Across Europe an increasing number of students are sent on from secondary to higher education. As a consequence, university drop-out rates are increasing, not least because students have difficulties coping with a higher education teaching environment based much more on digital tools than what the students were used to in secondary school.
The EU-funded Up2University project wants to change that and help school-aged students prepare for university by making the technology and the methodology that students most likely will be facing at universities available to the secondary school level.
Everything students and teachers need
To promote digital literacy, critical thinking, and project work, Up2U is developing a “next-generation digital learning environment”, a flexible platform containing everything students and teachers need for state-of-the-art digital learning: open source tools to record, edit and publish educational multimedia content, video conferencing services, tools for sharing documents and interaction in learning communities, content repositories for digital education materials, and a learning management system to administer and deliver online courses.
By gathering this wide variety of learning tools on one platform Up2U makes it easier for schools to adapt new technology, and to cross the threshold to advanced digital learning.
8 R&E networks participating
The Up2University project brings together 18 partners from 12 countries across Europe, among them universities, big research institutes, small and medium enterprises, and 8 Research & Education networks, including project coordinator GÉANT.
What the R&E networks bring to the table is essential: They offer virtualized infrastructure resources for the project out of their national data centres and cloud service delivery infrastructures. They offer single sign-on technology for the users to be able to access all tools as easily as possible. And due to their experience in security and federated trust and identity, GDPR compliance etc. they ensure that everything is delivered in a secure and trusted manner, without compromising teachers’ and students’ privacy.
Not only does Up2U aim to design and develop an easy-to-access “turnkey” digital learning ecosystem. It also focuses on promoting the platform by staging large-scale pilots in 9 European countries.
The Eupalinos Tunnel
Greece is one of the 9 pilot countries. Dr Mary Grammatikou from the National Technical University of Athens explains:
“We are collaborating with a number of secondary schools to train teachers and students in using the Up2U tools. As an example, we have developed digital teaching material about the Eupalinos Tunnel on the island of Samos, one of the greatest engineering achievements of antiquity. The tunnel was designed by the engineer Eupalinos of Megara and excavated between 550 and 530 BC to serve as an aqueduct leading water to the island’s capital,” she said.
“The interdisciplinary Eupalinos course implements Mathematics, Chemistry and English Language in the same class by using tools from the Up2U ecosystem like online video, slide repositories, interactive questionnaires etc. It is now running in three high schools, the 2nd Lyceum of Vrilissia, the Varvakeio Gymnasium, and Gerakas’ Art School. The course incorporates three lessons. Regarding mathematics it uses the excavation obstacles in the Tunnel of Eupalinos to explain related geometrical problems. Regarding chemistry it focuses on the chemical elements that are found in the materials used in the tunnel. Regarding English language the course exercises oral production and writing skills using English Language terminology relating to the tunnel.”
Very positive feedback
“We have had very positive feedback from both students and teachers. So now we are working on expanding the platform to more students, more teachers and even to some universities as well. As an example we are participating in eTwinning education conference, with 400 participants who have signed up for a session where we are presenting the Up2U platform. This will be a good first step for us in promoting the ecosystem to more people and institutions. Also, we have been contacted by teachers who have heard about Up2U from their colleagues and who want to participate. All in all, people are very interested and I am confident that our platform will attract many new users.”
Other pilots similar to the Greek pilot are running e.g. in Italy, where teachers are focusing in network security issues and courses on the climate change, in Poland, where teachers are focusing on smog and air pollution, and in Lithuania, in collaboration with the National Olympiad of Environment Protection.
According to Mary Grammatikou and her partners in the Up2University project, the next challenge is to design a sustainability and exploitation framework that can secure the platform will continue to be operational and supported beyond the lifetime of the project.
For more information please visit the Up2University website.
Feel free to email the Up2U project managers at: firstname.lastname@example.org