COMBINING E-TECHNOLOGIES & E-PEDAGOGIES TO CREATE ONLINE UNDERGRADUATE COURSES IN ENGINEERING – AN EXAMPLE OF A SUCCESSFUL EXPERIENCE
For many years now, established Universities have been offering undergraduate e-learning programs in addition to their classic on-site programs, creating specific e-learning frameworks and adapting their traditional offer to be delivered remotely. However, that offer is restricted to no-engineering areas. The exception are the widely available fully online Information and Computer Technology (ICT) undergraduate programs, since the same computer used by the students to follow an ICT program may be used to perform practical work in the field.
To be successful, undergraduate degrees in engineering areas require students to perform experimental work in subjects like physics, chemistry, mechanical and electrical machines, or digital and analogue electronics, for example. These require the remote access to experimental labs and real time interaction with real experimental setups.
Based on previous research and development work in the area of remote and virtual labs, and on the creation and running of e-learning courses, a group of 15 Institutions – 4 from Europe, 4 from Algeria, 4 from Tunisia and 3 from Morocco –, managed to joint their know-how under a 3 years European TEMPUS project to create the L3-EOLES (Electronics and Optics for Embedded Systems) course – a fully online 3rd year English taught Bachelor’s degree covering the field of electronics and optics for embedded systems.
The project joint the expertise of the partners in such areas as e-Learning 2.0 tools, simulation tools, and virtual and remote labs, with the priorities defined by Maghreb governments of developing higher education in advanced engineering fields. Designed as a specialization year, this course is oriented towards a currently expanding field in the electrical and computer engineering area, the embedded systems domain.
The main originality of this course is the possibility given to students of carrying out lab experiments remotely, using real equipment installed in different universities, and of accessing different licensed applications placed in central servers, providing they have a broadband internet connection.
Candidate students may be from anywhere in the world, albeit priority is being given to students from the partner countries. They must already have the first two years of a Bachelor degree in Physics, Electrical, Electronics, Automation, Optics, Telecommunications or equivalent, corresponding to 120 ECTS, and the willing to move professionally towards the fields of electronics and optics.
The course is supported by a Moodle platform. The content is distributed by 14 Technical Units (TU). The responsibility and teaching of each TU is distributed among the project partners, according to their areas of expertise, thus creating a multicultural environment for the students.
The course is recognized by the educational authorities of France, Morocco and Tunisia. Thus, all successful students receive a diploma recognized inside the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), with students from Morocco and Tunisia also receiving a diploma issued by one of the accredited universities of their home countries.
The course proved to be a success, with around 400 candidates in the first year and more than 700 in the second for the 35 places available. Applications are now open for the 3rd edition of the course. The first EOLES graduates received their Diplomas by the end of the school year 2014/15. At least one of them is now taking his MSc’s degree in a French University.