New Module Launched: Tool Supported Distance Learning

Fri, 4 Dec 2020 | faculty
A pilot project to test various telepresence technologies in a virtual exchange context

On Thursday, 26 November 2020, the new module Tool Supported Distance Learning has been launched at the Faculty of Computer Science and Business Information Systems (FIW). The virtual and inter-university module is carried out in cooperation with the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania (ULBS). For the first time, students of both universities are using the opportunity to take part in a cooperative learning module, which enables them to travel abroad virtually, test out telepresence solutions and further develop their foreign language skills and intercultural competencies. Together, ULBS and FHWS students try out the use of technologies that aim to complement traditional teaching methods. In addition to this technical perspective, the participants also want to find out whether teaching, teamwork and intercultural exchange can be realised successfully without travelling to the respective partner university. This is done using Double robots and VR elements that make it possible to engage naturally.

A frequently discussed problem regarding the corona pandemic is the lack of social contacts and interpersonal interaction. This is where the module comes in: It is a practical test of how technology can be used optimally to facilitate social exchange from a distance. Prof. Dr Dana Simian (ULBS) and Prof. Dr habil. Nicholas Müller (FHWS) jointly developed a concept for this, which they are now implementing in a co-teaching format: “One thing we all miss during the pandemic is that students can get together during breaks or have a coffee together in the evening. We agree that cooking together could be a great place to start”, says Prof. Dr Müller. In inter-university teams, the students will prepare menus agreed on in advance on a total of four evenings. During each unit, different telepresence tools are used to transmit the preparation and the cooking in real time. The other participants, including the lecturers, follow the group that instructs, and cook the dishes in their own kitchens. Afterwards, the dishes, some of which are typical of the country, are of course eaten together. The lecturers will assess the perception of the telepresence experience based on student feedback while the module is still ongoing.

This practical experience is complemented in the module by teaching the corresponding theoretical foundations in the fields of AI, Internet of Things, Smart City Charta / Sustainable Development Goals, and participation platforms. Theories on presence, transportation, and computer-mediated communication as well as intercultural communication are also taught. In addition to that, the results and experiences gathered by the students within the framework of the module will have an impact on the planning of future teaching offers. This way, the students actively participate in creating a concept for the first virtual summer school at FHWS, initiated by the FIW, to be realised in the 2021 summer semester. The aim is to make sensible use of telepresence solutions for the further planning and realisation of such an offer. The thematic focus of the virtual summer school will be on smart cities. More detailed information on this will be published in due course.