Open Digital Lab for you – DigiLab4U
Digitisation in education and research enables new forms of location-independent networking of laboratory infrastructures. This involves mastering technical, organisational and didactic challenges.
A research consortium consisting of the University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart (HFT), the Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics (BIBA), the Institute for Knowledge Media (IWM) of the University of Koblenz-Landau, RWTH Aachen and the University of Parma is meeting these challenges in the project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Digitalization will change the world of work. The Internet of Things (IoT) alone has an economic potential of up to USD 11 trillion by 2020 (BMWi, 2017), especially in industry. The core element for the economy will be intelligent networking. However, the corresponding digitisation and networking of industrial and logistical systems in university environments have so far rarely been implemented, although the new requirements involved are best communicated to students in a hands-on environment. Academics are benefitting more than the middle- and low-skilled occupational groups in the 4th industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
However, this only applies if digitisation at universities is reflected in education and research. For this purpose, students and researchers must be provided with a practical, digitised and networked laboratory environment. The importance of laboratory-based research and teaching is therefore undisputed. Real laboratory infrastructures are personnel and cost-intensive and are generally only available to the respective research institution. In contrast, purely virtual laboratories offer advantages in terms of security, scalability, remote access and cost efficiency. However, simulations and purely virtual environments cannot replace the success of real laboratory environments, as these require and promote different knowledge.
In the research project Open Digital Lab for You (DigiLab4U for short), real laboratories are digitised, linked with virtual components and the synergies between the two approaches are explored. Augmented Reality can help to close the gap between the “virtual” and “real” experience. Methods of engineering education and serious gaming are combined using learning analytics, mixed/ augmented reality and open badges to form a unique holistic approach in a hybrid learning and research environment. DigiLab4U provides location-independent access to a digitised and networked learning and research environment. Multi-user scenarios as well as individual self-directed learning will be supported. For example, students of the HFT Stuttgart can access laboratories at the BIBA and the University of Parma. The exchange of experiences in research and teaching is promoted beyond the boundaries of individual institutes. As the long title Open Digital Lab for You suggests, the inclusion of further laboratories is planned. There is a considerable need for research on this forward-looking approach from a technical, didactic and organisational point of view.