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HP and San Jose State University pilot METIS, a new platform for delivering educational material


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist




This summer, a collaboration between HP Labs, HP’s Graphics Solutions business team and San José State University’s School of Information is testing a new platform for delivering educational course materials.


“We’re finding that students want to use both digital and print materials in their studies,” explains HP Labs research scientist and project manager Rares Vernica. “Based on that insight, we’ve combined the two to create a hybrid learning tool, called METIS that we hope will be a new kind of platform for content delivery in education.” 


An acronym for Meaningful Education and Training Information System, but also named for the mother of Athena and the Greek word for wisdom and deep thought, METIS is being piloted in two School of Information online masters degree courses being run at San José State this summer: Electronic Records taught by Lisa Daulby, a lecturer instructor in the school’s Master of Archives and Records Administration program, and Beginning Cataloging and Classification, taught by Mary Bolin, a professor in the Master of Library and Information Science program.


Several characteristics help METIS stand out as an educational tool:

  • Synergistic deployment of print and digital media
  • Personalization of materials to fit student interests and progress
  • Reading made ‘active’ and collaborative for enhanced engagement
  • Instructor analytics that help teachers ‘learn the learners’ (i.e. learning how the learner learns, creating a profile for him/her and providing personalized content in the best format for the learner to learn)

METIS lets teachers assemble a course reader by combining PDFs or URLs of the chapters and articles they want their students to read. The files, held in an HP Cloud repository, are then combined and laid out by a cutting edge rendering engine developed by the HP team. Instructors next create a specific course by assigning the reader (and perhaps other readers as well) to a class of students. Significantly, they can then follow as the students work through the material and even personalize the content to reflect individual student needs and interests as they progress through the course.


“I’ve been teaching people as a tutor, advisor, lab manager and professor for 30 years,” explains HP Fellow and Director and Chief Technologist for Content Solutions at HP Labs Steve Simske. “If there is one constant in education, it is that every person learns in a unique fashion. Learning therefore can (and should) be personalized for optimal learning speed and retention. Print/on-line hybridization of content is a subset of this personalization, and I am excited by how the METIS team has quickly and meaningfully embraced this approach”


“One of the big ideas here is that we’re dynamically updating “live” books to reflect learner interest and progress,” suggests Vernica. “We’re also allowing the instructor to better ‘learn the learner,’ both of which have the potential to really impact student learning overall.”


Students, meanwhile, can view the material as an e-book or print it out. Digital articles have links and multimedia embedded. Print versions contain a QR code that takes you to the same material. Students can also use METIS to enter and organize color coded notes, called ‘cheat sheets,’ that connect back to the relevant material in the course reader, allowing for easy revision. In addition, they can create ‘collections’ of material that they want to re-read or perhaps ask their instructor about and or use to collaborate with other students in their course.


The project emerged from a company-wide presentation to HP employees by Udi Chatow, Education Strategy manager with HP Graphics Solutions and a former HP Labs researcher, on the need for developing new hybrid models for education. Intrigued, Vernica contacted Chatow and the two agreed that the best way to develop such a tool was in partnership with professional educators. As a result, Chatow approached SJSU and the staff of online learning at San Jose State’s information school.


“Our next step was to survey over 500 San Jose State students on what they thought were the most important attributes of printed and digital sources,” says Vernica. “We then worked to develop a single platform that would deliver the best of each.”


The HP team also consulted with other SJSU faculty and outside experts before building their first iteration of METIS and bringing it back to the School of Library and Information Science for testing.


The San José State pilot will continue in the fall, supporting SLIS Professor Sue Alman’s massive open online course (MOOC) on The Emerging Future: Technology Issues and Trends, which already has 700 students enrolled, and METIS will also be tested in a high school setting.


Based on feedback from these trials, the HP Labs team will improve, add, and even remove features. “There’s still a lot to learn about what technologies truly enhance learning,” Vernica notes. “Experiments like these help us narrow down the elements that really make a difference – and then share them with educators more widely.” 


Related links



HP Metis Blog

Publishers Weekly: College Students Still Prefer Print Textbooks


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