As part of the national plan for the digital transformation of education in Greece, the Greek Ministry of Education's technical body designed and developed “e-me”, a social, collaborative, and extendable cloud-based digital educational platform for pupils and teachers. The goal was for e-me to provide a safe digital workspace and collaboration environment for the entire Greek K-12 community of 150.000 teachers and 1.5M pupils and, thus, to operate as the Greek public official digital educational platform for schools by supporting formal, non-formal, or informal learning experiences. It was used nationwide as an asynchronous distance learning platform during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to evolve, currently serving more than 650,000 users.
e-me Digital Educational Platform (e-me.edu.gr) is a social, collaborative, and extendable cloud-based platform, which provides a safe digital workspace for pupils and teachers to connect, communicate, cooperate, create and share educational content, manage assignments, publish their work, and reflect on tasks and achievements. It supports the creation of online collaboration spaces (hives) by both teachers and pupils. Hives are self-contained, social, collaborative, and regulated learning spaces (private or public), which offer a shared file space, collaboration tools, and a powerful communication tool, the “Wall”. e-me provides various difital tools to enhance teaching and learning, and also supports social networking among pupils and teachers, cloud file storage and file sharing, interactive digital educational content development, assignment management and task monitoring, e-portfolios for treasuring selected personal achievements, personal and collaborative blogs and use of OERs retrieved from digital repositories.
e-me has implemented a key component of the national plan for the digital transformation of education in Greece. It was designed and developed for the Greek Ministry of Education (MoE) by its technical body, the Computer Technology Institute & Press “Diophantus” (CTI), in the framework of the ‘Digital School’ large-scale initiative (2010-2021). The goal was for e-me to provide a safe digital workspace and collaboration environment for the entire Greek K-12 community of 150.000 teachers and 1.5M pupils and, thus, to operate as the Greek public official digital educational platform for schools. e-me was first launched in 2015, as a next-generation platform that grounds its pedagogical innovation on the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) model and on student-centred design principles, encouraging equal participation, socially mediated construction of knowledge, and co-creation of educational content easily redistributed among peers. Designing for a large, national scale was an interesting, yet challenging task. Our goal was to develop a pedagogically modern, easy-to-use and technologically advanced platform, with state-of-the art architecture while providing a sustainable solution for the future. The design of e-me took into consideration the needs and expectations of school community members as expressed via an open call and was based on a fruitful exchange of views with pedagogical and technical experts as well as on extensive market research on educational and social platforms, focusing on their popular features.
According to its design principles: e-me is a user-centered platform, that focuses on people i.e. pupils and teachers, rather than on classroom and classroom-related activities; it is primarily aimed at pupils; it is a social platform, empowering the development of soft skills (e.g. cooperation, leadership, critical thinking, flexibility, adaptability, and negotiation skills); it is a democratic platform, encouraging students to actively participate and have a responsible role in all activities and opportunities. Furthermore, e-me supports a sustainable business model for growth and expansion: e-me has been designed as an “open container for apps”, an open framework that enables third-party integration of tools, and encourages the educational community as well as the software market to contribute with apps that extend its functionality. During the covid-19 pandemic crisis, e-me was one of the two official distance learning platforms offered by the MoE to all Greek schools to support emergency remote teaching in K-12 education in Greece. Unlike most countries in the world, which utilized commercial platforms such as Microsoft’s and Google’s, Greece innovated, since it had a modern public platform, e-me. Among others, this ensured that user data was hosted on public infrastructure.
Within two months of school lockdown, e-me reached 400,000 users; 120,000+ hives were created, representing either formal online classrooms or informal collaboration spaces; 10,000 hives were created by pupils, covering their need for peer communication and collaboration during quarantine time; thousands of public hives were created by teachers to support open communities of practice. Teachers also became digital educational content creators, developing 250,000+ interactive learning objects with the “e-me content” app. Since then, e-me has evolved greatly and expanded with new functionality, being today a mature and innovative platform with more than 650,000 registered users (140,000 teachers and 530,000 students), and three editions/installations [the official e-me (e-me.edu.gr), the "e-me for all" edition (4all.e-me.edu.gr), and the new multilingual European edition (e-me4all.eu)].
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
e-me is a social, collaborative and extendable cloud-based educational platform, which grounds its pedagogical innovation on the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) philosophy and the user-centred design principles to which it adheres. To the best of our knowledge, e-me is one of the first -if not the first- implementations of a PLE for school education, which has been designed to be used nationwide by all Κ-12 students and teachers, has been developed based exclusively on open source software, and is offered as a public service by the MoE. As opposed to traditional ‘one size fits all’ learning management systems, a PLE, such as e-me, provides access to a variety of resources while the user interacts with others, using tools tailored to their needs and preferences in a single learning environment, which facilitates the development of soft skills and encourages the transition from the traditional model of knowledge transfer towards a new model of socially-mediated knowledge construction.
What is the current status of your innovation?
After having been implemented nationwide, e-me continues to grow and is being used by the K-12 school community in various constructive ways. It is worth mentioning that e-me has been successfully used to host the National Biology Contest for Middle High School Students held under the supervision of the MoE. Moreover, e-me has been selected as the platform that will support the creation of online communities of knowledge and practice in the context of the In-service Training of Teachers in the utilisation and application of Digital Technologies in the teaching practice offered by the Greek MoE. Most importantly, the platform is already being customised to support activities and interactions within and across educational partnerships in a multilingual context in Europe. Schools in Portugal, Poland and Cyprus are beginning to use European e-me on a pilot basis, to support collaborative educational projects. Schools in Germany, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia are to follow.
Collaborations & Partnerships
School community members were invited via an open call to contribute to the design of the platform by defining their needs and expectations. Pedagogical and technical experts were also involved in productive meetings during the design process, providing useful advice. Furthermore, members of the educational community and organizations have embraced the open framework of the platform (which enables 3rd party integration of apps) and have developed/customised and integrated their apps in e-me.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Pupils and teachers are the main beneficiaries of the innovation. Pupils enjoyed a secure digital workspace to collaborate, socially connect, co-create, and develop soft skills, having a responsible role in all activities, on an equal basis with teachers. Teachers were offered a free, public, and modern platform to support their teaching and facilitate all their activities. Moreover, institutions, researchers, and even the private educational sector benefited by using the “e-me for all” open edition.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Until now, 175,000+ hives have been created in e-me, representing either formal school classes or informal collaboration spaces. 15,000 public hives have been set up as open educational communities, mostly by teachers wishing to share good practices, guide each other and exchange learning resources. Regardless of their limited prior experience, teachers have become content creators developing 500,000+ interactive learning resources with the ‘e-me content’ app. They have also discovered ways of using e-me apps for applying differentiated learning strategies by adapting digital content and tasks to students’ varied learning needs. Along with teachers, students have developed digital literacy and participatory learning skills by creating their own hives (10,000+ student hives) and becoming co-creators of content, managing, thus, not only to adjust to new educational practices but also to view digital tools as a means of informal learning fostering peer communication and collaboration.
Challenges and Failures
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a rise of 4000% in e-me usage raised issues of scalability that had to be quickly resolved. This urged e-me to triple its initial infrastructure and to improve its features to meet additional user needs. However, the greatest challenge is faced after the pandemic and is related to the sustainability of the innovation. Sustainability of novel digital products and services by the public sector requires the investment of financial resources on a regular basis, to ensure that the infrastructure is well maintained, the software is constantly up-to-date, and that the system is upgraded regularly, while new features and functionalities are being added. This presupposes the existence of a dedicated Research and Development team that allows the organization to move forward and to stay ahead by catering to new user needs.
Conditions for Success
Necessary conditions for the successful design and development of such pedagogical innovations include:
• A team leader that holds a positive vision, is team-oriented, provides appropriate guidance and encourages everyone to be involved
• Team members that are value-driven, intrinsically motivated by a strong sense of purpose and obligation to create change
e-me is currently available in three installations (editions), each addressing different target audience with similar needs:
- The Greek official edition of e-me (e-me.edu.gr), offered by the Ministry of Education to all Greek schools of primary and secondary education, providing a secure environment where access is allowed through national Greek School Network accounts via a Single Sign-On mechanism
- The open to everyone ‘e-me for all’ Greek edition (4all.e-me.edu.gr), aimed at all educators, learners, researchers, academics, and any other interested party through free registration
- The multilingual European edition (e-me4all.eu), launched recently (February 2022) to support collaboration among schools, universities, institutions, etc. at a European level. Currently the multilingual edition of e-me supports English, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian, and is being customised to also support Latvian, Bulgarian and German.
Our experience of e-me large-scale use as a PLE during the Covid-19 pandemic sets an example on the benefits of these new generation learning environments in terms of their openness, personalization, customization, flexibility and social networking, which is a stimulator for innovative pedagogy. All in all, despite overwhelming challenges and ‘vulnerabilities in education systems’ caused by the pandemic, new pedagogical practices, as witnessed with e-me, have emerged concerning e-learning, unfolding a broader need for flexible and resilient educational systems.
The current e-me version 3.1 was released in September 2022. It is a stable, mature, and upgraded version that incorporates all the experience gained from its nationwide use and from its 650,000 users.
Megalou, E., Tsilivigos, Y., Kaklamanis, C., Politi, A., (2022). The evolution of e-me Digital Educational Platform and experiences from its nation-wide use in schools during Covid-19 pandemic. In Proceedings of EDULEARN22: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, (pp. 6619-6628), IATED. doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.
Megalou, E., Koutoumanos, A., Tsilivigos Y., & Kaklamanis, C., (2015). Introducing "e-me", the Hellenic Digital Educational Platform for Pupils and Teachers. In Proceedings of EDULEARN15: 7th Int. Conf. on Education and New Learning Technologies. Barcelona, (pp. 4858-4868) IATED. ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1 / ISSN: 2340-1117.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
10 August 2023