fan S. Noli” from Albania, 5 EU and third country associated to the programme HEIs—University of Maribor, Slovenia, University of Konya, Turkey, University of Madeira, Portugal, Teacher Training and Business Informatics College – Sirmium, Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia, Western Balkans Institute/WEBIN, Serbia, University of Nicosia, Cyprus, and 2 NGOs from WB countries—Pedagogical Center of Montenegro and the Organization of Amputees/UDAS, Bosnia and Herzegovina, HAWKING seeks to enhance digital skills and inclusivity, thereby contributing to the economic and social development of these countries. The consortium consists of staff with diverse backgrounds in fields like natural sciences, mathematics, digital technologies, inclusive education, and social sciences to address project issues comprehensively. As such, the project focuses on establishing strong links between universities and communities through engagement with non-academic partners like schools and municipalities.

One of the primary objectives of the HAWKING project is to establish inclusive digital transition mechanisms from secondary to higher education, with a specific emphasis on students with disabilities at partner Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Additionally, the project aims to improve the institutional and infrastructural environment at partner HEIs to enhance inclusive teaching methodologies and bridge digitalization gaps in education and support provision.

Notably, the HAWKING project aligns with broader goals of promoting inclusive education, equality, and equity in higher education, with a specific focus on addressing gender gaps in digital literacy. By fostering cooperation among institutions and sharing best practices, HAWKING aims to overcome challenges such as limited access for students with disabilities in Western Balkans HEIs and the inequality in study assistance due to underutilization of digital tools and services.

Through six structured work packages, the HAWKING project will deliver concrete outcomes, including training sessions, workshops, the establishment of inclusive support services, the optimization of digital educational tools and materials, and the enhancement of inclusive teaching methodologies. By prioritizing a human-centered approach and emphasizing ethical considerations in academic research, HAWKING aims to make technology an enabler of inclusive education, creating a more democratic and inclusive future for higher education in the region.

For more information about the HAWKING project and its impact on higher education in the Western Balkans, visit our project webpage and stay tuned for updates on our ongoing initiatives.