As Gessner (2017) notes, Civic education refers to the resourcefulness of citizens of voting age to understand the society around them, question it, and change it where necessary. Given the increasing cultural diversity of the student population in higher education institutions (HEIs), there is arguably a growing need to provide multicultural students with a more global perspective of what it means to be a citizen. The literature highlights the need to potentiate Civic knowledge in the student population and increase their engagement on related topics (Schulz et al. 2016), explores different types of citizenship education (Westheimer and Kahne 2004), and presents some future models that it could adopt (Jaeger and Mouritsen 2018).
The NEXUS project is an ERASMUS+ project (2019-1-ES01-KA203-065861), running from 2019 to 2022, that builds upon the literature to focus on empowering students (especially migrants) to exercise their rights, uphold human values, and contribute constructively to the society around them and the global community in general. The project will explore the relationship between digitally enabled participatory tools and democracy, including such dimensions as citizen demand, state power, collective action and mobilization, and culture. Building on the idea that many opportunities for meaningful civic learning exist in online environments, NEXUS will use technologies that are familiar and appealing to younger university students who are familiar with Internet technologies. An analysis will be undertaken of the possibilities and challenges facing the digital transformation of politics in a specific context of a student body, and the growing population of students with a migration background. To enhance citizen engagement processes among students, educators should be aware of available and existing digital tools for democratic participation. They also need to know how to use them and what they aim to solve/address.
The approach followed here favours interactive, networked activities often communicated through participatory media shared across online networks. Participative platforms will be used with students for different scenarios including fact checking, smart-voting, and parliamentary monitoring. The approaches proposed by the Knight Foundation (2015) will be adapted to provide a set of metrics and surveys that can be used to measure the relationship between digitally enabled participatory tools and democracy.
NEXUS aims at innovating the civic educational process resulting in increased participation of students in their communities. As part of this innovation, a MOOC on Civic education will be developed for students with a migrant background, focussing on Civic education micro-learning units. Subsequently, a knowledge-sharing platform (building on open educational resources and practices) for civic educators will be developed. It will focus on migration, with guidelines for HEIs on student civic engagement in the form of a strategic framework that will emphasise how the social inclusion needs of migrant students can be addressed. Finally, the notion of Civics will be re-written to version 4.0, connecting students to institutions in the digital age. An inventory of digital tools for Open Democracy and digital citizenship education will be compiled, together with a handbook for educators on civic education for a digital age.
Gessner, S., 2017. Teaching Civic Education in a Migrating Global Community: How Can Students with a Migration Background Contribute to Didactics and Civic Education Theory? Journal of Social Science Education, 16(2), pp.41-51.
Jaeger, A. and Mouritsen, P., 2018. Designing civic education for diverse societies: Models, Tradeoffs, and Outcomes. Brussels: Migration Policy Institute Europe.
Knight Foundation. 2015. Assessing Civic Tech: Case Studies and Resources for Tracking Outcomes. https://go.aws/2RRaQt6
Schulz, W., Ainley, J., Fraillon, J., Losito, B., Agrusti, G. and Friedman, T., 2016. Becoming citizens in a changing world. IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study. Switzerland: Springer Open.
Westheimer, J. and Kahne, J., 2004. What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), pp.237-269.