The overall objective of FORGE has been to introduce the FIRE experimental facilities into the eLearning community, in order to promote the concept of experimentally driven research in education by using experiments as an interactive learning and training channel for both students and professionals by raising the accessibility and usability of FIRE facilities. The goal has been to create an open FORGE community and ecosystem where educational resources, collaborative tools and proposed experiments are offered and contributed for free.
FORGE has followed the approach outlined in the figure on the left to introduce the eLearning community to the FIRE experimental facilities and bridge the gap between these two areas. FORGE has created an environment for introducing the eLearning community to the experimentally driven research but also to act as a training facility for FIRE in general. For this, the FORGE core, which consists of the FORGE project partners, has developed a number of prototype courses of which the final attainment level also targets skills related to the basic and advanced usage of FIRE facilities for creating experiments (next to content specific learning goals of the course such as e.g. understanding a certain communication protocol). The creation of these courses provides insight in new requirements that have been imposed on FIRE facilities on one hand and on the eLearning community on the other. Additionally, these prototype lab courses (a) serve as exemplars for the educational community (so they can have a look at how these example courses are made when creating their own course) and (b) also enhance the access of educationalists to the FIRE facilities (as the example courses explain how to use FIRE facilities). FORGE has thus acted as a conduit facilitating the passing of lessons learned to the FIRE facility owners enabling them to enhance their offerings to provide support for educational courses.
FIRE has invested significantly in the last few years in creating its federation. FIRE strives for a harmonization of tools and APIs to facilitate experimentation and the integration of heterogeneous resources around a single experiment under a single account and by using any experimentation tool that the end user wants. All this effort has been led by FIRE’s flagship project, Fed4FIRE (Integrated project, number 318389, funded by the European Commission through the 7th ICT-Framework Programme, 1 Oct. 2012 – 30 Sep. 2016). FORGE has built upon Fed4FIRE’s leadership using the project as the main channel to the FIRE facilities. FORGE has thus adopted Fed4FIRE’s tools and proposed mechanisms to aid in the project’s role as an intermediary between the learning community and the FIRE facilities and tools.
The FORGE core has created a set of processes, tools and widgets to facilitate the development of lab courses. The pilot prototype lab courses have generated requirements for learning tools along a number of dimensions including overall functionality and interaction qualities. Especially, during the integration phase with the Learning Management System (LMS) of Lab Course creators, a validation of the development tools has been carried out. Followed by the execution of the Lab Courses where the final validation of the whole FORGE process has been finalised.
As explained above, the FORGE core, driven by the requirements of the pilot prototype lab courses, has delivered a set of processes and tools to the learning community. To broaden the scope and the usage of the FORGE utilities, an expansion phase has taken place by opening up the platform when starting the second half of the project by issuing an Open Call which has lasted for the rest of the project duration. The Open Call has attracted volunteers from the learning community and elsewhere, who wanted to exploit FIRE facilities for educational purposes and to contribute to the FORGE ecosystem. The project consortium has supported these community-driven courses by implementing requested widgets, tools and APIs.