Immersed in learning

Research is pushing back the frontiers of e-learning, allying the real and virtual worlds to enhance the learning experience.

Leading edge research under the 36 month, 12.9m Euro project awarded by the European Commission to a Consortium of 13 leading European organisations is close to using grid and cloud computing to provide the computing resources to bring learners together in both the real and virtual worlds. Known as the Interactive Realtime Multimedia Applications on Service Oriented Infrastructures (IRMOS) Project, the project recently passed its first – 12 month – review in a plenary meeting, held in Brussels, where European Commission representatives and an international panel of experts reviewed the first results of the project.

Fabrizio Cardinali, CEO of leading learning and mobile content management solution provider, Giunti Labs – one of the 13 companies involved in the IRMOS Project, revealed these preliminary results at the ‘Immersive Education Summit’ – held at the London School of Economics in London on 23rd and 24th April.

The project aims to develop ‘real-time’ interaction between people and applications over a service oriented infrastructure (SOI), where processing, storage and networking need to be combined and delivered with guaranteed levels of service.

The project’s key objectives relate to ‘extended geo-learning’, delivered ‘in-class’, ‘in-house’, ‘in campus and ‘in building’ on an urban, suburban and global GPS basis. Cardinali also stated that Giunti Labs is also working on ‘learner positioning’ in virtual worlds as well as in the real world.

Indeed, the aim of the project is to combine the two, enabling a learner’s avatar to be synchronised with that learner’s movements in the real world. Cardinali added: “And, of course, the learning content produced can be re-used and distributed via different delivery media – such as text books, web-based learning materials, mobile learning, digital boards and so on.

“Using the IRMOS-empowered set-up, learners will be able to meet in specific real world learning hubs, such as museums, tourist attractions, schools and/or industrial locations, and receive location-based learning materials and community services, geo-located on a matter of relevance and context awareness, while the real time system will ‘synch’ user interactions and information within a virtual reconstruction of the visited premises,” explained Cardinali. “This will empower learners to meet a community of mobile and virtual visitors, for a wider performance support and learning experience.

“Today, we’re not thinking about ‘e-learning platforms’ but, rather, about an ecosystem which knows – or discovers – who the learner is, what language s/he speaks, the learner’s background, learning delivery preferences and so on,” he continued. “This is helping to produce true personalised learning.”

Cardinali stated that ‘virtual worlds’ provide excellent research opportunities for Giunti Labs – which is Europe’s largest private research laboratory. He said: “Since 2000, we have worked on more than 50 international research and development projects in this field – including the IRMOS Project – in over 500 EU academic and industrial partnerships. These partnerships cover new learning methodologies, technologies and solutions; new content repositories, management systems and architectures, and new learning content.”




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