eSTEM: a brief introduction to the project

Even before the outbreak of the Covid19 emergency, the shifting from an industry-based society to a knowledge-based society had already started radically changing the training approaches. Online was already spreading, supported by constantly evolving technologies and it was considered an important asset for HEIs. However, the investment to make it effective is huge and only a few players recognize the importance of developing effective online training contents. Covid19 has accelerated the process and forced all the HEIs to face the challenge of shifting online what initially was delivered in person. Lecturers learned that it is not enough to translate training content into a ppt presentation or into a video-lecture to make it effective: there are specific pedagogical methodologies for developing classes and digital contents that must be mastered for delivering quality products and many educators were not aware of them.

Adopting online learning means adopting new training methodologies, crucial to motivate students as the main stakeholders of the whole learning process. In fact, online learning leads to a change in the characteristics of the social presence of the teacher and student during learning. The non-adoption of the pedagogically correct methodologies could lead to the common lack of student possibility to interact properly with the teacher and to receive timely feedback (Markova et al., 2017). In the last years, different pedagogical approaches have been developed by pedagogists and experts of distance learning. The most advanced approach is called “action-based learning” and refers to “all learning that is orchestrated by some activity on the part of learners”. These actions may vary from real participation by learners (in building or creating something), to learners watching a video clip that is later examined, discussed and then subject to a decision-making process. This approach can be divided into different streams and it is generally based on reversing the traditional learning process (theory+examples+evaluation of the knowledge). In fact, it proposes to “start from the end”, by starting from questions, case studies, real problems, datasets and then returning to the theory behind. Also, DigCompEdu Report has clearly demonstrated how action-learning methodologies make the difference in delivering effective training, as they allow the learners to be more engaged in the lesson. The four approaches referring to the action-based learning that will be addressed in this project are: 1) inquiry-based learning, 2) problem-based learning, 3) scenario-based learning, 4) dataset-based learning.

However, putting into practice these pedagogical methodologies always means dedicating a lot of time in the analysis of sources, reports, documents and requires a great effort for preparing the training contents. Indeed, the lecturers should “reverse” the traditional way of teaching, finding different ways for allowing the learners to build the knowledge (theory) starting from the practice. How to process such a huge amount of data? Data-mining and Natural Process Language (NLP) could be helpful allies for extracting information in a click, leaving the lecturer just to do his/her usual work: organizing the information.