The aim of the Advanced Learning Spaces (ALS) was to design, develop and implement an intelligent e-learning portal with full multimedia support and friendly user interface at the Department of Mechatronics and Informatics and Interdisciplinary Studies at Technical University of Liberec. Heavy impact was placed to advanced forms of e-learning media, mainly live streaming and multimedia archive accessible at the learners own volition and needs.
The portal was oriented at the cooperation with the industry good practice to strengthen the link between theory and practice, to encourage further education and promote closer cooperation between the academic and industrial sector.
The project produced over 100 live streamed lectures, instructional multimedia content, e-learning and blended learning support. It allows learner to study at their own speed, form and style. It also encouraged the academic staff to actively participate in ICT based learning environment, to learn new and innovative teaching methods and seek feedback from the industry representatives.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
The main challenge to be addressed in this case is providing the education and training the market and industry needs to those who want to be trained with their time availability and preferred training style taken into account. The portal was mostly praised by attendees of the external study programme and life-long learning students since it allowed them to experience the teaching content as presented to students of standard study programme.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
The traditional teaching methods of Technical University of Liberec (TUL) towards their LLL students have included regular meetings at given, non-negotiable times with a firmly set linear content. While it made sense in some ways, the general development of job market in the CR along with the need to extend workers' qualification fully justified the changed course of action TUL took in creating the ALS. The students now work in their own time, tempo, various speed and depth of study at chosen topics etc. The local industry is often well aware of the skills their workers are in need of but they lack the means of providing them. Through co-operation on the ALS with TUL they are able to provide the knowledge and TUL lecturers provide the method and delivery.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
As with all knowledge-based training being delivered through electronic means the common obstacle arises with possible know-how exclusivity loss. In the CR many schools have run into the situation when an expert was willing to give a lecture personally but not to upload their knowledge online in fear of having it stolen or misused. The blended learning the ALS offers enables a way to address this issue.
Another issue is usually the ICT competence of both lecturers and LLL students. This can be (and has been) solved by tutoring and training but it poses a real though foreseeable risk.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
On the institutional level someone needs to be put in charge of maintaining the database updated, ensure the topical updates. A proper balance and relevance need to be maintained regarding the current curriculum, staff changes, consulting availability, and accuracy of the topics presented in order to stay in the high-end league of the profession.
The continuing co-operation with the industry representatives is also a priority.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
For every such practice to be replicated the stakeholders need to come together in agreement. The educators should provide the means - methodology, contextual deliverance, didactic, safe-to-fail environment which allows proper learning to take place. The industry should provide the desired skill set, the aim of learning, the content related to the jobs ahead. All stakeholders have to hold the others in high esteem and respect their role in the partnership if it is to succeed. In case of TUL and ALS it came to be. But the university status is of great help. Any lower level institutions (and VET in the CR is regarded as lower if provided by e.g. colleges) might struggle to gain the appropriate amount of respect to become equals with the industry representatives.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
A well maintained LMS may become a high quality learner-centered system allowing for trainees' own time management and professional choices. The personal effort to bring together all interested parties must not be underestimated and has yet failed to be implemented on country-wide level.
Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)
TUL is a north of CR based polytechnics with pedagogical programme which provides education and training for the region. It competes with other similarly oriented institutions in Prague, Brno and others for students, grant money, and influence.