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A digital highway from secondary school to university

The next generation digital learning environment has started making its way into secondary schools, thanks to the Up2U project. Objective: facilitating students’ acclimatisation to university tools and methodologies.

Digital Economy
Society

Excitement around learning management systems (LMSs) has not even died down, yet educators are already looking forward to the next big thing: Next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE). Unlike LMSs which are primarily built around the needs of instructors, an NGDLE is an educational ecosystem where all aspects and actors of e-learning are interconnected seamlessly. An NGDLE could be such a great step forward for students, in fact, that the EU-funded Up2U (Up to University – Bridging the gap between schools and universities through informal education) project is using it as a basis for its attempt to bridge the gap between secondary school and higher education. “We realised that the lack of digital skills is one of the main reasons why students drop out of university. After graduating, they enter tertiary education without the necessary background to cope with their new educational environment. Up2U is meant to help them develop their digital skills and make the transition from secondary education to university much smoother,” says Erik Kikkenborg, Media Services Manager at NORDUnet and coordinator of the project. Up2U therefore aims to bridge the technological and methodological gap between secondary schools and universities. It does so by means of an NGDLE ecosystem which facilitates more open, effective and efficient co-design, co-creation and use of digital content, tools and services. This ecosystem has been specifically built to deliver personalised, collaborative or experimental learning. With Up2U, the LMS is no longer the central tool. The ecosystem works like a marketplace where users can pick the LMSs they need, knowing that they all integrate which each other and that achievements and progress can be transferred from one to another without ever compromising on user experience. The content is open and reusable by both teachers and students. As Gyongyi Horváth points out: “Up2U is a portable, open, pedagogy-driven digital ecosystem built with the learning community in mind.”

Tested in five Member States, with more to come

The marketplace approach is particularly valuable when it comes to adapting to different contexts. The schools in our Up2U pilot countries – Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal – had varying levels of technology use and access. One of the prerequisites to project success was therefore to propose a system where all necessary components are integrated into a single platform, while also allowing some schools to use only those parts they don’t have already. “This leads to the requirement that software components be kept as loosely coupled as possible while still being integrated from a user experience perspective,” says Horváth. “The next challenge was then to convince schoolteachers to work with the Up2U ecosystem and to use it with their students in classrooms. To accomplish this, we developed the Continuous Professional Development methodology (CPD).” The CPD is split into three modules: teacher training by the national training team, introduction of Up2U by teachers to their students, and knowledge sharing from level 2 teachers to level 1 teachers. “By using this CPD methodology, we speed up in-depth adaptation to the Up2U ecosystem inside pilot schools,” says Horváth. Most of the pilot countries have already committed to running a national programme for the Up2U ecosystem after the project ends. Meanwhile, Israel and the UK have kick-started online education based on CPD methodology, and the first non-project partner pilot has started in Slovenia. “We have received interest from more European countries like Armenia and Finland to start pilots in their countries. We support these pilots with the Get Started! course, an online training course based on the CPD methodology,” Horváth explains. Up2U is scheduled for completion at the end of May 2020. The final phase of the project will focus on analysing the results of the pilots and implementing the sustainability plan for after the project’s end.

Keywords

Up2U, university, transition, secondary school, methodology, NGDLE, LMS, digital skills, ecosystem

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