M. Gericota1, G. Andrieu2, C. Dalmay2, M. Batarseh3, A. Fidalgo1, P. Ferreira1

1Polytechnic of Porto, School of Engineering (PORTUGAL)
2Université de Limoges (FRANCE)
3Princess Sumaya University for Technology (JORDAN)
Even before the digital era, the implementation of distance learning in higher education was a reality in many areas. Notwithstanding, the offer of distance higher education courses was not equal in all knowledge areas due to different teaching and learning requirements. The experimental work importance in the learning process in engineering areas is widely recognized as essential in the learning process of engineering students. However, the remote availableness of this experimental, hands-on, works, typically done in University laboratories designed according to the different teaching subject requirements, is difficult to achieve.

The recent rise in the number of students in the higher education system in South and Eastern Mediterranean Basin countries albeit highly positive created important difficulties for Universities forced to handle overcrowded classes. These difficulties are particularly noticed on some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) related courses where the need for new laboratory spaces is critical.

One promising, convenient and efficient solution to deal with the constantly surging number of students involves the development of accredited e-engineering courses. The concept of e-engineering emerged with the advent of remote laboratories. These are real-time remotely controlled real physical laboratory facilities made possible by the developments on the Internet infrastructure. By merging the use of these remote laboratories with the e-learning concept, it is now possible to extend the offer of distance learning courses to engineering courses without abdicating of the indispensable practical component of any engineering course.

Responding to a necessity felt by the North Africa's Maghrebian states of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the EOLES (Electronic and Optic e-Learning for Embedded Systems) project, proposed and approved by the European Comission (EC) in 2012 and financed under the Tempus programme, joined a group of European Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with a group of Maghrebian HEIs with the aim of developing the L3-EOLES, an English spoken e-learning third-year Bachelor degree (L3) for students willing to advance their knowledge on the fields of electronics and optics.

One important part of the EOLES project was committed to the design and development of the laboratories that would support the practical works on the different subjects taught during the EOLES course.

At the same time, the accreditation of the course was required and accepted by the educational authorities of France, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Since its first edition in the school year 2014/15, the L3-EOLES has been a success, measured by the hundreds of applicants each year have been applying online for one of the 35 available places.

The L3-EOLES success was realized by Universities in other developing countries also interested in the concept of e-engineering courses. A new European project, the e-LIVES (Extending e-Engineering along the South and Eastern Mediterranean Basin) project, proposed with the aim of disseminating the acquired knowledge, was recently approved by the EC under the Erasmus+ programme. The project goals are to document a set of good practices based on the acquired experience, along with the creation of practical guidelines for curricula development and remote labs design, to help other Universities to become autonomous in the development and accreditation of their own innovative e-engineering courses.