Up to university (UP2U) - A new EU-funded project by GÉANT
Bridging the gap between schools and universities through informal education
Peter Szegedi talks to CONNECT about Up to University (Up2U),
Providing educational tools and services To secondary schools in Europe
The key objective of Up2U is to bridge the gap between secondary schools and Higher Education and Research by better integrating formal and informal learning scenarios, and adapting the technology and the methodology that students are likely to encounter at university. This initiative aims to respond
to the requirements of a clear mandate from the European Commission allied with the provision of new cloud-based tools and services to enhance primary and secondary education in Europe. Up2U is a 36 month long collaborative project with €5M funding that kicked off in January this year. It is coordinated by GÉANT and gathers 18 partners from 12 countries across Europe including NRENs, traditional and open universities, infrastructure providers and commercial partners.
Personalised learning and sustainability
Up2U focuses on a specific learning context and very formative period represented by secondary schools that in most European countries provide education to children between the ages of 11 and 19. The aim is to develop an innovative ecosystem that facilitates more open, effective and efficient co-design, cocreation and use of digital content, tools and services specially adapted for personalised, collaborative or experimental learning by students preparing for university.
In addition, to ensure long-term sustainability of the project, Up2U will also investigate appropriate business models using the expertise of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and NREN partners. In a later phase, it will also engage with educational content and service providers to further develop a suitable framework for the delivery of a fruitful commercial outcome.
A scalable and future-proof platform
The project entails the provision of educational applications, project-based and peer-to-peer learning scenarios and the facilitation of international interaction for secondary schools in Europe. Creative teachers will be placed at the core of the kick-off and briefing phase and encouraged to provide input and ideas for implementation.
Inspired by organic educational initiatives, such as Google for Education and Khan Academy, Up2U creates a flipped virtual ecosystem where pupils can learn at their own pace supported by social interactions, federated access and are able to exchange documents and other project-related multimedia content in a trusted and privacyprotected environment.
The initial phase of Up2U will focus on the adoption and customisation of an e-learning management system with basic functionalities and standard Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) interfaces. During the first year the new platform is expected to create an environment for creative student projects across Europe whose results will be shared with other schools and will be made publicly available. Up2U will also investigate personalised learning analytics, peer reviews and community driven digital recognition systems, using Open Badges and blockchain technology. The project team will be gathering early feedback form teachers and students, following the rapid prototyping and minimum valuable product development principles.
The platform will also need to be future-proof and scalable, with room for growth and development to seamlessly accommodate new schools and future commercial partnerships. Nowadays, the distance between a creative idea and a commercial product is becoming shorter and shorter; our commercial partners and project partners will explore these opportunities from day one.
The initial challenge is to start connecting the selected schools in the pilot countries - Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal - using existing and established networks. Subsequent phases will then seek the extension of Up2U to other countries, including those GÉANT Project NRENs that have the mandate to serve secondary education in their respective countries, but are not partners in the Up2U project.
Up2U will also encourage “unschooling”. But what does this mean? Unschooling is an informal space where teachers and learners meet. It is defined as the natural way to learn and is based on the fact that children are natural learners who thrive if provided with the appropriate tools in the right environments. Thus the platform, by being readily accessible in a context external to school, will enable students to keep on learning almost without realising it.
Individual schools and learning communities will use the Up2U ecosystem, its tools and services as an alternative education platform and store their personal and project-related data according to their own choice and local policies with respect to the European regulations. The desired outcomes are seamless, interoperable intercommunication, broader education and an inspiring vision of a multicultural, connected society for all students.
To summarise, Up2U will interconnect formal and informal education through engagement with teachers and students by means of sharing tools in virtual classes using project-based learning and interaction with schools in their respective and other countries. It will provide strong support for teachers and will aim to deliver personalised education in a safe and trusted environment, where students will be able to complete inspiring assignments and receive community rewards thanks to a digital recognition system built into the platform.
For further information on Up2U, please visit https://up2university.eu/
You can also contact Peter Szegedi, GÉANT at email@example.com