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Workplan

The general purpose of NETOUR is to work with Russian universities and businesses to help improve (1) university products (curricula and student expertise), and therefore the employability of Russian tourism students, and (2) tourism organizations' efficiency through a qualified workforce, in order to develop and sustain the tourism sector in Russia. Both industry and universities will work together to respond to the growing needs of the Russian tourism sector.
This wide objective has been approached through a number of specific objectives. To materialize them a series of specific actions have been planned.

Two lines of action have been defined to improve Russian University Curricula. Line one, consisting on a review of the tourism curricula being currently delivered by Russian University partners, to identify its adequacy to EHEA standards and the principles of the Strategy 2020. Line two, consisting on reviewing the relevance of the curricula delivered to industry and markets needs.

For the first analysis, a checklist will be produced including specific standards promoted within the AHEA, in the course of the Bologna Process, and the Strategy 2020. The results of this study will allow the consortium to identify the weaknesses to be compensated.

The second analysis is a more complex one, as it requires a previous detection of needs on the tourism sector. For this purpose, it has been planned an analysis of the tourism sector in the areas of influence of the Russian partner universities (current demand and supply, main competitors at destination level). This analysis will be based on secondary information, e.g. four-monthly “Russia Tourism Report” by Business Monitor International plus additional data collected by Russian partners, which will prevent language barriers when obtaining information. These data will be translated into English, so the rest of the partners can work with them.

Tourism sector analysis will focus on the three main tourism products considered as strategic for the Russian Federation: cultural, nature-based and business tourism.

Additionally, the tourism sector analysis will be broaden with information gathered through tourism management alumni from Russian University Partners. For this purpose, an online survey will be conducted to learn about their current position in the sector and in the companies they work for; their knowledge needs will also be assessed. Each Russian partner will develop 200 online interviews, among the last 10-year graduates, picked at random. A sample of 20 interviews per each of the last 10-year graduations will be searched. That will produce a data base containing data of 1200 alumni, 120 per year within the last decade.

The reason why alumni are involved in the detection of the sector needs is because they can offer first hand information on both the knowledge gained at college which has proven to be more useful, and the potential knowledge they consider they lack. Furthermore, this first contact with alumni will be used to develop a number of deliverables, more specifically, those related to the mentoring programme.

After curricular revision, the specific NETOUR objectives aim at implementing several strategies to improve the present situation of tourism sector, as well as to foster a positive change and to increase international cooperation between universities for the long term. Additionally, in order to improve skills and, consequently, the employability of Russian tourism students, a number of actions have been planned which will enhance students theoretical education and practical skills. Concerning theory, updated teaching materials will be produced such a handbook about tourism management which will include worth revising Case Study with data gathered by students. Concerning training, NETOUR offers a mentoring programme promoting links between former alumni and University. That is a way of fostering the creation of university community where University learns what is relevant, from professionals who were their former students, while students return to University to update knowledge. NETOUR offers an alternative University Community model, in which the relation between alumni and University remains long-life to co-create joint value. 

At this point, it is important to underline that the mentoring programme within NETOUR goes beyond the traditional internships, as in this case, student supervisors are not exclusively academic; furthermore, each fellow will have a mentor in the host company who will help throughout the internship. Mentors will be outstanding professionals in the field of tourism, picked among the alumni corps and recruited during the phase of diagnosis.

Students assignment will consist on analysing a problem, previously defined by the company, and elaborating a technical report on how to solve the deficit. This programme is expected to improve college-industry relations and increase student skills and employability. On the other hand, being a NETOUR priority enhancing dialogue between Universities and companies, continuous curriculum and human resources updating is guaranteed.

A part of the above referred actions, an updating course for tourism professionals is also been foreseen (meeting lifelong learning principles). This course will count on experts internationally known in the fields of tourism who are members of the teaching boards of the Universities participating in NETOUR. The course is also aiming at recognizing mentors contributions across the mentoring programme.

While NETOUR wide objective is to improve curricula through exhaustive anlysis based on reality and experience, the efforts might vanished alter the Project lifetime unless an institutional frame is established in which the proposed reforms find a future projection.

In this sense, NETOUR is supported by the Russian State University of Tourism and Service (RSUSTS) the main methodological centre of service and tourism curriculum design of the Russian Federation. RSUSTS leads and unites over 460 educational institutions of the Russian Federation specializing in tourism and service training. Furthermore, NETOUR has foreseen future sustainability of the mission by attempting at increasing the level of commitment of Russian governing bodies; this will ensure implementation of changes beyond the project’s lifetime.

Therefore, NETOUR has foreseen the organization of workshops where decision makers in the fields of tourism and education, plus other stakeholders (tourism managers, both public and private, as well as tourism entrepreneurs, museum managers, natural park managers, etc) are invited, in order to enhance cooperation between university and society on tourism fields. The diagnosis carried out about tourism situation from both perspectives, academic and professional, will also be presented along these workshops.

Since NETOUR, as a consortium, attempts to last beyond the project lifetime, a second wide objective of this project is to build up stable education and academic networks between EU leading Institutions in the fields of tourism management and Russian institutions that have potential influence on their geographic area, therefore creating a multiplying effect. With this purpose, w.p. 6 includes two main actions: 1. organizing an International Conference in Sochi to reinforce networking within NETOUR and to open this network to other universities within the Russian territory and beyond. 2. establishing a Data Centre to continue the data collection process initiated by NETOUR, about the tourism sector analysis, to help universities respond to society's changing needs. This data centre will be located in RSUTS, with branches in the other partner universities, so collection data points are spread all over the project’s action territory.

Last but not least, in order to achieve the NETOUR goals, an action plan has been designed, involving all collectives interested both in university product improvement (curricula and student expertise) and in the growth of tourism organizations' efficiency through a qualified workforce. This plan of action has been designed on the bases of a pedagogic philosophy agreed and shared by all NETOUR members. The underlying principle is that anyone’s learning motivation either teachers, students, entrepreneurs or policy makers is the bases for social progress. Hence, NETOUR attempts to motivate all the stakeholders of the tourism sector not only to learn but also to enjoy the learning experience. 

NETOUR suggests a number of challenges to awake the learning motivation while offering training programmes so target audience, either academic, students, employers or decision makers gain the necessary skills to face successfully these challenges (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, 1998).

Futhermore, NETOUR expects to offer, on regular systematic basis, the necessary feedback for individuals to track their own progress while developing their tasks. In that way, motivation remains in the course of the learning process as learners feel rewarded by own achievements and, accordingly, will be keen on repeating the experience of personal growth through learning.

According to this approach, the question to answer is how to challenge stakeholders to motivate learning? NETOUR considers that in terms of motivating lifelong learning, there are two key aspects to take into account: contents and methodology. For this reason, NETOUR suggests to operate on the tourism curricula to make them more challenging, and to produce a better learning experience an a sounder qualification of students.

Concerning contents, practical utility and adequacy to the sector needs must be ensured, for which a previous diagnosis proves necessary. Moreover, contents should be original and innovative, capable to catch its target audience’s attention and interest. This will be achieved by bringing University research closer to industry needs. In that sense, NETOUR deliverable no. 11 consists on a seminar on tourism service design. Addressed to academic and tourism employers, in the course of the seminar, the results and tools derived from the project “Service Design as an approach to foster competitiveness and sustainability of European Tourism” will be presented. This European Commission project, framed in “Knowledge networks for the competitiveness and sustainability of European tourism”, ENT/CIP/10/B/N04S00, counted on the participation of one of the NETOUR Universities and illustrates exhaustively how University research can serve society.

Finally, in terms of the processes intended to ensure quality, the pedagogical approach adopted is not confined to the purely academic project, but also affects the basis of the monitoring carried out by UEx during the project implementation.

For UEx, the biggest challenge is coordinating a large group to work on tasks diverse and interrelated, such that the delay of a task-force could endanger the rest of the team. To meet this contingency, it has been foreseen a continuous monitoring of the evolution of the work teams which will be reflected in a calendar that will be visible to all partners in the virtual workspace at UEx Moodle platform.

At the time it is detected that a team is not meeting its objectives, the cause of the delay will be identified and the necessary assistance will be offered to retrieve the scheduled rate. The assistance will consist on providing the necessary skills to carry out the potential tasks delaying the project, the necessary equipment to go forward, or, even the necessary qualified staff. As the project LFM shows, the greatest strength of NETOUR is it has been capable to gather enough talent, expertise, resources and commitment as to meet these and other potential risks. All together for the benefit of education, society and universities.