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Tempus IV Project EU EACEA

Establishment of Multidisciplinary Innovative Centres for the Development of Virtual Laboratories (MICVL) in Biology and Medicine

Main goal

The main goal of the project is to establish Multidisciplinary Innovative centres for the development of Virtual Laboratories in Biology and Medicine (MICVL) in each participating Eastern Neighbouring Area University (ENAU), in close cooperation with the EU partner universities. In addition, this collaborative project intends to provide resources in educational technology to bridge the gap between research and education through introduction of innovative technologies.

Project rationale

Higher education systems are well on their way in addressing the challenges created by the fast developing new technologies and seizing unique opportunities to improve learning. The strategy for enhancement of learning has emphasised a shift towards using innovative educational technologies. To support these strategies, we propose to establish Multidisciplinary Innovative centres for the development of Virtual Laboratories in Biology and Medicine (MICVL) in each participating Eastern Neighbouring Area University (ENAU), in close cooperation with the EU partner universities. In addition, this collaborative project intends to provide resources in educational technology to bridge the gap between research and education through introduction of innovative technologies.
The ubiquity of digital technologies has already changed learning attitudes, cognitive processes and knowledge acquisition patterns. Today's multigeneration student body requires educators to understand generational differences, particularly in terms of technological ability. The new generations of learners are digitally literate, they think more visually, and in a non-linear manner, they practice multitasking and give preference to multimedia environments including 3D systems. In traditional learning environments they are easily bored and need a variety of stimuli not to get distracted.
Looking at the way in which digital technologies have changed how people access and manage information, it can be seen that a new learning paradigm is emerging. The new paradigm can be summarised as follows:
(a) Learning in the digital era is fundamentally collaborative in nature;
(b) The learner plays a central role in the learning process - not as a passive recipient of information, but as an active author, co-creator, evaluator and critical commentator;
(c) As a consequence, learning processes are becoming increasingly dependent on IT technologies.
Despite these requirements, the application of IT technologies within Biological and Medical education has yet to be fully exploited. This leaves extensive opportunities for developing new approaches to course delivery and assessment in these subject areas. Even within EU member states only selected universities have adopted a wide range of e-learning methods based on IT technologies for teaching and assessment in Biology and Medicine, and ENAU are only at the beginning of this road. It is important that they are part of the development, not always being several years behind.
Establishment of MICVL in Biomedicine in the each ENAU can solve these problems by:
(a) Creating virtual simulations for various parts of the learning processes;
(b) Creating opportunities to engage the Faculty to further use the products developed by MICVLs for learning;
(c) Participating in research opportunities to better educate Faculty, staff, and students in the use of innovative technologies as they relate to teaching and learning;
(d) Involving students in the development and feedback on the IT-based e-learning material, joining in one team a customer and an educator.
Another noticeable reason why this project will be beneficial is that the design of virtual simulation (VS) packages that will be created within the MICVL will provide an opportunity to organise educational classes with limited resources such as laboratory space, funding and number of teaching staff. This is particularly important for restructuring ENA countries, although in the current economic climate creation of cost-saving VS will be equally beneficial for the EU partner universities. Importantly, VS is a perfect tool for providing distance learning courses, that converges with the current successful EACEA-158627 project on the development of DL technologies in the Southern Caucasus.
The first pilot product created by the consortium of MICVLs will be a Virtual Medical Microbiology Laboratory (VMML) across the educational degrees (BSc, MSc) and also applicable for PhD students. A Virtual laboratory (VL) will provide students with the opportunity to conduct research applying virtual experiments. Thus, it will help linking theory and practice, education and research, while integrating lectures, labs and reading in the process of carrying out virtual experiments.
Subject-related benefits of the development of VMML include: (a) precautionary training in the handling of dangerous microbes and/or reagents; (b) opportunity to practice aseptic technique outside normal laboratory hours; (c) unlimited cost-free practice with media and reagents for performing and interpreting laboratory tests; (d) one-touch reference books covering bacteria, laboratory tests, media, and reagents; (e) insuring that students come to the lab better prepared for the day's work; (f) providing a way to allow students to catch up during or following absence; (g) assistance in planning and simulation of microbiological tests for the research purposes.
To ensure the sustainability of MICVL, the main IT and teaching staff will be extensively trained at EU partner universities in IT technologies for teaching and assessment, as well as in pedagogical aspects of the e-learning. Since teaching staff are the key enablers for the introduction of VSs into learning and research contexts, MICVLs staff will further train teachers from other ENAUs in IT-based teaching.
MICVLs will continue creating new VS packages to follow VMML upon the completion of the project.
The role of every participant organization in the project has been clearly outlined. The ENA partner universities will define and present the main problems they are facing to establish MICVL. The knowledge, expertise and the working experience of the EU Universities will be used to plan and to implement the project tasks. The joint actions and efforts of the Consortium will ensure the high quality and viability of the established knowledge triangles of education, research and innovation in Virtual Laboratories in Biomedicine.

Specific objectives

Objective 1 - To establish Multidisciplinary Innovative Centres for the Development of Virtual Laboratories in Biology and Medicine (MICVL) in the each participating Eastern Neighbouring Area (ENA) University.

Objective 2 - To create a Virtual Medical Microbiology Laboratory (VMML), as a pilot product for the established MICVL.

Objective 3 - To develop an efficient optimal scheme of VMML commercialisation and advertising.

Objective 4 - To disseminate the project outcomes applying strategies of both internal and external dissemination.

The Wider objective

The Wider objective of the project is the implementation of the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation through Multidisciplinary Innovative Centres for the Development of Virtual Laboratories in Biology and Medicine (MICVL) set up in Eastern Neighbouring Area Universities (ENAU) using Virtual Medical Microbiology Laboratory as a pilot product. The centres will produce innovative commercial research-based products for education and science in Biology and Medicine using research and innovative methodology in Information Technology. Each MICVL triangle will incorporate 3 distinct groups that will contribute to a joint product:
I. Innovative Technology/Research Group;
II. Theoretical/Educational Group;
III. Business Development Group.
These groups will include academic staff, PhD and MSc students from the areas of IT, Biomedicine, Marketing/Business Development. Each MICVL will receive a formal status as a separate commercial unit within the ENAU infrastructure. All 6 MICVLs will be equipped with modern servers and appropriate software. Staff involved in the MICVL will undergo intensive training in IT innovative technologies and methodology and in Marketing in EU partners.
One of the specific objectives will be development of a pilot product: a Virtual Medical Microbiology Laboratory (VMML). Academic staff from ENAU and EU partners will work closely on a VMML. Team-members from Business Development Groups of each MICVL will be responsible for developing an efficient optimal scheme of VMML commercialisation and advertising. As a part of the advertising strategy, a special Website will be created by the IT Group for the introduction of end-products produced by MICVLs. The dissemination of the project's outcomes will include both internal and external elements at national and regional levels. Particular attention will be paid to increasing awareness of the technology in wider society of the region and establishing links with relevant IT enterprises.