Project U – Immersive Learning Spaces

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High Definition (HD) devices, together with Ultra HD devices, are quickly gaining consensus in a large number of fields and applications, in particular in the entertainment field, making the user experience more immersive and enjoyable. In spite of the large potentials that such immersive user experience could have in the world of ICT based learning, its adoption has not yet been exploited in this sector.

In addition, the existing e-learning and digital platforms show a number of limitations for the user interface, context of use, teaching and learning model as well as limitations on the content creation and distribution features. In particular, in traditional eLearning systems there is a distinct separation of roles between the domain experts (i.e. the teachers), the developers of multimedia educational content (i.e. the multimedia editors) and the learners, which results in a waterfall type of information transfer from the teachers to the learner. Due to the heavy involvement of multimedia editors in several steps of the eLearning production chain, this separation of roles makes the current production and updating of the courses often time-consuming and expensive.

Being User centered, hence the name “U”, the project has the objectives of supporting new teaching/learning methodologies for enhanced learning experiences by means of a technological platform that fills the above mentioned gaps and facilitates content distribution and user interaction. Its main pillars are:

  • Touch interfaces, large interactive walls and tables, tablets and devices
  • Blended context and adaptability supporting the students in the classrooms, at home and in mobility
  • Easiness of content creation and smart distribution/sharing features

 The U project has the following main goals:

  • Technological: a software-hardware-networking platform that enables the collection and the delivery of a variety of digital content through several rich front-ends, ranging from personal devices like tablets and smartphones to immersive interactive learning environments
  • Educational and scientific: setting the scientific pillars of a new digital education learning framework that exploits interactive tools to redefine the learning experience
  • Financial:
    • The development of a standard, pluggable software-hardware-networking platform seamlessly integrated with a dedicated broadband solution

A platform that becomes a new channel for academic and private content providers to market and monetize their know-how.

Users and their needs

The end users of the systems are the actors involved in the teaching-learning process: teachers and students. While Content Providers (CPs) are the users that contribute to the content creation process. In this context, the platform finds application in traditional learning environments like primary and secondary schools, as well as in Universities.

A number of possible applications in corporate environments and in research and development environments may be envisioned also, where there is a strong demand for highly interactive collaborative tools (i.e. participated design).

The platform fulfils also the needs of the actors related to the following use-case scenarios:

  • Classroom with teacher present in the classroom
  • Classroom with teacher driving the lesson from a remote location
  • Students in digital divide with teacher driving the lesson from the school
  • Classroom A, Classroom B, Classroom C, and so on... of different schools sharing a lesson driven by teacher connected from another classroom

For the purpose of the Project pilot, an early adoption in schools and academic environments in Luxembourg, Italy and United Kingdom has been foreseen. After the pilot phase, the platform will be made commercially available on a global basis, with main focuses on Europe and North America.

Service/ system concept

The platform is conceptually composed by four functional elements:

  1. The U brain is the system logic stored in cloud environments. The U brain contains three content repositories:
    1. The digital content repository i.e. the content storage
    2. The user profiles repository, which stores all the information about the users
    3. The template repository, which stores all the mechanics and the dynamics that can be combined in the interactive teaching sessions

The U brain is an engine that defines and manages how content fill the templates and how these are presented on the front ends.

  1. The Android App is a tablet app that can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store. It represents the student personal front end for the interactive learning experience. The app seamlessly dialogues with rich front ends when it detects their presence enabling an enhanced experience
  2. The rich front ends. These are interactive software-hardware tools conceived to improve the experience in the classroom, consisting of an interactive multi-touch wall and an interactive multi-touch table
  3. The U transport layer which includes:
    • Satellite connectivity, dedicated to the interconnection of enhanced classrooms and remote users living in digital divide areas; the broadband satellite link guarantees at the same time a bi-directional traffic flow and a communication path meant to assure synchronous and asynchronous content fruition, distribution and updates among the U brain central component, all the enhanced classrooms (on a possibly nation-wide basis) and different content providers
    • 3G/4G, ADSL and Satellite connectivity for personal use
    • WiFi connectivity, dedicated to the local interconnection into the enhanced classroom between tablets and the rich front ends. 

Space Added Value

The role of the transport layer is fundamental: modern and effective learning methodologies are more and more focused on multimedia contents. Users demand for multimedia contents is growing constantly along with technology evolution. But content is useless if it can’t be delivered to the users.

In this context, in a system like the U platform, multimedia content plays a central role as well as the need for its dissemination and distribution on a one-to-many or many-to-many base: multicasting becomes a mandatory choice to satisfy these user requirements.

Therefore, the satellite platform results ideal for supporting both resource economy in terms of bandwidth usage and a proper architecture for content distribution and dissemination on a virtually unlimited scale;

As shown in the above diagram, the U transport layer derives its power from a strong integration with the Satellite technology, exploiting key factors ranging from widespread uniform coverage to both unicast and multicast capability for content distribution and delivery as well as simultaneous educational contents updates, a key differentiation point of the U platform.

Current Status

The final review took place on 11th October 2018. 

The pilot activities have been concluded with excellent results and feedbacks from teachers and students. The commercial roll-out strategy is 
being discussed, and one its next steps is to enhance the U Brain platform to support also Apple IOS devices.

 

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Antonello Conti
Digitaria International
25A, Boulevard Grande-Duchesse Charlotte
L-1331 Luxembourg
Luxembourg
+352 26 44 19 93

ESA Project Manager

Davide.Tomassini@esa.int
ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, P.O. Box 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
Netherlands
+31 71 56 58163

Status Date

Updated: 20 May 2016 - Created: 16 March 2015