Can E-Learning Beat Classroom Teaching? BitDegree and University of Tartu Launch a Research Project to Find Out

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If there’s one lesson the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the education sector, it’s that making remote learning available is not the same as making it work. According to a Lithuanian EdTech startup BitDegree, teaching online and in a physical classroom simply cannot follow the same approach – and yet, there’s still no definite answer to how a great e-learning experience should be designed. Luckily, finding one is the primary goal of the joint project just launched by BitDegree and the Center of Educational Technology of the University of Tartu (UT).

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Online teaching is a challenge – but what about online learning?

The main issue teachers face when trying to move their lessons to the digital space is the fact that unlike in the traditional classroom, the educator no longer holds the power: it is hard to impose authority through a live stream or a video recording that can be closed with a single click. “In most cases, online teaching is not viable as a concept – however, online learning is. For it to work well, students first have to develop learning skills, such as self-regulation,” BitDegree’s co-founder and CEO Danielius Stasiulis explains. 

To help the learners develop these skills and provide them with a better chance at effective lifelong learning, BitDegree and UT scientists are planning to build an open learner model (OLM), based on the principles of self-regulated learning (SRL). While educational theory defines SRL by cognition, metacognition, motivation, and emotion, there’s still a serious shortage of studies on the latter two factors – a gap that the project teams aim to tackle.

In the project’s final stages, BitDegree will use the results of the research to develop an online course builder that encapsulates the best instructional design practices. This way, educators around the world could easily adapt their material and teaching process for the digital space without losing its impact on students and add the benefits of accessibility, convenience, and advancement of their self-learning skills. The project was financed by the European Regional Development Fund, which has allocated 1,198,849.81 Eur in total to the project executors.

Combining the expertise of IT professionals and scientists

Founded in 2017, BitDegree is one of the most innovative EdTech startups in the world, recognized as the Global Champion of the Learning & Education category by the United Nations World Summit Awards (WSA) in March. According to BitDegree’s co-founder and CEO Danielius Stasiulis, “one of BitDegree’s objectives is to find a way to make online learning efficient and effective through empirical research and experimentation. We are delighted about this partnership with UT: it allows us to add a layer of fundamental research to our efforts and apply it in experiments in real-life settings.”

This isn’t the first time BitDegree takes part in academic research. In 2019, the startup teamed up with Vilnius University (VU) to analyze the impacts of economic incentives on online students' learning motivation. Now, it has joined forces with UT’s Center of Educational Technology – an international research center that has one of the leading research teams in this field in the Nordic-Baltic region.

“I find this project a promising opportunity to connect researchers and startup companies and develop something very innovative together. We know from our research that there’s a lack of tools that could systematically support online learning, specifically its different phases and areas of self-regulated learning. I hope we can design an OLM that could be applied in online courses all over the world to make them significantly more effective,” the head of UT’s Center of Educational Technology professor Margus Pedaste claims.

Title of the project: UAB BitDegree’s next-generation technology for interactive online course creation based on the "Eksperimentas" implement
Executor: UAB BitDegree
Location: Kaunas, Lithuania
The start of the project: 2020-06-30
The end of the project: 2022-06-30

01 October 2020