A brave new world of technology-enhanced learning

Dr Gabriel-Miro Muntean, Senior Lecturer, School of Electronic Engineering, Dublin City University and Coordinator of the NEWTON Project.

Dr Gabriel-Miro Muntean, Senior Lecturer, School of Electronic Engineering, Dublin City University and Coordinator of the NEWTON Project.

A new ambitious collaborative project, coordinated by DCU academic Gabriel-Miro Muntean, will be launched this month with a budget of €6.5m.

The NEWTON project, led by Dublin City University and funded by Horizon 2020, will harness collaboration from six university and eight industry partners across seven countries, including Dublin-based Adaptemy.

The project aims to reimagine the online classroom experience using pioneering digital learning technologies. It aims to attract students to STEM education and improve access for students with disabilities. It aims also to reverse the high attrition rate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education -and there are exciting implications here for students and providers of online STEM courses, where adapting the subject matter to the technology-enhanced learning environment can be a challenge, and Ireland’s early drop-out rates continue to be worryingly high.

NEWTON’s focus is on designing and using novel solutions and practices which involve multi-sensorial features and multi-modal delivery and display of content, and personalisation and adaptation of content creation, distribution and presentation in order to increase learner quality of experience, improve learning process, and increase learning outcome.

Games and gamification will be used to stimulate and motivate students, augmented reality will allow them to access computer generated models of scientific book content, while interactive Avatars will guide and respond to students in a uniquely personalised experience.

Immersive learning labs will allow students to experiment in simulated environments and share their solutions.  The project will also pioneer the use of “mulsemedia” or “multi-sensorial media”, engaging three or more senses in the learning process, including smell and touch.

NEWTON will be tested and validated in real life pilots across Europe, using a network of innovative secondary schools, vocational establishments and third level institutes permanently working on the development of good teaching practices.

This highly avant-garde project has the potential to transform technology-enhanced learning outcomes, improve completion rates for students as well as ensure return on investment for course providers.

“One of the limitations of current Learning Management Systems is that they do not focus on enhancing the learner quality of experience using the latest technologies,” explains Dr Muntean, NEWTON project coordinator and head of  DCU School of Electronic Engineering’s Performance Engineering Lab.

“NEWTON will change that and will provide an adaptive and personalised STEM learning experience and offer support for learners with different kinds of disabilities using the most advanced research and development innovations. It is a very exciting prospect.”

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