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Networked Labs for Training in Sciences and Technologies for Information and Communication

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEWTON (Networked Labs for Training in Sciences and Technologies for Information and Communication)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

NEWTON is a large EU Horizon 2020 project which designs, develops and deploys innovative solutions for Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) involving delivery of state-of-the-art STEM content. The proposed TEL solutions are validated with diverse audiences, which include primary and secondary schools, universities and students with special educational needs in real-life pilots deployed in multiple European locations. The NEWTON innovative technologies involve adaptive and personalised multimedia and multiple sensorial media (mulsemedia) delivery, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)-enhanced learning, Virtual Teaching and Learning Labs (Virtual Labs), Fabrication Labs (Fab Labs) and Gamification. These technologies are used in conjunction with different pedagogical approaches including self-directed, game-based and problem-based learning methods.
NEWTON also builds an innovative learning management platform (also named NEWTON) allowing cross-European learner and teacher interaction with content and courses and supporting fast dissemination of learning content to a wide audience in a ubiquitous manner. NEWTON’s ultimate goal is to make use of TEL in order to increase learner quality of experience, improve learning process and maintain or increase learning outcome. The NEWTON platform has a multi-tier client-server architecture which separates business logic, client access technology and centrally held data into discrete layers which inter-communicate via standard open interfaces. This layer-based architecture enables both platform’s scalability and support for latest innovations by including novel gamification, adaptation and personalisation components.
The NEWTON innovative technologies and the NEWTON innovative learning management platform contribute fundamentally to achieving the NEWTON project’s goal of improving user learning experience and enhancing satisfaction during the learning process, while maintaining and potentially increasing student learning outcome. It is hoped that this improvement in the learning quality of experience will make STEM topics more attractive to the students, including to learners with special needs, and will determine an increase in the number of students who take and enjoy STEM subjects and target a STEM-related career.
Halfway through the project, the results of the NEWTON partner efforts have started to become reality. The complex, but highly innovative NEWTON platform has been designed and its core Learning Management System (LMS) has been implemented. Currently the platform is being integrated with the other NEWTON technologies in order to enable adaptive, personalised and gamified access to rich media content and support Virtual and Fab Lab interaction.
Following research, the NEWTON innovative technologies are ready to be tested independently and are being integrated as components in the NEWTON platform. They enable adaptive and personalised distribution of content, enhanced or not with components which target human senses other than sight and hearing (e.g. olfaction, haptic) and adjust the delivery process based on user profile and operational environment (i.e. device and network). NEWTON AR/VR support provides both significant enhancements to learner’s cognitive perception of the real world and extends existing teaching and learning space with a virtual environment. In particular the sign-language avatar provides support for the learners with hearing impairment.
"The learner-centric NEWTON platform is an innovative LMS which has at its core the newly designed NEWTON Learner Model. This model includes both general user attributes such as gender, age, technological ability and some specific aspects mostly employed for learners with special needs such as type and level of disability. Additionally the model includes components describing user technical access environment which are expressed in terms of device features and network parameters. This enables dual support for both NEWTON personalised learning and adaptive media delivery. Extensive user learner model-based personalisation which includes support for learners with special needs and innovative adaptation of multimedia and multiple-sensorial learning content delivery are highly novel, especially in the context of a fully functional learning platform. Another innovative aspect is the design and deployment of the NEWTON gamification engine. The Gamification-enhanced platform enables users to target specific learning goals, get rewarded, receive feedback, etc. when progressing through stages, assuring higher levels of user motivation, engagement, and loyalty in the different learning activities. Integration of the rewards into the assessment process is also novel. Noteworthy is also the one-of-a-kind integration of Fab and Virtual Labs into the NEWTON platform, making them remotely accessible to students unable to access real fabrication equipment locally or willing to explore a virtual learning experience with innovative learning content, respectively. Finally and not least important is the fact that NEWTON platform-hosted content is delivered to learners through a number of self-directed and independent learning methods, which are learner-centric and aim to increase student engagement.
The use of the NEWTON platform and its innovative learning technologies is expected to help meet the NEWTON project goal of increasing user learning experience and satisfaction during the learning process and eventually attracting more students to STEM subjects, while maintaining and potentially improving their learning outcome.
NEWTON real-life validation involves at least 15 small-scale pilots and 3 large-scale pilots comprising approximately 1,000 students and 20 teachers/lecturers from 3 primary, 4 secondary and 1 school dedicated to special learning students, 1 vocational institute and 5 universities from 7 EU countries: Ireland, Slovakia, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania and UK. Some multimedia and mulsemedia content delivery and some game-based small scale pilots have already been carried out in 3 countries and the NEWTON technologies were very well received by the European students and teachers. The results of these and of the other pilots will be disseminated widely via diverse academic and non-academic/social channels.
NEWTON offers easy access to educators and learners with little or no technical skills and provides personalised access based on individual differences, experience, skills and special needs. One of the key impacts of the project is to deliver an innovative digital personalised learning experience through multi-sensorial channels, and thus contribute to the objectives of the ""Opening up Education"" initiative. Through utilizing technology in a wide range of STEM activities, NEWTON actively tackles the issues highlighted in this plan of action and helps deliver high quality education and digital skills required by the future job market. Inclusive education is another key aspect of