Among many other things, the Covid-19 crisis has mercilessly exposed deficits in many areas – one of them is certainly the level of digitisation of Europe’s society in general and within education in particular. The lockdowns experienced by all kinds training institutes for months on end in most EU countries, have forced educators to offer training via the internet. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them had no idea how this works. In fact, we had to face a rather sad snapshot of Europe’s education systems: in most countries, there is very little tradition of e-learning, education providers have no or insufficient strategic digitalisation concepts and action plans, educators have little theoretical knowledge and methodological competence in the field, and, at least partially, the provision of basic infrastructure and devices (broadband internet, smartphones, tablets etc.) is still not universal.
The EU has been aware of this situation for a long time, and has promoted a wide range of policy papers, such as: European Strategy 2020 (2010), New Skills Agenda for Europe (2015), Education Policies in Europe and Beyond (2017), the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (2017), Digital Education Action Plan (09/2020). And the IT literacy of learners is indeed constantly increasing – but the same cannot be said of the educational institutions that are responsible for this – much more, they and teachers often lag behind this trend.
On the other hand, there is good news. Comprehensive progress has been made in the provision of digital learning solutions in recent years. Especially Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and the combination and further extension of both to Extended Reality (XR) have begun to enter the education markets. These technologies allow the simulation of almost any environment and process carried out in the physical world, whilst purchase costs have decreased enormously, the same way as the number of the so-called immersive learning apps has increased for all educational fields.
But why do we see so few or nothing of them – and other e-learning solutions – in education? One reason is that educators know so little or nothing about these helpful digital learning opportunities because they never heard about them during their pedagogic studies, which again is due to HE lecturers themselves knowing little or nothing about them.
To rapidly change this, XR4Ped fosters digitisation in HE in general and the promotion of XR-based immersive learning in particular. Main objectives, outcomes and impact are as follows:
- Implementation of a qualitative guided interview survey within 20 best practice EU projects dealing with immersive learning in recent years to collect their experiences, the lessons learnt and the pedagogic approaches that boost XR learning.
- Implementation of a quantitative online questionnaire survey within 200 European educators at all levels to obtain a clear picture about their awareness, experiences, demands and needs with regard to digital and immersive learning as well as their experiences and lessons learnt during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
- Publication of a Green Paper with a detailed analyse of the two survey results, including clear derivations for the set-up and content of the XR4Ped Study Course as well as recommendations to EU policy makers on how to foster digital and immersive learning over the short and long terms. Thus, the experiences, needs and demands of the main target groups have direct impact on the customer orientation of the study course as well as on future policies concerning digital learning.
- Development of the XR4Ped Study Course for lecturers/students of pedagogy containing 8 modules of immersive learning and 2 modules about how to create and implement webinars (overall 4 ECTS). Due to the importance of the topic and the transversal set-up of the course, it can easily be transferred to other HE fields and also be offered to educators in schools, VET, general adult or other education levels. The course has a hybrid set-up with a high number of online self-learning units. If needed, the course can quickly be turned into 100% online training. This ensures that the course can be offered to distance learners all over Europe.
- Development of the XR4Ped Lecture Theatre, an immersive learning environment through which the whole course can be implemented.
- The project will train 140 lecturers/students by means of an XR4Ped study course pilot; after that, we estimate 500 annual course participants, with another 2,000 educators at all levels will train themselves using the open source self-learning units. Familiarising a few 1,000 educators with digital and immersive learning over the next years will demonstrate direct impact upon Europe’s development towards being digital knowledge society.
Therefore, the promoter has gathered experts from DE, AT, IE, BE and FI (+20 associated partners) with great expertise in immersive learning.