The digitisation of society and the automation of many processes bring new opportunities and new types of jobs. The number of people employed in IT is constantly growing. However, employers in all EU countries are announcing a growing shortage of IT specialists in software development that educational institutions cannot meet.
The project aimed to design and implement a sustainable educational model ensuring the development of highly specialised skills and competencies of future IT experts in programming and software development. The model contributes to minimising the number of students with educational problems and increases the level of knowledge from introductory computer science courses, which represent a necessary prerequisite for increasing the overall level of highly specialised knowledge and skills of graduates. The educational model implemented in the form of a modern micro-learning platform Priscilla (https://priscilla.fitped.eu) with the support of automated evaluation of student assignments and gamification elements leads to better readiness of students for lifelong learning by applying selected elements of work-based-, collaborative- and problem-based learning in courses of highly specialised IT knowledge and skills.
The primary target group of the project are the students of accredited IT study programs of universities, who were involved in the project activities through innovations implemented directly in the educational process. Special attention was paid to the involvement of doctoral students in order to prepare them for the job of a teacher, and at the same time to enable them to gain experience in working in an international project team. Simultaneously, the secondary school teachers and students were involved in the project through multiplier and other accompanying events, as well as students’ programming competitions held at the universities participating in the project.
The unique Priscilla platform combining modern approaches to online education is used in teaching at the universities involved in the project and some secondary schools. The Priscilla platform has become an integral part of teaching at the universities participating in the project in study programs to train computer science professionals, teachers and related fields of study. More than 1,700 individual student accounts are registered on the platform. Students have actively participated in most of the created 26 micro-learning courses (3,300 student courses).
In terms of the created educational content, the platform provides more than 4,330 micro-learning units, 2,200 automatically evaluated programs, 180 topics in courses based on the WBL strategy and 562 solved student projects from practice within the whole model.
The innovativeness of the project lies in the implementation and verification of the model of education based on modern approaches such as micro-learning, gamification, work-based learning and others, which have so far penetrated formal education only sporadically and unsystematically. In accordance with the priorities of the call, activities were built and implemented in the project, which supported the development of innovative teaching methods and pedagogy, created and developed digital educational materials and tools. The procedures applied to achieve the results are innovative and so far in this combination have not been systematically sufficiently explored. During the project realisation, 18 university textbooks were published to acquire knowledge and skills in programming and software development. Simultaneously, several pieces of research were realised aimed at verifying the benefit of the approaches used for the training of IT professionals using the created Priscilla platform and the project outputs. The research confirmed the assumptions and fulfilment of the project objectives. The architecture, experience and partial results were presented in more than ten articles in indexed journals and conference proceedings.
The main benefit of the project is the implementation and validation of a two-level model of education. The first level is based on gaining essential knowledge and experience through interactive content and automated evaluation of source codes for different programming languages using an educational platform allowing personalisation and individual approach to each student. The second level transfers responsibility for one's own learning process to the student by forcing him/her to acquire new skills and knowledge through real assignments in a typical way for lifelong learning necessary for his/her professional advancement in IT after graduating from university.
Creating a catchment network and a reduction in the number of students at risk of educational failure, as well as achieving a better average evaluation through educational innovation, can be considered the most crucial impact of the project on the target group in the short term. It can be expected to reach a higher level of IT knowledge of students for the labour market and a better level of preparation for lifelong learning together with an increase in the competitiveness of universities in the long-term horizon.