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Facilitating and Enhancing Access to Life-long Learning SOlutions for a Wide variety of Social categories


FELLOWS objective is to develop and validate new distant learning services addressing the needs of populations with low education level and not involved in formal education and training environments. FELLOWS will develop an Open Distant Learning platform adapted to the needs of the targeted groups, i.e. integrated in existing education and training practices, centred on the learning paradigm, user interfaces and supporting media (PC and set top box TV). The platform will be developed and validated in classed collaboration with trainers who will design courses, take over the training and remotely monitor the progress of the learners. For validation, FELLOWS will perform field trials with group of people threatened by exclusion or aside from the Knowledge Society currently under construction: immigrants, young marginal people, illiterate and women at home.

FELLOWS will develop and validate new distant learning services for user groups who need access to education and training outside formal education settings. Detailed objectives are:
- Develop an ODL training service centred on the users (trainers and learners)
- Reach people difficult to capture in formal education and training courses
- Provide technical knowledge transfer to the trainers making sure they feel ownership of it
- Develop consistent user interface optimised for the target groups reducing learning difficulties
- Create an environment that facilitates European wide co-operation and sharing of resources by trainers and training institutes
- Develop the required ODL infrastructure from Internet standards \(XML, JAVA, FLASH) to ensure the largest compatibility with and easy access from any terminal. Validation of the FELLOWS platform and approach will be done with illiterate people, women at home and young people with a low education level.

Work description:
The following activities will be carried out and are organised in a set of 9 workpackages: Technical Developments:- ODL platform development including full conformance with Internet standards, exploitation of XML and artificial intelligence techniques to configure the courses and monitor the work of the learners according to their profile, motivation and progress, advice the learner and the trainers on course adaptation; development of trainer centred authoring tools.

HCI Design:
- Identification of requirements of the target groups to be taken into account for the training course concepts (both trainers and learners)
- Development of corresponding multimedia interfaces, ensuring re-usability and ease porting to other languages. Trainers Training and Corse Design (pedagogical aspects)
- Definition of the suitable pedagogical approaches for the target groups; ensure transferability to the other users and countries
- Selection of training courses to be used for the target groups in the pilot (training for specific job skills, that currently exists on paper or other media), and identification of the required modifications to adapt them- Training the trainers to use the ODL platform and how to conceive training course material for the FELLOWS environment
- daptation of selected course material to FELLOWS ODL environment. Learning by doing approach. Start evaluation process concerning the use of ODL environment by the trainers. Provide feedback to technology and HCI partners.

Evaluation in a Pilot Environmet:
- Set-up a pilot environment with 4 different target groups in 4 different countries; women at home, young people in dual training system in a difficult situation, young unemployed people (incl. immigrants), illiterate people
- Define an evaluation framework on technical, pedagogical and HCI aspects; to measure the impact of FELLOWS learning services on end-users and trainers
- Provide conclusions and guidelines resulting from the experience.

Main results will be an Internet standard compliant ODL platform; demonstration of how ODL techniques can be used with less favoured people to offer them access to the Information Society and improve inclusion; Guidelines for further deployment.

Milestones: System specification, user requirements, preliminary ODL platform (M6); Trained trainers and pilot specifications (M12); Courses and validation method (M18); Final ODL platform (M24); Pilots and evaluation (M30).

-CybEOsphere has developed the Fellows ODL platform (ODLP). It is a complete software suite that can be tailored to the specific needs of any training institution due to an innovative software architecture and a wide set of application programme interfaces (APIs). It has been developed according to the needs of vocational education and training organisations addressing socially fragile people with low education levels. The Fellows ODLP enables and facilitates the online training process, from training course design to tutoring and monitoring of trainees and course administration. Thanks to a powerful authoring tool, the Fellows ODLP allows training of social groups for whom currently no e-learning courses are available. This is facilitated by the fact that non-IT skilled trainers can both develop and deliver bespoke e-content. Additionally, the provision of pedagogical models enables the producers to match the different learning environments to the users' needs. Advanced importation and exportation facilities are included in the authoring tool.

Its SCORM and AICC compliance enables interoperability between content already produced and alternative learning management systems. Additionally, the Fellows platform is also flexible enough to allow use of existing SCORM compliant content. In this way, the Fellows ODLP provides high flexibility, modularity and autonomy for any training institution. The main components of the Fellows ODLP are:
-the LMS (Learning Management System),
-the LCMS (Learning Content Management System) Key features of the Fellows ODLP include:
-Adaptability Both the LMS and LCMS can be customised (with Java skills). Platform facilitates HCI and pedagogical tuning.
-Extensibility The Fellows ODLP is an open application. It can easily be interfaced with any other software with APIs and complies to J2EE standards.
-Scalability The Fellows ODLP has been developed using the Java EJB which enables high scalability.
-Interoperability with separate server systems The Fellows ODLP has high levels of interoperability due to:
- The technology used (Java EJB),
- Its architecture (API and data base interface), the J2EE, SQL 92, SCORM and IMS standards compliance.
-CWA, BFI, INFREP and IB have developed training modules designed for socially fragile people. The courses use a blended model, which is a mixture of WBT and face to face tuition. The WBT element is composed of multimedia courses developed on the Fellows ODLP. Training modules have been designed to encourage lifelong learning, increase self confidence and develop practical skills. The ODL techniques for delivering training to socially fragile people have been validated in pilot trainings conducted by the 4 pedagogical institutions. The following training modules have been developed by the pedagogical partners in their local language: Introduction to Interior Design; Visual Basic for Beginners; Application Coach; Job Compass; English for Computer Users; Basics of HTML; Basic Knowledge of Internet Technology; First Aid; Perfect Application; Dimensioning; Examining, Measuring and Gauging; Woodwork, Milling and Lathe; The European Union, The Alphabetical Order, Care Assistant, Hostelry, Communication, Discover the Internet; How to find a Job.
-The pedagogical partners have gained precious experience and knowledge of how ODL techniques can be integrated in social education and training not only to the benefit of the learners, but also to the benefit of the trainers. Specific attention was brought to the involvement of the trainers, and training sessions dedicated to the trainers have been conceived and implemented. This experience can be passed on to other institutions that wish to implement e-learning, through specific training and consultation offered internally and externally by the pedagogical partners.
-LEEDS developed a set of requirements and design guidelines for the Fellows ODL platform. These were produced to ensure that the platform would enable learning by the target users. These guidelines could be applied to future ODL development.

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