LearnCanada will develop and evaluate broadband infrastructure, multimedia tools and middleware for adult learning through virtual peer-learning communities and advanced tele-mentoring. LearnCanada will focus on professional development of K-12 educators, but the approach is applicable to adult learners in a much wider context.

In LearnCanada, virtual communities of peers will together through the use of multimedia and broadband tools to observe each other working, share knowledge, make constructive suggestions and discuss common issues. These activities will accelerate learning for individuals and will foster the emergence of best practices and new knowledge. A virtual peer-learning community operates both synchronously and asynchronously; LearnCanada will use CA*net 3 to support online virtual meetings and live observation of peers at work and will employ multimedia tools allowing peers to create, send, receive, and annotate digital video segments. Video content will arise from video camera capture of peers at work and from existing content accessed from multimedia databases. Video annotation will include opportunities to attach voice, text, hypertext, video and hand-drawn graphics (e.g. circles and arrows) to specific points within the video. CA*net 3 will support transmission of the resulting large multimedia files.

LearnCanada will support tele-mentoring with the same methods used to support peer-caching, including: online meetings and seminars; live observation by learners of mentors at work and vice versa; annotation by mentors of captured video of learners at work and vice versa; and access to multimedia databases.

LearnCanada's school boards, STEM~Net, TVO and OLA will transform their existing professional development intellectual property into reconfigured objects, providing the multimedia base used by peer communities and tele-mentors. Peers and mentors will create new intellectual property as required, including professionally designed digital reconfigured video objects and post-production of captured work.

LearnCanada will connect multiple sites at each of six school boards across Canada, with 10-100Mb/s connections to CA*net 3. LearnCanada's performance target is to carry out and to evaluate field trials with 300 K-12 educators across Canada in the 2001 school year. LearnCanada's principal outcomes will be an evaluation of learning effectiveness in the field trials, reconfigured multimedia intellectual property for professional development requirements and recommendations regarding broad deployment of LearnCanada to Canada's schools and migration of the LearnCanada approach to other adult learning contexts. Additionally, LearnCanada will generate broadband multimedia software that may be useful to other research projects.

LearnCanada's professional development of K-12 educators will focus on teaching skills related to "project-based learning", whereby the teacher functions less as a provider of facts and knowledge and more as a guide to students as they engage in creating new knowledge through team-oriented engagement in learning activities and projects. Project-based learning is an important choice of focus; it provides students not only with subject-specific knowledge but also with team skills, self-reliance, initiative and project experience. By focusing on project-based learning, LearnCanada is overcoming professional development barriers to address teaching skills that empower students with capabilities they will need in Canada's Knowledge Economy.

Within professional development for project-based learning, LearnCanada will pay special attention to organization and management of student activities, to utilization of information technology in student projects and to design of interdisciplinary projects. Activity organization and management is a key skill; appropriate organization facilitates student engagement, directly leveraging the advantages of project-based learning. Utilization of information technology is a particularly relevant aspect of project-based learning; it is widely recognized as a significant professional development need and LearnCanada's team has access to superior mentors. Interdisciplinary projects facilitate student teamwork and engagement and provide multiple points of contact for international collaborations.

Broadband Relationship

LearnCanada will develop tools for online dialogue and interaction among peers and mentors, for video annotation and for access to multimedia databases. IBM, NRC, and CRC will develop online interaction and video annotation tools, with usability requirements determined in collaboration with the educational partners. LearnCanada will work with professionally developed videos targeted at professional development of K-12 educators in project-based learning; this intellectual property will be supplied by the school boards, STEM~Net, OLA, TVO, and NAC. Multimedia access research within LearnCanada will include development of techniques for breaking video content into reconfigured modules by the educators, OLA and TVO will use SchoolNet's metadata scheme for educational multimedia. All tools will be developed with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components when possible and subsequent usability evaluation will be carried out at NRC.

LearnCanada will initiate long-term work on portal/repository middleware for access and distribution of multimedia learning objects across Canada; IBM, NRC and SchoolNet will collaborate with other CANARIE Learning Program projects, including the European Union's IST STARTUP and UNIVERSAL projects.

Usability, security, privacy and e-commerce requirements will be developed, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components will be evaluated and portal user-interface functionality will be prototyped and evaluated. Portal/repository middleware will play an important role in Canada's future broadband based learning environments. LearnCanada will develop scenarios for Canada wide deployment of broadband infrastructure and middleware, including: solutions for last-mile broadband connectivity to schools, open systems and interoperability issues, e-commerce and intellectual property issues security and privacy issues and international linkages. .

LearnCanada is important because it will demonstrate that broadband capabilities allow organizations to overcome barriers that hinder learning. LearnCanada capitalizes on broadband's strengths in providing online multiparty interaction and rapid transmission of large multimedia files.

Impact and Economic Benefits

LearnCanada will demonstrate the value of emerging broadband networks by connecting learners and learning resources from across Canada and the world. LearnCanada will impact learning in Canada by contributing directly to establishment of an innovative learning culture that will sustain and enhance Canada's position in the global knowledge economy. Using the LearnCanada approach developing countries that cannot afford bricks-and-mortar for education, will benefit from opportunities to learn from mentors and peers internationally. LearnCanada will generate economic benefits to Canada through accelerated learning and development of best practices in a wide variety of learning communities, through export of Canadian technologies, expertise and multimedia intellectual property for learning applications of broadband networks and through the export of Canadian expertise serving in tele-mentoring roles internationally. LearnCanada benefits Canada by establishing Canada as an international leader in learning technology, by initiating collaborative research between educators and technology researchers and by demonstrating a model whereby school boards leverage each other's knowledge and capabilities.