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Lab 2: Challenges and opportunities in organising a transdisciplinary lab online

By James Mc Geever, Lecturer, Fac. of Social Sciences and Humanities, Klaipeda University, Lithuania.


Working within the UN SDGs, the lab key theme was based around ‘Sustainable Solutions for a Harbour City’, with particular local interest areas for students in relation to student campuses / University.

Participants listened to a programme of speakers, and their challenge was to take one (or more) of the themes, define a local campus/Uni problem related to this theme, and develop an innovative solution that can be implemented and will make a positive SDG-impact on campus/ within their University.

The lab kicked off on Monday Nov 22nd from 09.00 to 15.30 (CET) and ran through to Friday Dec 3rd, during which teams had to research the local issues, interview and define actors / blockers, to determine a solution to be presented in a video presentation on the Dec 3rd.

  1. Outcomes of the lab

We planned the following outcomes:

  • Participation: A team of students (up to five) from each project partner institution.
  • Preparation and Presentation: Full and active participation in the two-week online lab (meeting online for the kick-off event and then coming back two weeks later to present their video and discuss its production and planning).

We achieved both of the above in different ways:

Participation – From the nine countries represented, we had on average a team of three to four (students with lecturer moderator). Germany and Austria could only call up one student each, so they formed a single DE-AT team of two. The Lithuanian team started with five, but it seemed that only two ended up finalising the video production.

Preparation and Presentation

Teams were given a broad outline of what was expected, and we provided a timetable of mentoring support spots if any team needed help in any way. We had full participation from at least one student team member (often all members) from each country for the kickoff event (full day) and the final event (half-day). There was also a cultural evening during the first week which was also well attended by all student teams.

The videos were all well made considering the short time students had to plan, design, develop and implement their ideas into this format. Each of the videos has been evaluated as part of the award process, and these provide more detailed feedback. As a general overview though, each team/video did provide a clear connection to one of more of the SDGs – which was the overall aim for each of the teams.

CountryThemeVideo Name
NOPlastic BagsLess Plastic Fantastic
DKMove it – Exercise AppMove-It
BEHoney Bee HighwayBee-Line Movie
NLStudent Stress – Mental HealthStudent Mental Health
DE/ATPaper Recycling and ReuseReWastucation
LTPlastic Bottles – Water refillingTurbo
ROProgramme of Green Initiatives with QR codeGreenIS
ITWater Transport via Rowing BoatsCaligos
  • Impact of the lab on Klaipeda University

In the immediate short-term, perhaps nothing obvious to our University will be seen. However, in the long-term, holding this event online, and having a team from our University participate, has certainly ‘sowed some seeds’ of interest which we will build on. How? Well, the city and University will be partners in the development of a national STEAM Centre here in Klaipeda. This, along with our increased awareness of the SDGs in our teaching programmes means we are now much more focused on transdisciplinary modes of teaching and using ideas from the Innovation Lab will certainly help us to develop these initiatives further.

  • Lessons learned (which aspects to keep, which aspects to change, and how?)

I still think we would have gained a lot more from a physical innovation lab rather than the online version. The interaction between the teams would have been different as we could have mixed up the teams and encouraged a greater inter-cultural and educational mix. This would have levelled out the knowledge and helped all students to have learned from each other. Not only the younger from the older, but also the mix of learning disciplines (scientists with designers, linguists with technologists, engineers with artists, and so on – much as we did in the Venice Inn0vation Lab).

There was some concern about the timing and whether the students could deliver the video within less than two-weeks. Also, in describing the task in a way that allowed all of the teams to do it in their own way, with limited guidelines and detailed descriptions of what was required, there was always a concern that some teams might go way off on a tangent – totally off the radar, so to speak! But this did not happen.

Also, we had some discussions about the awarding of prizes/awards for ‘Impact Winners’ and whether this was in keeping with the project aims. But we decided that there had to be some competition of sorts in order to motivate the students working online.

Next time, we would try to get the programme facilitator on-board as early as we can and to have him/her more in charge of the structure of the programme. As it was we did what we felt was right and then only managed to get a facilitator once the programme had been almost agreed and finalised, meaning that she was facilitating ‘our’ programme – rather than something she had planned/organised herself.

For an online lab two weeks was enough and probably about the right amount of time. We were happy with the format and the layout of activities over the two weeks – bearing in mind the online format!

  • Who were the judges?

The panel of judges were selected based on personal contacts from within the University. Some were the providers of prizes, some were key regional institutional leaders, and others were student related leaders or organisations. We tried to get a good cross-section mix of roles and responsibilities and at least one or two young people onto the panel – which we did manage to do.

Initially we thought about possibly including international ‘judges’ from some of our partners, but decided against this. The innovation lab was Klaipeda innovation lab, so we kept the panel members purely from Klaipeda/Lithuania. The panel of judges was as follows:

 NameRole / Title / Activity Field
1Augmantas PinčiusPublic Sector Engagement Lead GOVTECH Lab (sub-department of LT Ministry for Innovation – MITA)
2Eglė StonkėDirector -Association of Klaipeda Regions (AKR)
3Ernestas RamonasCSR manager at Swedbank
4Greta TautavičiūtėMember of Euroregion Baltic Youth Board and Youth Worker
5Julija StankevičiūtėStudent, Entrepreneur, and winner of Lithuania Junior Achievement Award
6Roma StubrienėDirektorė – Klaipedos mokslo ir technologijų parkas (KMTP
7Aleksandra LobaškovaKlaipeda European Youth Capital – General Affairs Coordinator

Organizing a transdisciplinary innovation lab was a challenge for us but in the same time an amazing opportunity to learn from and together with our students! Now we can adjust and extend this experience and maybe plan more such innovative labs at our Klaipeda University.

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