The PASCAL2 and PASCAL Networks of Excellence have spanned nearly a decade of discovery, collaboration and comradeship. Their innovative outreach programme included VideoLectures, one of the most successful online teaching resources for computer science today. While the PASCAL name may not be used in the future, the spirit of cooperation and support is being continued in the legacy organisation: the Knowledge for All Foundation.
The World Summit Award (WSA) was launched in 2003 and is a part of the United Nations Summit on the Information Society. The global competition is for the best e-Content and global creativity. In 2013 the WSA Online Jury evaluated 200 WSA winners from the last decade and selected their eight all-time bests: the WSIS+10 Global Champions. VideoLectures.net was selected as the winner in the “e- Science & Technology” category. On 26 February 2013, Videolectures.net was presented its award for being one of the most outstanding examples of creative and innovative e-Content in the world in the last decade. It’s an excellent start for its new parent organisation, the Knowledge for All Foundation.
Ten years of PASCAL network has developed a sense of unity, one would go as far as call it comradeship, between a number of researchers and teams in Europe.
PASCAL will leave behind an indelible impression on the research landscape for decades to come. As this brochure and the brochure before it have highlighted, the two PASCAL Networks of Excellence have helped young researchers begin their careers, helped organise major conferences, even helped establish new fields. PASCAL has established a dominant role in European Machine Learning research and triggered many on-going research projects. It also pioneered new outreach methods, including an award-winning online lecture service, which continues to expand its capabilities. The era of the PASCAL Network may be over, but its community will continue. To ensure their work continues unabated, at the request and with the support of the EU, the PASCAL2 Network has now established a legacy organization.
“The idea was that these networks of excellence would create a permanent presence in Europe,” explains John Shawe-Taylor. “We proposed to establish a legal entity that could carry forward some of the activities of PASCAL. That was founded. It’s a UK company, now registered as a charity. It’s called the Knowledge For All Foundation Ltd.” The six trustees are all PASCAL coordinators: John Shawe-Taylor, Steve Gunn, Colin de la Higuera, Mitja Jermol, Marko Grobelnik and Dunja Mladenic.
The unique selling point of The Knowledge For All Foundation Ltd (K4A) is the focus on intelligent technologies for education. In this way it continues to support the development and use of new machine learning approaches pioneered by PASCAL, with a focus on enhancing the capture and delivery of educational resources. The charity foresees the use of machine learning in a number of key areas: content analytics and understanding, learning analytics and user modelling, multilingual and language translation technologies and personalisation through adaptive interfaces. K4A members already possess wide range of text, image and video analytics tools, various cross-lingual methods and many successful user-modelling applications. Already the team are developing services for transcription and translation and services for user modelling and personalisation. But perhaps most significantly, the charity continues the support of VideoLectures that began with PASCAL and was continued with PASCAL2 (see box).
“One of the principal aims of The Knowledge 4 All Foundation Ltd (K4A) is to maintain and develop the provision of online educational videos that it has helped to create through the VideoLectures.Net portal,” says Davor Orlic, the first employee of K4A. “PASCAL and PASCAL2 are the two projects that initiated this process and have supplied the lion’s share of the contribution both in terms of total amount of financial input and amount of content. This has been an outstanding success and was in many ways ahead of its time.”
The K4A team are well placed to tackle these issues. Many of the other big players in the area such as Apple, Coursera, Udacity, have close links with PASCAL. “We indeed know them,” says Orlic, “but just not in the role of founders and entrepreneurs of the 2012 EduTech start-up boom in the US. We know them as colleagues as they are actually coming from the machine learning community and have been filmed or are hosting their lectures on VideoLectures.Net and are well acquainted with the work taken in PASCAL2.“
K4A already works closely with the OpenCast Community and OpenCourseWare Consortium, which both operate in the fields of open source video capture systems and open educational resources (OERs), and therefore are in sync with the efforts undertaken by VideoLectures. “K4A is actually trying to identify the issues these two are running into,” says Orlic, “and is looking into providing Artificial Intelligence based solutions for these two initiatives. For example we are preparing a ‘Workshop on Advanced Methods and Tools for Online Based Education’ at this year’s OCWC Global conference where they welcome technical insights and knowledge of this level. The issue they are facing is that OERs are getting larger and the techniques, tools and knowledge to mine them are not available or familiar to them – something that K4A could easily provide.”
In order to help create the technologies required, the charity will continue to nurture the community that PASCAL and PASCAL2 have built over the years. It aims to support the highly successful aspects of the networks, such as the challenges that helped catalyse and focus research in specific domains. For example, to help support the development of advanced technologies for VideoLectures.net, K4A has assisted in the creation of three new projects, all of which began as PASCAL2 challenges. The transLectures (Transcription and Translation of Video Lectures) project focuses on the automated transcription and translation of lectures (see box). The LaVie mini project (Learning Adapted Video Information Enhancer) investigated how a recommender system could suggest suitable videos for each user, making use of automated topic extraction and modelling and visualisation of the topics available. More recently, the IASD Challenge (Interactive Annotation of Sequential Data) is looking at how an automated speech transcription system should select difficult-to-recognise words for a user to check. K4A has responsibility for the dissemination and exploitation of results in transLectures until 2014. They are also looking into new and innovative business models for all these projects.
Our dream is to make an impact and change how online education in general is perceived. We want to send a wake-up call to Europe, saying that we are here and willing to help in making these changes.
It’s a fast moving world filled with needs and opportunities in the area of intelligent technologies for education. K4A is proactive in its approach, supporting the organisation of many events such as summer schools and workshops to promote research. K4A played a key role in enabling the boot camp in Ghana (described in earlier in the brochure), with the vision of building up long-term collaboration with the Ghanaian Universities. “It follows the K4A vision of encouraging various third world countries to build up AI research labs,” says Orlic. “This is how K4A complements its vision for unlimited knowledge transfer: by exchanging staff, software tools, and in particular to run collaborative projects between AI labs that will solve real local problems.”
K4A also organises other events, for example, the “Co-Creation of Emerging Trends in Academia Workshop“ in Ljubljana (Slovenia) in November 2012, with the goal of clarifying how emerging technologies based on machine learning, machine translation, text mining, semantic web, open access, academic video journals, free video libraries, open lecture capture systems, OER and more are changing the curriculum, designation, filtration, validation and research trends. Davor Orlic is being kept busy. “In this tradition we are planning to organize the first regional “Internet of Education 2013” conference in Slovenia,” he says, “in order to explore the new and rapidly-changing global trends in higher education, and how intelligent and advanced technologies have influenced and will go on to instigate fundamental changes within traditional higher education systems around the world.”
K4A has also created a new academic journal of Machine Learning videos, based on spotlights from the NIPS conference. One of the greatest strengths of the Knowledge For All Foundation is that it was formed from the PASCAL community. “Ten years of PASCAL network has developed a sense of unity, one would go as far as call it comradeship, between a number of researchers and teams in Europe, ” says Orlic. “it is clear that they are highly motivated to use part of their energy to fulfil a nobler mission than ‘publish or perish.’”
This community wishes to participate in a new ambition throughout Europe, to cooperate and share ideas, allowing easier access to research. VideoLectures and TransLectures have begun that journey, but there are still many challenges to be solved. “Through the scientific cooperation around the organisation of new tools and techniques, we aim to build a new way of sharing science,” says Orlic. “The events to be organised in the future will be milestones towards this goal: workshops, introduction of new journals, courses.”
Orlic is passionate about K4A. “Our dream is to make an impact and change how online education in general is perceived. We want to send a wake-up call to Europe, saying that we are here and willing to help in making these changes! We also want to successfully continue to take forward the PASCAL1 and PASCAL2 legacy, provide good quality training events in the field of Artificial Intelligence and equip VideoLectures.Net with the most intelligent tools to date, thus making it a must-have resource for all Computer Science learners on the planet.”