An ambitious new European Horizon 2020 (H2020) project, NEWTON, coordinated by DCU academic Gabriel-Miro Muntean, is squaring up to the challenge of the next generation of technology enhanced learning – using gamification, multisensory and multimodal learning, interactive augmented reality teaching assistants and a virtual experimental fabrication lab to ensure students stay engaged on multiple levels.

The project, which launches this month with a €6.5m budget, will harness collaboration from six university and eight industry partners, including Dublin-based Adaptemy, across seven countries to the task of reimagining the online classroom experience using pioneering digital learning technologies. It also has designs on reversing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education’s high attrition rate.

NEWTON has exciting implications for students and providers of online STEM courses where the course subject matter can be challenging to adapt to the technology-enhanced learning environment and where early drop-out rates in Ireland continue to be worryingly high.

NEWTON’s ambitions have the potential to transform technology-enhanced learning outcomes, improving completion rates for students and return on investment for course providers. Games and gamification would be used to stimulate and motivate students, augmented reality would allow them to access computer generated models of scientific book content, while interactive Avatars would guide and respond to students in a uniquely personalised experience. Immersive learning labs would allow students to experiment in simulated environments and share their solutions. The project will also pioneer the use of “mulsemedia” – multi-sensorial media, engaging three or more senses in the learning process, including smell and touch.

NEWTON will be tested and validated in real life pilots across Europe, using a network of innovative secondary schools, vocational establishments and third level institutes permanently working on the development of good teaching practices.

“One of the limitations of current Learning Management Systems is that they do not focus on enhancing the learner quality of experience using the latest technologies” explains Dr. Muntean, NEWTON project coordinator and head of DCU School of Electronic Engineering’s Performance Engineering Lab.

“NEWTON will change that and will provide an adaptive and personalised STEM learning experience and offer support for learners with different kinds of disabilities using the most advanced research and development innovations. It is a very exciting prospect.”

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