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E-journal IBS Newsletter is devoted to Slovenian and foreign scientists, researchers, specialists, students and experts in the fields of international business, sustainable development, foreign languages and public administration. The most important part of IBS Newsletter is publishing of reviewed scientific, research, professional and popular articles that discuss themes like international business, sustainable development, organization, law, environmental economics and politics, marketing, research methods, management, corporate social responsibility and other topics.


IBS International Business School Ljubljana

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2018 > Letnik 8, št. 3


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Članek opisuje spremembe, ki jih IBS Mednarodna poslovna šola Ljubljana uvedla v visokošolske oziroma magistrske programe, odkar je leta 2015 sprejela na študente osredotočeno učenje v svojo strategijo. Na osnovi projekta Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach so vodstvo in visokošolski učitelji pričeli načrtno uvajati dobre prakse v učni proces in v ocenjevanje ter uporabljati druge pedagoške in organizacijske pristope, ki upoštevajo sposobnosti, potrebe, izkušnje, pričakovanja, osnovno znanje in interese študentov. Po dveh letih so opazne precejšnje razlike med nekdanjim in sedanjim pristopom do študentov, vendar pa obstaja še veliko možnosti in načinov, da se visokošolsko izobraževanje še bolj osredotoči na študente.

Ključne besede: visokošolsko izobraževanje, uvajanje na študente osredotočenega učenja, IBS Mednarodna poslovna šola Ljubljana


The article describes changes that IBS International Business School Ljubljana incorporated in its BA and MA programmes since 2015 when it introduced student-centred learning in its strategy. On the basis of the project Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach IBS management and teachers started with planned introduction of good practices into the learning process, assessment and with other pedagogical and organizational approaches that consider students' capacities, needs, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, and interests. After two years there are quite some differences between the former and the present approach to students but there are still many possibilities to focus university education on students.

Key words: university education, incorporation of student-centred learning, IBS International Business School Ljubljana

1 Introduction

The article describes which elements of student centred learning were incorporated into the International Business School Ljubljana after this learning approach became a part of the strategy of IBS and which main problems were faced in this process. The data were gathered by the annual quality evaluation questionnaire that contained also some questions referring to student-centred learning.

According to one of the definitions (Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach, 2016) student-centred learning is a learning approach that considers individual learners’ capacities, needs, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, and interests; it includes students in evaluation, enables examinations based on real-life situations; gives students enough time to master the skills, individualises the teaching programmes and the learning resources, offers help to students from disadvantaged background, permits to combine work and family with studies and gives students rights to decide about their studies. The institutions that introduce the student-centred approach should develop the teachers’ education and promote a culture of student–centred learning.

The Bologna Process emphasises the importance of the student-centred approach which means that all EU universities should introduce student-centred learning (Lemos, Sandars, Alves and Costa, 2014). However there are several indicators that student-centred learning is neither popular nor increasing (Marentic-Pozarnik, 2015). Within the project Empowering teachers for a-student centred approach a number of university teachers were asked to answer a questionnaire about their opinion and the practices how they performed this approach but the authors received a relatively small number of answers. One of the reasons for poor response is probably that teachers do not like to answer questionnaires, others might be that teachers do not know and/or perhaps do not feel capable to introduce student-centred learning. Although teachers might be aware that student-centred learning would bring important positive changes they soon discover that it is difficult to implement it, and especially difficult to implement it as the basic part of the organizational culture. Creating student-centred learning environments is a complex and difficult task for both teachers and students (Penfold & Pang, 2008; Scheyvens et al., 2008; Sparrow et al., 2000).

2 Presentation of IBS Ljubljana

IBS International Business School Ljubljana, Slovenia is a private university of applied sciences accredited by the Council for Higher Education of the Republic of Slovenia that conducts pedagogical, research and publishing activities in the business area and in the area of sustainable development. IBS International Business School Ljubljana performs the accredited BA programme International Business with three orientations (the first has emphasis on foreign languages, the second on sustainable development and the third on cooperation between economy and public administration). IBS carries out also the accredited MA programme International business and sustainable development. The main role of IBS is to offer the employers internationally competitive business economists with knowledge and skills in the fields of contemporary international business, sustainable development, corporative social responsibility and foreign languages. IBS has been developing also its scientific and research work and was registered as a research organization.

IBS has premises in Ljubljana. Among its personnel there are about 40 Slovenian lecturers with academic credentials and/or 26 researchers and about 20 foreign lecturers. The premises are equipped with contemporary information technology and wireless connection. IBS's library is a full member of the Slovenian library and information system (COBISS).

IBS Regulations on the quality assurance require permanent monitoring and improvements of the quality and efficiency of its educational, scholarly, research- and professional work. Improvement of quality and efficiency is measured in detail by self-evaluation reports and/or by external evaluation (Nakvis - ENQA).

Although IBS does not perform pedagogical programmes, it pays special attention to the teaching and learning methods and has been introducing the student-centred approach since 2015 when it was accepted by the Senate as one of the main strategic goals.

3 Implementation of student-centred learning in IBS Ljubljana

The most important point which IBS considers as breaking with the old teaching methods was accepting the student-centred approach in the strategy of IBS in 2015. According to the strategy IBS should ensure environment and conditions necessary for implementation of learning and teaching focused on students that includes students as active participants. Students should be included in all the processes of education and quality monitoring. IBS should enable students to control their advancement during their studies, enable their insight into the study programmes and realization of the study process. IBS should implement evaluation of students’ results by appropriate and realiable forms of assessment. Study programmes should be based on the interests of students and on the needs of wider environment. They should consider study goals that lead to development of independent graduates. Students should participate in creation and design of study contents and of new knowledge. This way of education should enable students’ personal development and development of their critical thinking (Strategija IBS, 2015).

Since the teachers of IBS are a small collective and the college does not have a large number of students it was not difficult to introduce the student-centred approach. More or less both teachers and students were convinced that it was necessary to treat students as individuals – as clients for whom IBS should do everything to make them achieve knowledge expected in the curriculum. Only one or two teachers were against student-centred learning and thought that the the traditional teacher-centred approach was better.

All the teachers were acquainted with the project “Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach” from the very beginning. The teachers first completed the questionnaires that were prepared by the project team. Answering the questionnaires gave the teachers some ideas how student-centred learning should be organized and made them think if they would be able to decide for new teaching methods, for new assessment techniques and for other ways of individualised approach. The next step was suggestion that teachers read the research study with its theoretical and practical part as well as guidelines for the future. The theoretical part acquainted them with a number of contemporary authors and their ideas about the student-centred learning. The empirical part of the research showed what teachers in Slovenia, Poland and Lithuania already did in the area of student-centred learning and gave ideas which changes to introduce not just in teaching but also in assessment and in other organizational aspects of the education. Even more concrete information was given to the teachers by descriptions of 100 best practices The teachers were not asked to introduce all of them or a certain number but to use just those which they liked and felt they would function within their courses.

To consider individual learners’ capacities, needs, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, and interests the teachers started to discuss students’ opinions at the beginning of the lectures. Considering learners’ capacities and backgrounds was very important especially for the courses like foreign languages and business statistics. IBS’s students are mainly adults who were taught English or German years ago by teachers who paid too much attention to correct grammar and not much to conversation. Therefore many students were convinced that their capacities for foreign languages were very poor. The teachers of IBS found out that a friendly direct way of teaching foreign languages awoke students’ knowledge that already existed and helped to develop students’ interests as soon as they trusted themselves again. A similar problem was also with business statistics. Students had no previous knowledge and also did not trust that they had enough capacities to learn it. With an appropriate approach based on Excell students found out not only that their capacities were adequate to learn the necessary competences but also that they would be able to use the new knowledge in their companies and that this would relieve quite some of their office tasks. As students were learning foreign languages, basics of business organization, economics, management, business law etc. they recognized that the new knowledge was useful to their needs, they learned that this was in accordance with their perspectives and this aroused also their interests.

Including students in evaluation and enabling examinations based on real-life situations was realized in different ways. Several teachers tried with student-generated questions. The students accepted the method with satisfaction and achieved very good marks but they admitted that the method requires at least as much learning as for the usual examinations or perhaps even more. Examinations based on real-life situations were introduced by even more teachers and the students liked such questions, too. The teachers mainly used as examination questions situations in the companies because the majority of the students are employed. Younger students who just came from the secondary school had difficulties with such examinations and preferred to be included in examinations for which they could choose their own final list of questions. Some teachers also introduced in evaluation larger and friendly discussions with students and showed them how the mark was formed. Also this was well aceepted and improved relationships among students and teachers.

Giving students enough time to master the skills at first sight seems a very difficult task especially because IBS has mainly adult, employed students with families. Is it at all possible to give the already overburdened students enough time to master the skills? The students received a publication how they could organize their studies so that they would be able to learn as much as possible in a short time. They were taught about speed reading, about highlighting important passages of the text, about mental schemes etc. Their studies were organized in two evening sessions during the week so that they had free weekends. The students with families were suggested that they ask for help of either their spouse or parents. Besides the students of IBS have the possibility to come and sit for examinations when they have time (individual examination terms are usually each Friday and also during holidays). This was among the most effective and most popular ways of giving students enough time to master the skills.

Individualising the teaching programmes and the learning resources is not such a difficult task as one might expect. New programmes in Slovenia must be confirmed by the National Agency for Quality in Higher Education and this means a procedure lasting for almost a year. However, it is possible to introduce smaller changes that must be approved by the Senate. IBS started to introduce smaller changes of the teaching programmes at the beginning of the academic year. Among such changes are presentations of new achievements in the scientific area, introduction of one of two new interesting themes, suggestions that students start to use new, recently published books and introduction of additional learning resources like peer-reviewed articles and/or- presentation of all the study materials in the form of slides.

Offering help to students from disadvantaged background and permitting to combine work and family can be achieved by a number of activities provided by a good school organization and by changing the organizational behaviour. Being a private higher school organization that does not receive any financial support from the state and offering rather affordable tuition fees IBS cannot offer scholarships that could help students from disadvantaged background. However, IBS tries to help students especially if they do not have enough knowledge of language (English, German, Slovene) by additional lectures and by a student-friendly approach towards students who are not relaxed when speaking foreign languages. IBS also tries to do something for students who have to combine work and family: only one course is taught per month, lectures are offered from Monday till Friday so that students can be with their families during the weekend. Teachers do not scold students who come late to their classes because they are aware that students work. Students are supported by the whole-day phone service, by the possibility of passing examinations also during summer holidays, by different forms of distance studies, etc.

Students in IBS have rights to decide about their studies. This is not just a word – students of IBS are adults and have to pay for their studies therefore they are not afraid to express their opinions. Students do not express their rights only by the students’ representatives, by annual evaluations of their studies but are often asked to come personally and tell if something is wrong.

The institutions that introduce the student-centred approach should develop the teachers’ education and promote a culture of student–centred learning. IBS acquainted all its teachers with the research and with the handbook on the student-centred learning and invited them to participate in the project by descriptions of their own practices. Special emphasis is devoted to promotion of culture of student-centred learning. Speaking, writing and all forms of communication try to be as student-friendly as possible therefore the atmosphere is very good both among students and teachers.

4 Problems perceived in the last years

IBS first measured the implementations in the field of student-centred learning in the academic year 2017/18 by internal annual quality evaluation. The teachers introduced more discussions, more exchange of opinions, project based learning, made their approach and study materials more student-friendly, introduced new ways of assessment, they suggested new contemporary study materials, introduced research articles as learning resources. Several ways of personalised approach on the organizational level became everyday practice, e.g. additional hours of foreign languages, the whole day phone service, acceleration of studies, acknowledgement of credit points for examinations passed at other universities, helping students with advice how to learn, what to do in difficult personal situations, considering individual needs of students, flexible time of examinations, friendly communication with students by e-mail, etc.

Student-centred learning is an innovative process (Zhu and Engels, 2013) and its introduction faced problems that are usual in the process of innovations. Several teachers admitted that they did not introduce anything new in the field of the student-centred learning. Among these teachers were some that were pleased with the existing situation and/or those who seem to be convinced that only their up-to-now performance was correct; some teachers also did not have time to make changes. It is possible that the latter will deal with the introduction of the student-centred approach on a long-term basis. Two teachers mentioned that they would progress better if we organized a workshop. Nobody mentioned that organizational clima, management style, and organizational structure would prevent the introduction of student-centred learning. There were no financial stimulations for those who introduced student-centred learning but the teachers had other ways of awards, e.g. they could show their knowledge and their innovative approach to teaching, share their good teaching practices with other teachers, they could express their loyalty to IBS.

It is a pity that there are still no standards on the basis of which it would be possible to set more definite goals. If the teachers had a generally agreed model that would be better defined, or standards that would define what a university should do to become a student-centred institution it would be easier to say that student-centred learning is introduced and to what degree. Since there are no generally accepted standards it is only possible to claim that there has been progress. This progress is a long-term task and a lot of empowerment will be necessary in the next years to make further changes and invite all employees to cooperate in this process.


Lemos, A.R., Sandars, J.E., Alves, P., Costal, M.J. (2014) The evaluation of student-centredness of teaching and learning: a new mixed-methods approach, International Journal of Medical Education, vol. 5, 157-164.

Marentic-Pozarnik, B. (2015) Na študenta osredotočeno učenje, Delo, 22. 8. 2015.

IBS Mednarodna poslovna šola Ljubljana (2015) Strategija IBS, Ljubljana, (19/11/2018).

Marinko, I., Marinko, J., Baužienė, Z., Kairienė, V., Knyviene, I., Perkumienė, D., Gołębiowski, A., Krawczak, M., Maj, G. P., Marcinkiewicz-Marszałek, K., Daniels, N., Hughes, J., Rees, A. (2016) Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach, Ljubljana. (19/11/2018).

100 ways to improve teaching (2016), Ljubljana, (19/11/2018).

Penfold, P. and Pang, L. (2008), Blending and Shaking: Chinese Students' Perceptions of Blended Learning in a Hospitality and Tourism course, in: Proceedings of the Asia-Pacific CHRIE conference, Perth.

Scheyvens, R., Griffin, A. L., Jocoy, C. L., Liu, Y., Bradford, M. (2008), Experimenting with active learning in geography: Dispelling the myths that perpetuate resistance, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 32 (1), 51 – 69.

Sparrow, L., Sparrow., H., Swan, P. (2000) Student-centred learning: Is it possible? In Herrmann and Kulski (Eds.), Flexible Future in Tertiary Teaching, Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Perth.

Zhu, C., Engels, N. (2014) Organizational culture and instructional innovations in higher education: Perceptions and reactions of teachers and students. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol. 42: pp. 136 -158.