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Next Generation Stakeholders and Next Level Ecosystem for ColLaborative Science Education with Online Labs

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Next-Lab (Next Generation Stakeholders and Next Level Ecosystem for ColLaborative Science Education with Online Labs)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

Next-Lab intends to change the educational landscape of science and technology education in Europe (and beyond) on a very large scale. It does so by providing an ecosystem, the Go-Lab ecosystem, that offers a unique and extensive collection of interactive online (virtual and remote) laboratories in science and engineering domains. With the help of the Go-Lab ecosystem, teachers can find and select suitable online labs and can straightforwardly and efficiently combine these labs with dedicated support tools (learning apps) and multimedia material to form open, cloud-based, shareable educational resources with an embedded pedagogical structure. Such a resource is called an Inquiry Learning Space (ILS). The pedagogical approach that characterizes an ILS is guided inquiry learning, which means that students learn in a self-directed, though supported, way, by performing investigations with online laboratories. The Go-Lab ecosystem is accompanied by an extensive support system.

The Go-Lab sharing platform (www.golabz.eu) offers teachers a choice of more than 600 online laboratories from all over the world. The great majority of the labs (> 350) are from the domain of physics, with chemistry (close to 100) as the second most frequently represented domain. Biology, astronomy, environment, geography, mathematics, and technology each have roughly between 30-50 labs. Close to 550 labs are characterized as virtual labs, around 55 are remote labs, and close to 20 are typified as data sets. Many labs are offered in more than one language. The Go-Lab sharing platform also offers a large set of learning tools (apps) that cover all phases of an inquiry learning cycle, from orientation through conceptualization, investigation, drawing conclusions, and discussion. Two examples are an app that helps the student to formulate testable hypotheses and an app that helps the student to design informative experiments. There is also an extensive set of apps that, based in learning analytics, help the students to reflect on their inquiry process. Go-Lab ILS can also run in a collaborative mode with sharing of apps and labs between students and a chat for communication. A specific app helps students to give each other peer feedback.

The Go-Lab authoring and learning platform (Graasp; graasp.eu) supports teachers in combining labs, apps, and other (multimedia) material into Inquiry Learning Spaces (ILSs) they can (easily and directly) offer to their students. This platform also facilitates co-creation of ILSs by teams of teachers. A total of > 1100 ILSs have been published and shared at the Go-Lab sharing platform (www.golabz.eu). The Go-Lab sharing platform offers teachers the possibility of copying published ILSs and adapting them for use with their own students.

The Go-Lab sharing platform currently hosts up to over 20,000 sessions per month; for the authoring platform the number of sessions is close to 15,000 each month. The authoring and learning platform has close to 37,000 registrations. These numbers have shown a steady increase over the course of the Next-Lab project. Go-Lab is a state-of-the-art ecosystem, fully equipped for the requirements of the GDPR and technically shaped for sustainability. Go-Lab is also prepared for new pedagogical developments (such as flip-the-classroom scenarios that require teacher learning analytics features). In Next-Lab, the ecosystem’s reach is extended from secondary education to primary education, but it can also be extended to higher education, vocational training, and lifelong learning.
Work in the Next-Lab project has concentrated on three areas: outreach and training, extending Go-Lab facilities and restructuring its infrastructure, and preparing for sustainability.

To support outreach, a system of National Expertise Centres, Go-Lab ambassadors and focus teachers has been implemented. These hubs are involved in dissemination and training activities that are used to make the Go-Lab ecosystem known and to familiarize teachers with the Go-Lab pedagogy of guided inquiry. Go-Lab ambassadors are also involved in the translation of the ecosystem into their local languages. For dissemination, printed material is available and different social media are also frequently used. A newsletter is distributed to registered teachers on a regular basis. To facilitate community-building, at the Go-Lab authoring platform teachers can become members of a Go-Lab community. A larger set of training courses (e.g. in the form of summer schools) trains teachers in the pedagogical and technical aspects of the ecosystem. In addition, an extensive support system has been created that offers teachers instructional videos, tips and tricks, a MOOC, and (compile your own) manuals. For immediate support, an online help system is available.

In the Next-Lab project, the existing Go-Lab ecosystem has been restructured to handle the large number of users, to improve the system’s maintenance, and to meet the requirements from the GDPR. The sharing platform (www.golabz.eu) has been re-implemented with up-to-date technology and an entirely new interface has been designed to offer a quick and state-of-the-art user experience. To ensure the quality of the content of the sharing platform, a quality control cycle for labs and ILSs has been put in place. The platforms and services and their terms and conditions were adapted to comply with the new GDPR. Single sign-on is now generalized across all the components of the Go-Lab ecosystem. Both the graasp.eu and golabz.eu websites are now accessible through https. A set of new apps have been developed that extend the possibilities for student learning beyond the inquiry cycle. These apps provide support and practice for 21st century skills (collaboration and reflection), enable self- and peer-assessment, and offer students full modelling facilities. During the project, the ILS library has been replaced by a modern Graasp API, compliant with GDPR and not relying on the obsolete open social technology. All apps are relying on this new API. Improvements to the front end to use personalization and co-creation by teachers have also been implemented. The most visible end user improvement in the new standalone view, that is a fully independent Web application not only available for ILSs, but also for regular shared spaces. Finally, security is ensured thanks to ecosystem-wide HTTPS access.

Extensive work has been done to ensure the sustainability of the Go-Lab ecosystem. Possibilities for generating revenues, such as offering Go-Lab training courses, including commercial labs, and governmental sponsorship, have been explored and have been (partially) implemented. A larger set of new projects that involve the Go-Lab ecosystem have been awarded grants or are under review.
The Go-Lab ecosystem is unique in what it offers in its combination of available labs, authoring and sharing facilities and learning apps. In both a technical and pedagogical sense, it is among the most advanced systems world-wide. Its reach has extended enormously over the past few years, and continued growth worldwide is expected as well for the coming period, including African countries through the related GO-GA project. Making advanced inquiry learning with online science labs available for individuals and schools who had not such access before is expected to increase students’ competency and interest in science.
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