“If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ’real’ is simply
electrical signals interpreted by your brain”
Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix, 1999
The ‚Holistic blended framework for Research and Education in Mechatronics and Computer Science‘ (BLC) consists of a technical and a didactical part. These parts are accompanied by those assisting technologies and material which are appropriate and necessary to learning and teaching. These segments will be described in the following sections, starting with the technical concept, followed by the didactical part and completed by an introduction to the learning material.
The novelty of this blended learning concept is its completeness in covering all aspects of the educational process in engineering science. Common solutions offer hardware kits or learning material or virtual hardware, and even a combination of them. The BLC consists of a) a set of technological products to be applied in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) processes, b) ordinary face to face education in class, c) eLearning applications for access from outside the university, d) homework and e) practical student work in the form of group competitions.
These technologies include a virtual hardware kit (see VMCU) as well as the Robotic HomeLab kit. It is a comprehensive approach, starting with utilizing the VMCU, continuing with the real hardware, up to complex robotic contests (depending on the students‘ abilities). The overall concept is accompanied by freely accessible learning material and readymade learning situations that can be directly applied to the class. In addition there is a forum and wiki system, named ‚Network of Excellence‚ (NoE), available to share experience in an international community.
The different pieces of the technical conceptual part are illustrated in figure the figure below. The idea is based on utilizing various technology and media in the education of Mechatronics and Computer Science to enhance the overall learning process.
The encompassing material includes micro controller hardware kits, the previously mentioned Robotic HomeLab kit with various add-on boards, accompanied by a virtual, simulated version, the so called Virtual Micro Controller Unit. Based on the HomeLab kits moving robots can be constructed, using the same hardware as the modules in the kit. The kits themselves, the robotic applications and the VMCU are accessible through an Internet platform, named DistanceLab, that also offers interfaces to various other labs which are integrated and mediated through the newly developed Lab Description Language (LDL). These hardware parts are completed by overarching teaching and learning material accessible through the Network of Excellence (NoE), a wiki-based platform providing learning situations and exercises amongst others. In the scope of on-going projects the DistanceLab functionality is being transferred into a new, collaborative platform and enhanced by various open-source tools. This platform looks and behaves like a desktop system but is fully based on modern web technology, easily accessible through any web browser via internet connection.