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M. Badger1, F. Vercoulen2, L. Monaco3, L. Farinetti4

1Technical University of Denmark (DENMARK)
2Eindhoven University of Technology (NETHERLANDS)
3Royal Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
4Politecnico di Torino (ITALY)
Four technical universities in Europe work together in the EU-funded project Virtual Campus Hub (FP7 RI-283746, to lower the technical barriers for cross-border collaboration. Universities have many connections to the outside world (e.g. to other universities, to joint educational programs, and to the industry) but this collaboration is not well supported by the current Information and Communications Technology (ICT). For example, students who follow a joint educational program at different universities usually need to have a user account at each university to access the applications used there.
The objective of Virtual Campus Hub is to use state-of-the-art European e-Infrastructures (Géant) in combination with federated authentication to establish a single sign-on system between universities. A pilot environment, which links applications from the four partner universities together, is currently under construction. When the pilot is ready, users at a given partner university will be able to access services at the other partners with the user name and password of their local university. Collaboration with the industry will be handled via guest accounts because the access to European e-Infrastructures relies upon the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) which are not geared towards commercial enterprises at present.
A range of applications for online teaching and collaboration has been developed as part of the Virtual Campus Hub project. These include remote laboratory exercises, examination tools, courses, collaboration tools, and tools to support the incubation of new small or medium size enterprises (SMEs). All of the applications serve as use cases for the demonstration of how the technology behind Virtual Campus Hub works. They can be accessed via a personalized portal where users must provide their identity in order to access the content.
An important part of the Virtual Campus Hub project is to gain new experiences and document best practices when it comes to using the different online applications in real teaching situations and especially in connection with joint educational programs and courses. These experiences are gained through a series of virtual events where users from the partners are invited to test each other’s applications. So far, testing of remote laboratory exercises, examination tools and an online course in wind energy has shown very promising results. Users are generally satisfied with the new opportunities for learning online as they gain a large degree of flexibility when it comes to the planning of their efforts. Another positive aspect of the online learning applications tested here were the opportunity to study at one’s own pace and to revisit the learning material (e.g. recorded presentations and video demonstrations of exercises).
The technical concept of Virtual Campus Hub may be reused in the future by other institutions who wish to add their services or start new collaboration environments. It is thus highly scalable. The pilot and tests described here are all related to energy research, education, and innovation but the concept could easily be adapted to other scientific disciplines.