What is a Metacampus UNITE!
A Metacampus UNITE! means a technical solution, a digital platform that connects the seven universities of the alliance, to enable mobile access exclusively to the range of programmes and diversity of activities that are offered through UNITE!. Each university of the alliance keeps its own campus, existing Learning Management Systems are preserved, and therefore, the educational contents and models of all the partners. All partner universities continue with their own student mobility management systems as well.
The designing process of such a complex system is not obvious nor a straightforward task. It encompasses a high quality contrasted methodology able to provide design results that meet the specifications derived from the final users’ requirements and expectations. We are engaged to construct a platform that will be a starting framework with the capacity to evolve and grow with new functionalities.
The Metacampus allows access to educational contents, which are published in the platform. This publication is a simple syndication of the educational content, which means that, in the Metacampus, the educational content is not stored, only metadata of the educational content is stored.
We aim to provide a portal to sort and visualise the offer agreed by UNITE! in a clear and easy to access way. The study offering can be individual of each partner of the alliance, or joint. It can be local courses of each university or joint courses. For students this means facilitation for search and access. For teachers and staff alike, this means flexibility to offer their own content without additional effort.
For all, internal community and external public, this means a clear shared understanding of what is happening together at UNITE!
The Metacampus is a single point of entry for users that
- Enables students to select mobility offers that are “custom designed” for their individual interests and needs.
- Includes other non-formal learning experiences and events, as well as formal courses.
- Offers student peer-to-peer guidance and support, based on other students’ experiences (guidance on mobility offer and partner universities).
- Delivers early information to the professor in charge of the chosen courses, in order to prepare to proactively take into account the needs of students coming to the course.
- Enables access to the language offering (Students/Staff/Faculty). Channel for development of the multilingual approach.
The platform is based on an Open Source Software advanced platform, able to incorporate available new code libraries and applications. Data protection and IP issues –security, privacy and confidentiality- are key issues that are being addressed. The Metacampus UNITE! is conceived as a technically robust solution, and at the same time, seeks attractiveness, through flexibility and the best possible user-friendly experience.
The user requirements agreed on by the community of UNITE! are demonstrated and validated during the first two phases of the Metacampus design.
Phase 1 Proof of concept of Metacampus for UNITE!
Phase 2 Pilot tests, launched with the pilot joint programs and courses.
Phase 3 Evaluation and expanding with additional functionalities.
The following are the main functionalities that we envisage for the Metacampus in the first stage.
- Aggregation of UNITE! offering, a search engine that will show the results of different kind of academic resources, courses, podcast, or documents. The search criteria are being defined during the requirements phase.
- Access to educational contents: common information about best practices, access to learning materials and tools, access to selected offer (resources/platforms) of each partner.
- A course page or item page for each of the resources made available in the platform.
- A student’s homepage, that is accessible once authenticated. This personal homepage includes course and contents finder, student itinerary, and any functionality that is to be agreed during the requirements and priorities phase.
- Personal experience: chat.
- Academic management is out of the scope and will me managed in each local Academic Management System (AMS). Enrolments take place in each local AMS and sent to the Metacampus.
- Other functionalities, related to infrastructure of the Metacampus: identity federations and group management; connection with the existing UNITE! website.
At this first stage of design and first development of the Metacampus, these are the core basic elements that the tool is intended to provide. The platform will be easily updated with new features releases. UNITE! participants are not all experts in virtual tools, therefore we are working on a very concrete introduction to the Metacampus based on close needs analysis and prioritization of requirements by each task force of UNITE!.
Building community also through online tools
We strongly believe that the user experience is key and are committed to develop such a strong tool focusing on the user experience. All the UNITE! community is committed to a prototyping and iterative development of the Metacampus, with the perspective and the goal of constructing community within the alliance.
The process of designing the digital platform is a first step and an incremental project of the UNITE! alliance, towards the concept of a Virtual Campus, to meet the needs of a future European university. In this collaborative process in which we are engaged, the UNITE! alliance is working with UPCnet, the consulting and technology services company created by UPC twenty years ago to optimize ICT management in the university, with the strategic vision of being a link of the university with society through the transfer of knowledge.
For further information
Jesús Alcober, vice-director of the Institute of Education Sciences (ICE), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC)
Araceli Adam, officer at Institute of Education Sciences (ICE), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC)