Forty-two members of DARE representing 13 institutions from seven countries attending DARE’s kick-off meeting in Murcia. The aims of the meeting were several. First it was important for the consortium to get together and begin to know personally the members who they will be professionally collaborating with and their institutions for which they belonged. On the first day, there were plenary sessions that dealt with understanding the different contexts of diversity in Georgia and in Israel. During the first day of meetings, the European DARE partners presented their best practices in supporting peripheral populations to access their universities. 

Second, it was important to grasp the innovative vision underlying the project - the Pedagogy of Difference- which was succinctly presented by the coordinator Prof. Hanan Alexander. 

Third, Dr. Manana Salukvadze from Ilia State University from Georgia, presented an important plenary session regarding ERASMUS+ financial management (which was appreciated by all). 

Fourth, and most important, many working sessions were dedicated to developing the framework and action plan that our 8 Israeli and Georgian HEIs intend to implement. The working groups were based on the target groups of the project and included access to education for students with disabilities, minority students, and women. During these working sessions, the different frameworks that were developed by each HEI was presented and further worked on collaboratively. The issues that were discussed included the target groups that each HEI was aiming to support, the challenges that need to be overcome in order to support these groups and the support system that needs to be established both in terms of action as well as in policy. 

The discussions were lively and new ideas emerged including a new pathways for future collaboration based on DARE. When examining the diversity of our participants, we came to the conclusion that we not only “talked about diversity, we practiced it”!

Finally, although we worked hard, we discovered that after a hard days work, we were capably of “playing hard” and enjoying the lovely city of Murcia with our gracious hosts who helped us understand real authentic “tapas” as well as the special “nuances” of Spanish wine..

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Second DARE’s consortium meeting which was held in Achva Academic College, Israel 19-23 June, 2016 was very successful. About 50 participants from all European and Israeli partners took active participation in the different workshops. The main aim of this meeting was to jointly develop a professional development plan for academic and professional staff at the Georgian and Israeli HEI, to deliver accessible services for people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

The whole group was divided into four working groups:  faculty teaching of students with disabilities, administrative staff working with students with disabilities, faculty teaching minorities and administrative staff working with minorities.  The working groups comprised of Israeli, Georgian and European DARE team members.  The working teams were led by EAN, MASYRAK U, Haifa University and Sapir Academic College, Telavi, IASI.   Through working together, each team developed a draft of training for both faculty and staff who work with the target groups.

During the meeting there were also important plenary sessions which presented the dissemination plan and quality assurance plan for the approval of the whole consortium.  In addition the new financial guidelines that were published in May were presented to the consortium emphasizing important changes that all members need to abide by. 

All Israeli and Georgian HEIs had presented a short summary of the work that they have accomplished to date with DARE that summarized the target groups of their outreach program, the services that they intend to provide and recruitment processes to attract these students to our HEIs. 

In addition to the work done at day, a special trip to the Bedouin city of Rahat was arranged by Achva Academic College and the consortium had the experience of being hosted during the Ramadan breaking of the fast in the evening and learning about the development of higher education of the Bedouins through various programs. 

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The third DARE consortium meeting was held at Telavi State University in Georgia between 21-24 November, 2016. The main theme of this meeting was Train-of-Trainers. Teams from EAN (European Access Network), Telavi State University, University of Iasi, Ilia State University and Sapir Academic College and University of Murcia delivered workshops through these intensive days. The aim of training was to train academic and administrative staff to provide accessible services to students with disabilities and minorities (target groups) to better meet their needs. Participants were encouraged to explore their own beliefs and perceptions towards target groups; introduced to challenges and barriers of target groups and experienced them by putting themselves into their shoes; taught of different ways to know their students; how to better communicate with them and design accessible curriculum. Following this work, every Israeli and Georgian HEI is responsible to train trainers at their home which in the following six months will train academic and administrative staff.

Another issue that was discussed was the financial mid-term report and how it should be filled out.

Lastly, our QA team, headed by prof. Gaspar Ros from Murcia University, worked intensively on the development of assessment tools for student support services offered by each IL and GEO and the training sessions (short and long term evaluation).

We had a very interesting tour around where we visited Grami and the wine route. We also celebrated together the St. George's Day and had very nice dinners (with lots of beautiful toast, like real Georgians  J). Although the weather was tough, the atmosphere was extremely warm.


Now with the future visit to Zugdidi, we definitely feel that Georgia is on our mind...

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About 40 DARE members in the field of accessibility, computer-mediated instruction, ICT, education, minority and administration took an active role in the CM held in Shota Meskhia State Teaching University of Zugdidi, Georgia. This meeting was aimed to train partners in the development of regular and accessible online courses/ blended learning courses and discussing management issues such as financial management, dissemination activities and QA related issues. During these four days we had some very interesting sessions: DARE partners presented the activities carried out so far in their institutions (more information in the presentations below), Georgian partners presented some information about their students’ learning difficulties (after employing the screening tools that they developed within DARE). This data will be used by DARE’s partners to form future recommendations and guidelines for the management of Georgian HEIs about possible ways to support students with learning difficulties. We also had a very interesting session on dissemination issues in which DARE partners provided feedback on the new design of our website and our new MAGADARE magazine. Second and third days were dedicated to learning from DARE experts how to develop fully online courses, blended learning courses (implementing e-units to a regular course) and how to make an online course more accessible. On the last day, we discussed the upcoming field-monitoring visit that will be carried out next year by the QA team at Georgian and Israeli HEIs. Partners were updated about the field monitoring protocol that will guide the visit ( the main issue that will be evaluated), what they are expected to prepare for the visit, timeline and logistic related issues.

Our hosts were AMAZING! The Rector of the University and the team of Zugdidi University prepared us a warm welcome with Jewish music and dancing, special dinner (with more dancing, great wine, delicious Georgian food and an amazing DARE cake!!!) and a tour in beautiful Zugdidi. We also had the honour to participate in a graduation ceremony, where we could really sense how students feel at home in the Shota Meskhia State Teaching University of Zugdidi. What an inspiring experience!


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