Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 1(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)Op...
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Open Academia of Physical Sciences

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Hrissi K. Karapanagioti's awarded paper on open education and the future of physical sciences higher education inspired also by the University of Patras' Library & Information Services' innovative open online continuous professional development initiative ‘Open Workshop’.

Abstract: In Academia the key-parameters of open learning are asynchronous activities, project-based modules, educational multi-media material, and a relaxed real-time interaction with the instructor.

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Open Academia of Physical Sciences

  1. 1. Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 1(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)Open Academia of Physical SciencesHrissi K. KarapanagiotiIn Academia the key-parameters of open learning are asynchronous activities, project-basedmodules, educational multi-media material, and a relaxed real-time interaction with theinstructor.Open higher education in 2030 is expected to depend heavily on technology as a tool.Technology will free education from different dilemmas such as “Is the teacher or theeducational material the main component of learning?” or “The student started studyingPhysics but he enjoys Chemistry more, should he change his degree and how?”.Technology could provide the student with:• An intelligent network system that can a) inform him about the best on-line instructors inEurope as well as the available laboratory and field training classes close to him, b)translate the student’s work to credit units, and c) keep track of the student activities anddetermining the topic he is actually studying.• Lectures, educational material, and simulations developed accordingly by the instructors.• Communication with the instructor in a relaxed setting.In September 2030, Alejandro who is 25 years old wants to join Academia to studyEnvironmental Science. He fluently speaks English and he contacts Academia to get moreinformation.- What does Open Academia of Physical Sciences offer?Academia offers studying programs accredited throughout Europe. These are programs withapproved ranges of credit units for each classical subject e.g. an Environmental Scienceprogram should include 20-30 credit units in Ecology, 20-40 credit units in Management, 20-40 credit units in Environmental Engineering, 10-20 credit units in Environmental Chemistry,etc. This is still based on a traditional approach used in 2000.- How are these credit units collected?Academia offers small modules based on problem solving that worth mixed credit units fromthe classical subjects of Sciences, e.g. the module “measuring pH in a lake”, can provide 1credit unit in Ecology, 1 credit unit in Environmental Chemistry, 1 credit unit in Statistics, etc.The student selects the modules that he is interested in or based on a career plan and his creditunits are added.- This sounds a bit complicated!Yes, it is complicated but Academia has this intelligent networking system electronic platform(Figure 1) that keeps track of the student’s choices and the instructors’ offers. The studentcan choose from existing modules offered throughout Europe. The student should be able todescribe the topic that he wants to work on and the system gives him options of modulesoffered next month and related to his program. Towards the end of his study the student isinformed by the system on the credit unit requirements that are left to be fulfilled. The systemgives the student options of problem solving topics that fulfil the requirements in credits.(This in 2013 was done by http://www.elearners.com for complete programs, Figure 2). Oncethe student completes the credit units of one subject e.g. 20 credits in EnvironmentalChemistry, he can take exams on this subject in one of the exam centers of Academia that is
  2. 2. Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 2(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)located close to him. Usually since the modules are interdisciplinary, the student completesthe credit units of the subjects towards the end of his study.Figure 1 Intelligent networking electronic platformFigure 2 A window presenting the 3rdoption given by http://www.elearners.com whensearching for a Bachelor program on Environmental Sciences in 2013- Can you give me more information on the format of the modules?The modules are short in order to be able to finish them quickly and thus, keep the studentinterested. For example, the module “measuring pH in a lake” lasts for 4 weeks. It includesa) week A: theory on what pH means with the necessary reading materials, exercises,software, tests, etc., (1 credit unit in Ecology) b) week B: measurement tools with thenecessary project e.g. internet search to determine available tools, evaluate them, understandthe principles of operation, specifications, etc., c) week C: actual measurements withsimulations of field study or by providing the necessary tools to the student to perform thefieldwork himself, etc. (1 credit unit in Environmental Chemistry), d) week D: comparison oftools and elucidation of possible problems, etc. Each of these weeks is connected withanother module that could expand the knowledge of this specific topic. For example, week Acould be expanded by another module called “aquatic chemistry” or “acid dissolution in
  3. 3. Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 3(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)water”, week B could be expanded by another module called “pH indicators”, etc. Thestudent can decide if he wants to expand his knowledge on each of these additional topics or ifhe just wants to have this specific skill and finish with this topic (e.g. measuring the pH in alake). The module network selected should be discussed periodically in a real time meetingwith the student advisor that can be one of the Academia instructors. Of course the studentcan revisit his decisions later in his studies or every time he finds the same module e.g.“aquatic chemistry” as expansion of another small module e.g. “nitrogen cycle”, etc.-How is learning achieved through these small modules?The modules include introductory lectures, skill building software and exercises, simulations,and real-time forums to discuss problems and socialize with the instructor and the otherstudents.Introductory lectures are short and informative using bullet points such as e.g. “10 points toknow about pH in a lake”. They can be either real time or asynchronous. The student canchoose if he will attend or not attend the real-time lecture. He can always watch the video ofthe lecture including questions and comments from other students, later. Virtual realityclassrooms such as Second Life are ideal for this first approach of the student by the instructor(Figure 3). Students can use real-time chat or asynchronous email or the instructor’s platformto communicate questions to instructors.Figure 3 Lecturing in a virtual reality classroom in 2013. This is me, or more precisely myavatar, lecturing about lab safety to literature and education major students that wereinterested to learn more about quantitative research methods.Since students have different learning styles multiple educational resources are provided.Educational material is prepared through the instructor guidance and includes a) skill buildingsoftware that are different exercises for assessment with increasing difficulty, b) simulationsthat are similar to active video games that require body involvement (Figure 4) or virtualreality tests that require avatar movement (It all depends how far the technology would haveprogress). There are self-assessment activities to help the student practicing. However, thereare required assessment activities that are used to open the activities of the next topic of themodule. The student has to finalize these required activities within a week.
  4. 4. Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 4(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)Figure 4 Example of active video games in 2013The third component of the module is the real-time Forum and is the only activity thatrequires real-time presence from the student and the instructor. It is a chance for the studentto meet the instructor and, in an informal setting, ask questions raised by performing theactivities, reading the materials, or taking the assessment tests, etc. This Forum is the reasonthat this Open University is named “Open Academia”. This Forum facilitates extra-curriculum discussions that lead to the development of both the student and the instructor(Figure 5). It is also a good chance for the instructor to test new techniques and to promotegroup activities related to this specific week topic.Figure 5 In one of Star Trek episodes in 1990s, Data, the android, meets with physics greatestminds to play poker. It seems that in order to accept knowledge, one has to undrestand peoplefirst. “It is proved to be most illuminating“
  5. 5. Open Education 2030Call for Vision PapersHigher Education(Open Academia of Physical Sciences) 5(Hrissi K. Karapanagioti)-Sounds interesting! Where do the instructors come from?They are usually professors from conventional and open European universities and experts onthis particular topic that are called to teach in Academia for one hour (plus one hour in theForum) every month depending on the demand for their module.-But what will happen if I want to study a topic that requires laboratory skills (e.g. BODmeasurements) or field experience (e.g. coastal hydrogeology)?Simulations that are similar to active video games or virtual reality experiments will bring youup to a certain level on such skills. Then, you can acquire the necessary advanced skills thatcannot be obtained through simulations, from monthly laboratory and field courses offeredduring the summer by conventional and open European universities close to your area.-In order to summarize what is the flow of the study and what are the requirements to fulfil aprogram?You should be informed of the available programs and their requirements. Then, you shouldget an idea of all available modules in the area that you want to study based on your interestand your career plan. You choose the first module and start studying the material. Once youperform the necessary activities you get access to next week material and so on until youcomplete the necessary weeks for the certain module. At the end of the required weeks youget a week free to finalize the project related to the module that will be graded by theinstructors and to decide which will be the next module. By finalizing modules you collectcredit units on certain subjects. Once you collect the necessary number of credit units on asubject of your program, you can be examined on this subject. You finish your program onceyou have collected the necessary credit units and have been successfully examined on all thesubjects necessary for your program. Exams are also project based such as modules but arenecessary to assure the identity of the person examined. Exams are taken in universities closeto your area and are graded by instructors of the program. The student needs to be wellinformed and should have an idea of what he wants to become. However, if you change yourmind, an advisor will help you take advantage of what you learned so far and add newmodules that would lead you to the appropriate program.-So as I understand Open Academia is organized by technological means and heavilycollaborates with other conventional universities for personnel and infrastructure. The key-parameters of open learning are asynchronous activities, project-based modules, educationalmulti-media material, and a relaxed real-time interaction with the instructor.

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