Lighthouse EdTech Evidence-oriented Initiative

The Lighthouse EdTech Evidence-oriented initiative provides a framework for the creation, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based tripartite pilot studies in the field of digital education in Switzerland. These studies are conducted in close collaboration between schools, EdTech start-ups and academic institutions.

The aim of the initiative is to provide an overview of how to establish effective, evidence-based collaboration between these stakeholders. In addition, it will illustrate how to implement commercial or nonprofit EdTech solutions as research-based digital interventions to enable evidence-based pilot studies.

Finally, it will demonstrate the willingness and interest of scientists to engage in human and techno-pedagogical interventions and to value them in their own research activities in order to contribute to scientific results and more impact-oriented translational research.

EdTech startups that are part of the Swiss EdTech Collider and have already participated in the Swiss National EdTech Testbed Program will be selected to conduct six initial pilot research projects for this purpose. The pilot projects are planned progressively as quasi-experiments with the aim of gathering evidence on the adoption, adaptation, implementation and impact of EdTech solutions in Swiss public schools.

Each pilot spans over a year with a co-design phase, followed by the actual pilot study, as well as the analysis and the publication of the results.

The overall 20-month initiative, supported by the Jacobs Foundation, will also help to consolidate – as a blueprint – the model of effective evidence-oriented collaborations between businesses, schools, and academia in digital education.

K-12 startups interested to participate in a Lighthouse EdTech Evidence-oriented pilot are asked to submit their details via the links below:

 

 

Kontakt:
Denis Gillet - denis.gillet@epfl.ch
Roman Bruegger - roman.bruegger@epfl.ch
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Digital Education for Equity in Primary Schools (DEEP)

The DEEP (Digital Education for Equity in Primary Schools) consortium, supported by the Jacobs Foundation, investigates the foundations, challenges, and consequences of introducing digital learning in Swiss primary schools. The aim is to contribute to an equitable and sustainable digital transformation in Swiss primary education. DEEP is a collaboration of seven higher education institutions that reflect the institutional, disciplinary, methodological, and geographical diversity of Swiss educational research.

The DEEP consortium, supported by the Jacobs Foundation is researching how equitable digital transformation can be achieved in Swiss primary schools, to integrate the knowledge gained into the Swiss educational landscape.

The DEEP consortium is a collaboration of seven universities reflecting the institutional, disciplinary, methodological, and geographical diversity of Swiss educational research. The coordination office of the consortium is jointly supported by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PHZH). DEEP’s project activities will begin in 2024.

The digital transformation offers new opportunities for integrating innovative approaches into the education system. This transformation extends beyond the mere use of technology or the acquisition of new skills; instead, digital education is reshaping what, how, where and when children learn. Digital transformation impacts the understanding of teaching, the role of teachers, the design of learning environments, and the involvement of various actors, as well as on pedagogical and educational policy goals.

To date, there is little reliable knowledge about the challenges and risks stemming from these profound changes for effectively supporting learning processes in primary school. Notably, there is a lack of empirically sound findings on questions of educational equity: How can schools and teachers design digital learning environments and utilize digital technologies to support students in their individual potentials and needs, irrespective of their family and social background?

In collaboration with education experts, the DEEP consortium aims to bridge these gaps in the research and design of digital transformation in school education. The acquired knowledge should be accessible to a broad audience in the fields of primary education, teacher training, education administration, and education policy, actively facilitating their use in everyday professional practices. In doing so, DEEP strives to maximize the positive potential of digital transformation for all students in primary school, while simultaneously considering potential risks.

DEEP’s close collaboration with teachers, schools, education administration, and education policy within the “Bildung in der Digitalität” initiative allows comprehensive investigations in different regions, subjects, and schools. This collaboration coupled with the diverse expertise of the researchers, enables a multi-perspective and participatory research approach to digital change in Swiss primary schools.

Key objectives of the DEEP consortium:

  • Gaining evidence-based and contextual knowledge for equitable digital transformation in Swiss primary schools
  • Identification of opportunities, challenges, and risks of the digital transformation in primary education
  • Sustainable integration of research results into the school field, teacher education and training, and educational administration and policy
Kontakt:
Jessica Dehler Zufferey - jessica.dehlerzufferey@epfl.ch
Victoria Abou Khalil - victoria.aboukhalil@epfl.ch
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Socio-Emotional and Ethical Blended Learning

The purpose of this project is to understand, support, and promote the development of psychosocial and ethical skills crucial for reshaping the 21st-century educational environment.

The research team’s mission focuses particularly on the respect of children’s rights and their fundamental psychological needs within educational frameworks.

With this goal in mind, the research team is developing a new interdisciplinary theoretical approach to empirically study children’s psychological needs, their human rights, and the school context in the digital age.

The team is also collaborating on developing hybrid interventions aimed at enhancing socio-emotional and ethical skills among all members of the educational community. These interventions are designed based on principles of participatory interventionist and transdisciplinary research.

The evaluation of the individual and collective effects of these interventions will be conducted using a diverse range of tools and will be complemented by results from qualitative research approaches.

This pioneering interdisciplinary research project brings together the the HEP Valais, the Centre interfacultaire en Droits de l’enfant at the University of Geneva, the Unité de recherche Développement Individu Processus Handicap Éducation (DIPHE) at the University of Lyon 2, the REACT Group at EPFL (affiliated with the LEARN Center), and the Graasp Association. The project is funded by a Sinergia grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

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Artificial Intelligence in education

The Center LEARN develops approaches and training programs to familiarize teachers with AI-based tools and methods.

The spectacular advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years have led to a significant transformation in many fields. New technologies, the massive availability of data, and progress in machine learning and natural language processing have made AI indispensable. These advancements have opened up exciting new possibilities for education but have also raised numerous concerns and misunderstandings.

On the one hand, AI offers opportunities for personalized learning, improved teaching, and the analysis of educational data, enabling targeted pedagogical interventions. However, the very real challenges associated with its use, such as algorithmic biases, data privacy, and the role of these tools within education, require guidance from experts in digital education.

Indeed, to fully harness the potential of AI in education, it is essential for teachers to understand its functioning, implications, and limitations. In this regard, the Center LEARN plays a crucial role in developing approaches and training programs to familiarize them with AI-based tools and methods.

 

As part of these efforts, the Center LEARN is involved in interventions with various partners. Here are the different actions taken (regularly updated):

A research team conducted a survey of teachers in private and public schools in the canton of Vaud to better understand their needs and expectations. The full reports of this survey (private schools and public high schools) are available for consultation.

Professor Francesco Mondada, Academic Director of the Center LEARN, and Grégory Liégeois also delivered a conference on the „reflective model“ developed in collaboration with Sociologist Dominique Boullier (Sciences Po, Paris) and a team of professors from the University of Lausanne coordinated by Prof. Boris Beaude available here. This model provides an approach to address tools such as ChatGPT.

The EPFL magazine „Dimensions“ dedicated a section to the challenges of AI in education, focusing on its implications for future learningIt includes testimonials from Pierre Dillenbourg and Francesco Mondada.

Jessica Dehler Zufferey, Executive Director of the Center LEARN, joined a panel of experts titled „What future for us and for AI“ during EPFL’s Open Days to debunk myths surrounding AI in education.

Professor Tanja Käser, Head of the Machine Learning for Education Laboratory (ML4ED) and also a member of the Center LEARN, was invited to the „Der Club“ program on SRF – Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen to discuss the topic „Artificial Intelligence: A new era?“. She particularly addressed the role and uses of AI in the field of education.

Kontakt:
Frédérique Chessel Lazzarotto - frederique.chessel-lazzarotto@epfl.ch
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The Swiss National EdTech Testbed Program

The Swiss National EdTech Testbed Program is an initiative designed to support the digital transformation in education with appropriate technological solutions.

Launched by the Swiss EdTech Collider in partnership with the Jacobs Foundation and the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, this program provides schools with the opportunity to trial innovative digital tools and provide feedback to the startups that develop them.

The aim is twofold: support teachers in identifying and implementing technology to improve pedagogy while helping startups improving their tools with feedback stemming directly from practice.

Interested teachers and schools can register directly through the program’s website.

Methodology

The Swiss National EdTech Testbed Program operates on the „Test and Learn“ methodology, also known as Rapid Evaluation Cycles.

This approach emphasizes quick evaluations and iterative testing, with a focus on determining what works, for whom, and under what conditions.

The testing process for each digital tool is unique, and teachers play an active role in the evaluation. This includes an introduction to the tool, hands-on testing (which can last from 1 week to 6 weeks), and a questionnaire with both open-ended and closed-ended questions.

The program analyzes the teachers‘ answers and provides startups with reports to help them understand how to improve their product. Further development of the program plans to include the creation of good practice papers for teachers.

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Learning Companion

The Learning Companion is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Digital Education (CEDE) and the Teaching Support Center (CAPE) at EPFL, both members of the Center LEARN.

The Learning Companion allows students to self-assess on three levels. It invites them to reflect on their learning habits, problem-solving strategies, and their project management skills.

 

Based on the theoretical concepts and recommendations of the book „Learning to study“ (Tormey & Hardebolle, 2017), the Learning Companion is a web-based tool developed for EPFL students in 2018 but available to all university students of Switzerland.  It uses learning data collected to automatically generate personalized recommendations for each difficulty students encounter. This system also allows teachers to have access to the (anonymous) data of their class and to identify and address any relevant difficulties.

This tool offers a series of self-assessment questionnaires that allow students to situate themselves in relation to their learning habits. For example, by answering questions such as: „Do I manage my stress well?“ or “Am I revising effectively?” „.

Students receive personalized recommendations and learning resources to improve their skills in the different areas.

Solving a problem in mathematics or physics requires a systematic approach that is new for some students starting their studies at EPFL.

The Learning Companion is designed to improve students‘ problem-solving skills using a learning journal that they complete after working on their exercises.

The entries in the log are then visually summarized in a dashboard. This allows students to identify the areas in which they can improve, by giving leads such as “checking the calculations” or “persisting when it is difficult”.

This system allows the teacher to have access to the (anonymous) data of his class in order to identify and address the difficulties that require additional explanations.

Next step :

The Learning Companion is currently undergoing further development aimed at adapting it to the Secondary II level by the BeLEARN team.

This extension project will notably see the addition of a multilingual version, will make it possible to examine the differences between populations (compulsory school vs. university) and to prepare students to acquire self-regulation skills in anticipation of their entry into graduate studies.

 

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BeLEARN@EPFL

Um den Beitrag der EPFL zur digitalen Transformation der Bildung zu verstärken und zu erweitern, hat sich das Center LEARN der Partnerschaft zwischen der Erziehungs- und Kulturdirektion des Kantons Bern und fünf Hochschulen angeschlossen, um BeLEARN zu bilden: ein Kompetenzzentrum, dessen Ziel es ist, die digitale Bildung durch einen translationalen Ansatz voranzutreiben.

In diesem Rahmen bündeln die drei Berner Institutionen – die Universität Bern, die Berner Fachhochschule und die Pädagogische Hochschule Bern – sowie die EPFL und die Eidgenössische Hochschule für Berufsbildung (EHB) ihre Kompetenzen mit einem multidisziplinären Netzwerk verschiedener Forschungsteams, die alle Stufen des Schweizer Bildungssystems adressieren. Auf digitale Bildungstechnologien spezialisierte Start-ups beteiligen sich an BeLEARN durch eine strategische Partnerschaft mit dem Swiss EdTech Collider.

Die Partner von BeLEARN arbeiten an Forschungsprojekten, die direkt auf spezifischen Bedürfnissen basieren, und setzen ihre Ergebnisse in praktischen Lösungen entlang dreier Hauptachsen um: die Entwicklung digitaler Kompetenzen, die pädagogische Nutzung digitaler Ressourcen und Tools sowie Learning Analytics (auf Bildung angewandte Datenwissenschaft).

Innerhalb der EPFL werden im Rahmen von BeLEARN verschiedene Projekte durchgeführt:

 

  • Grafmilis: Das Projekt betrifft zwei Plattformen zur Analyse und Behebung von Lernschwierigkeiten beim Schreiben, Dynamilis und Grafos, die jeweils an der PHBern und der EPFL entwickelt wurden. (CHILI; Kontaktperson: Pierre Dillenbourg)
  • Teaching engineering and computing ethics with Deepfakes: Das Projekt konzentriert sich auf eine experimentelle Studie zur Evaluierung pädagogischer Ansätze zur Entwicklung des ethischen Denkens von Ingenieurstudenten (CAPE; Kontaktperson: Roland Tormey)
  • FREE – Federal Library of Open Educational Resources: Das FREE-Projekt zielt darauf ab, eine Bibliothek offener Bildungsressourcen für verschiedene Stufen und Lehrpläne in der Schweiz und darüber hinaus zu entwerfen und umzusetzen. Es ergänzt die Initiative der Swiss Digital Skills Academy (d-skills.ch). (REACT; Kontaktperson: Denis Gillet)
  • Learning Companion: Der Learning Companion ist ein Online-Tool für Studierende zur Entwicklung effektiver Lernstrategien. Das Projekt untersucht die Nützlichkeit des Tools bei einem voruniversitären Publikum und entwickelt eine mehrsprachige Version (CEDE; Kontaktperson: Patrick Jermann)
  • Computational problem solving in MINT mobil: Das Programm MINT mobil des Volksschulamtes des Kantons Bern beinhaltet eine Robotikmission, die an der EPFL entwickelt wurde. Dieses Projekt zielt darauf ab, die Robotik-Mission weiterzuentwickeln und die Auswirkungen auf sowohl Schülerinnen und Schüler als auchLehrpersonen zu messen. (MOBOTS; Kontaktperson: Susanne Grabowski)
  • Projekt Labnet Booster: Das Projekt Labnet hat zum Ziel, die Bedürfnisse, Erwartungen und Anwendungsmöglichkeiten der Vernetzung von physischen und virtuellen Labors zu ermitteln. (Ansprechpartnerin: Jessica Dehler Zufferey)

Eine interne Projektausschreibung für 2023/2024 läuft bis zum 31.10.2022.

 

Kontakt:
Jessica Dehler Zufferey - jessica.dehlerzufferey@epfl.ch
Webseite:
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National Research Programme (NRP77): Assessing computational thinking skills

Computational thinking (CT) is the ability to develop a problem-solving methodology that complements computers. This project studies the extent to which Swiss students are able to do so, and develops tools to measure these skills.

Portrait / Project description

We will assess the computational thinking (CT) skills in Swiss compulsory schools in three steps. First, we will design an age-based competency model for CT and identify typical problems found in each age group. In a second step, we will develop an intelligent tutoring and assessment system that can help students solve problems while measuring their computational thinking skills. In a third phase, we will test this educational robotics approach in compulsory schools in the cantons of St. Gallen, Vaud and Ticino. A special focus will be placed on the Swiss educational robot Thymio II, which is currently in the process of being introduced in schools in these cantons.

Background

Computational thinking is the ability to break down problems into their different parts, to develop solution strategies and to present these in an algorithmic way which can be understood and executed both by humans and computers. Computational thinking is recognized as a central element in various national and cantonal education strategies. Unfortunately, very few tools are available to measure the impact of the implemented measures.

Aim

The aim of this project is to provide policy-makers and teachers with tools and protocols for the large-scale assessment of competencies in compulsory education. The project especially aims to define a competency model, to develop an intelligent tutoring and assessment system, and to test the developed tools in the cantons of St. Gallen, Vaud and Ticino.

Relevance

The results will make it possible to evaluate the developed competency model; notably to determine how it can be used in schools, and how it is accepted by students, teachers, school principals and cantonal services. The findings will also enable the evaluation of the effectiveness of the different approaches to teaching CT skills. This project therefore provides a tool to appraise the impact of educational initiatives that focus on computational thinking.

Original title

Assessing the development of computational thinking skills through an intelligent tutoring system: an exploratory study in the cantons of St Gallen, Vaud and Ticino

 

Project leaders

Prof. Francesco Mondada, Mobile Robotic Systems Group, EPFL

Prof. Luca Maria Gambardella, Faculty of Informatics, USI Lugano

Dr. Alberto Piatti, Dipartimento formazione e apprendimento, SUPSI Locarno

Dr. Dorit Assaf, Didaktik der Informatik und Medienbildung, Pädagogische Hochschule Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW), Windisch

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Teaching in times of covid-19

The teams in LEARN provided support for teachers at different levels in their efforts to setup and constantly adapt their distance and blended teaching. LEARN teams worked with teachers to face the sudden switch to distance teaching during the lockdown. Part of the team worked with EPFL teachers, while others focused on teachers in public primary schools.

The teams in LEARN provided support for teachers at different levels in their efforts to setup and constantly adapt their distance and blended teaching. LEARN teams worked with teachers to face the sudden switch to distance teaching during the lockdown. Part of the team worked with EPFL teachers, while others focused on teachers in public primary schools.

Our aim is to make these resources available to all teachers across institutions and levels. Some of these resources are translated in English and in French.

Support for teachers at EPFL

As a means to continously minimize the risk of transmission of covid-19, the Center for Digital Education (CEDE) and the Teaching Support Center (CAPE) have set up documentation, workhops and a helpdesk to support EPFL teachers in mixing online and on-campus teaching modes. Their ressources are regularly updated.

 

Support for teachers in primary schools

Since 2018, the LEARN Center has been working with the Department of Education, Youth and Culture (DFJC) of Canton Vaud on the „Digital Education“ project, in collaboration with HEP Vaud and UNIL.  The phase of distance learning offered a particular challenge to teachers: to ensure continuity of learning for students and to maintain the link with families. The LEARN team wished to support them in the definition and implementation of this new task, with the tools at their disposal while remobilising the content already seen in the training that is part of the project.

We proposed, in collaboration with HEP Vaud, online sessions starting one week after the beginning of lockdown in 2020. These short and operational sessions helped to co-construct remote teaching. The ressources shared here are in French:

  1. Défis 1 – Démarrer l’enseignement à distance
  2. Défi 2 – Organiser ma première classe virtuelle
  3. Défi 3 – Animer ma classe virtuelle
  4. Défi 4 – Interroger ma classe à distance
  5. Défi 5 – Lecture d’histoires à distance
  6. Défi 6 – Parler du covid-19 avec les enfants
  7. Défi 7 – Aborder le covid-19 en classe

LEARN collaborated with Edit Change Management to create a trilogy of picture books, called Oscar & Zoe, to adress the digital challenges related to the pandemic (e.g. fake news, screen time management). Here is the news article with links towards the free download in English, French and German.

 

 

Kontakt:
Support team for EPFL teachers - flexible-teaching@epfl.ch
Ressources created for primary school teachers - gregory.liegeois@epfl.ch
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Research on Education in Times of Covid-19

The two main questions our research teams dealt with concerning covid-19 and education were: How does distance teaching during lockdown affect students and teachers? How can we collect the evidence in order to inform decision-makers?

1. Research into remote teaching during the lockdown

As a reaction to the pandemic, our research teams worked to provide evidence about the impact of covid-19 related measures on education by studying teaching at EPFL and in public schools during the lockdown.

1.1. Study on EPFL teachers adapting their teaching

A study on teacher adaptability was ongoing at the moment when covid-19 hit tertiary education in February 2020. It was quickly re-designed in order to capture teachers‘ adaptability in the situation of forced change. The analysis introduces perspectives of pedagogical innovation and touches upon social components of learning which, during the lockdown, have left an impact on the meaning of professional teaching role. The recording and slides of a presentation of this study in a lunch&LEARN session are linked on thee left.

1.2. Study on teachers‘ experiences with remote teaching in Canton Vaud

More than 5500 teachers from the Canton Vaud have participated in the study. The analysis of the factors associated with effective distance learning reveal that there are three types of factors that play a role: contextual factors (student, teacher and school equipment;  as well as the technical and socio-emotional support available), individual factors (teacher and student autonomy, competence and motivation) and pedagogical factors (practices and tools). The complete report is available here.

2. Collecting research evidence on the impact of covid-19 on education

The pandemic has had a major impact on education, not only because of the social isolation during the lockdown, but also because of the need to organise education differently after reopening of schools. New practices have emerged. Educational researchers have quickly accompanied the emergence of these new practices with research activities. Many have conducted studies to document and investigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education. These studies can make a significant contribution to understanding what has happened, but also to preparing future scenarios, based on evidence.

But how to gather all these studies in order to make them accessible and useful for the entire research community? The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK/CDIP), the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI/SBFI/SEFRI) and the EPFL Center for Learning Sciences (LEARN) teamed up to propose a platform for the sharing of research on Covid-19 impact on education in Switzerland.

2.1. Open repository

We initiated an open online repository of studies addressing Covid-19 impact on education in Switzerland and were able to gather more than 60 studies. Please feel free to use the repository for your research and share it with colleagues.

Link to access items on the platform: https://go.epfl.ch/repository_access
Link to add your study to the repository: https://go.epfl.ch/repository_fill

2.2. Online informal conference

In December 2020, more than 100 researchers participated in an informal conference to share the current knowledge about covid-19 in education. 17 studies were presented by colleagues from UniFR, FORS, EHL, UniZH, PHZG, FSO, SFIVET, UZH, UniGE, UniDistance and EPFL. Full programme

 

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Studies on the impact of covid-19 on education

EduNum

Projet phare du Centre LEARN, EduNum forme les élèves, citoyens numérique de demain, à la maîtrise des trois piliers de l’éducation numérique; la science informatique, les usages et les médias).

Le projet EduNum c’est avant tout une éducation au numérique et par le numérique, dans lequel le centre LEARN a été mandaté par le Conseil d’État Vaudois pour piloter l’introduction de cet enseignement dans les établissements scolaires vaudois.

Projet phare du Centre LEARN, il a pour objectif principal de former les élèves, citoyens numérique de demain, à la maîtrise des trois piliers de l’éducation numérique (science informatique, usages et médias), à encourager la créativité, à assurer l’émancipation des élèves et à valoriser le potentiel de diversification pédagogique.

Ces ambitions sont portées par une collaboration entre institutions (HEP, UNIL, DP, EPFL).

Ce projet s’appuie sur une formation continue de 2 ans des enseignant·e·s, avec une phase pilote visant à mesurer et effectuer les ajustements nécessaires avant déploiement.

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PharmaSim

Interactive Learning environments for pharmacy assistants can encourage the students to test their knowledge in consultation situations without the fear of making mistakes. Moreover, they can be used to collect meaningful data to analyze the student’s behaviors and have the potential to provide exclusive insights to teachers.

Students shall be offered an interactive learning environment (ILE) that allows them to explore the subject matter through a realistic consultation scenario. The ILE mitigates the consequences of mistakes and offers a motivating learning opportunity. Students shall be trained to actively engage in counselling sessions, to react (critically) to the information at their disposal and to identify cross-selling opportunities.

Pharmacy assistants apply the learning content they have acquired in school in consultation situations at the pharmacy. Teaching strategies must therefore foster the transfer of theoretical knowledge to applied competencies. Role plays are one way to simulate real world scenarios. However, many students tend to avoid risks in group work settings. Furthermore, it is difficult to engage learners in learning activities regarding subject matters they can not relate to. Against this background, PharmaSim offers a protected learning environment and enhances motivation through gamification.

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