The development of an e-learning implementation strategy is one of the national priorities of the educational policy set by Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, the Erasmus+ Partner Countries involved in the e-LIVES project.
To build a fully online course is a difficult process requiring universities to address a range of heterogeneous aspects:
- the construction of an efficient economic model;
- the national accreditation of the e-learning courses in the absence of appropriate legislation and sometimes despite the support of Government officials;
- the training of an ample pool of teachers able to understand the inherent pedagogical differences between face-to-face and distance learning and capable of mastering the authoring tools needed to produce the course contents;
- the development and build up of the technological infrastructure needed to create and deliver the online courses;
- the training of the technical staff necessary to maintain the technical infrastructure and to support the teachers on the utilization of the authoring tools;
- in the case of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)-related courses, the development, and implementation of real-time online controlled laboratories to allow students to perform laboratory works remotely.
In STEM-related courses the acquisition of practical skills normally associated with face-to-face laboratory work raises issues that are sometimes difficult to solve, hindering the development of full STEM-related online courses.
All these challenges were successfully addressed during the previous EOLES TEMPUS project, also coordinated by the University of Limoges and involving, among others, nine of the new e-LIVES project consortium partners. Indeed, during the project, it was designed and implemented an entirely online English-taught 3rd year Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Optics for Embedded Systems, the L3-EOLES (Electronics and Optics e-Learning for Embedded Systems) course. The course, that started being offered in the school year 2014/15, is currently in its fourth edition. Designed as a specialization year, this course is oriented towards a currently expanding field in the electrical and computer engineering area, the field of electronics and optics for embedded systems. This area of knowledge requires students to be able to perform experimental work to acquire the expected technical experimental skills. The execution of laboratory assignments over the Internet required the development of remotely accessible experimental laboratories enabling students to interact in real-time with real experimental setups. This innovative training was accredited by the educational authorities in Tunisia, Morocco, and France. If this previous project can be considered as a success, the progress made is still insufficient to determine a fast growth of the offer of e-engineering courses in the short term.
By documenting a set of good practices and following a hands-on approach, the e-LIVES project aims to help partner countries’ universities to build innovative e-engineering courses by themselves in a sustainable way. This ambitious objective is grounded in two main goals:
- to help universities to move through the different course design and development stages (building of a curriculum, getting the national accreditation, training teachers, creating contents,…);
- to help universities to develop by themselves (from A to Z) a remote laboratory.
It is important to note that these remote laboratories can also be used in face-to-face training. Indeed, due to the exponential growth in students’ number, numerous universities had to replace the laboratory works in the first year of their Bachelor degree in STEM fields by paper-and-pencil work. This project is then expected to have a direct structural impact on the higher education system modernisation of the involved Partner Countries.
By and after the end of the project, different kinds of target groups from Partner Countries, as well as other countries of the South and Eastern Mediterranean Basin, are expected to benefit from the outputs of the e-LIVES project:
- national decision-makers (university deans and national higher education officials) are expected to have all the information needed to have their doubts about this innovative way of teaching and learning dissipated and then facilitate the national accreditation process of new e-engineering courses in their countries;
- Partner institutions are expected to have acquired all the necessary know-how to create ambitious e-engineering courses, and in particular, to have overcome all the administrative, human and material resources obstacles they face today;
- each Partner institution is also expected to have a fully operational remote laboratory ready to be used by the students enrolled not only in e-engineering courses but also in face-to-face courses, in order to partially cope with the replacement of laboratory works in the first year of their Bachelor degrees in STEM fields by paper-and-pencil work due to lack of enough resources to accommodate all of them;
- students are expected to benefit from the e-LIVES project results as the participating institutions will be able to build innovative high-quality accredited e-engineering courses suitable for different profiles of students, namely students with weak economic resources and/or living in isolated areas or students in continuing education, and therefore their number is expected to increase after the e-LIVES project;
- teachers and technical staff involved in the project activities are expected to be ready to be part of an e-engineering course by the end of the project.
The Partner Countries’ Universities are expected to benefit from the outputs of the e-LIVES project in a sustainable way as they will be able to create, develop, manage and teach innovative high-quality e-engineering courses.