ELAICH E-learning Platform for heritage preservation education (ELAICH - Educational Linkage Approach In Cultural Heritage)

ELAICH - Educational Linkage Approach In Cultural Heritage was formulated during the European project of the same name within the framework of the Euromed Heritage 4 Programme (ENPI 150583). The objective of the ELAICH project was to increase the awareness of the importance of Cultural Heritage and its conservation by the general public and especially youth, with a focus on built heritage. ELAICH is more than an e-learning platform. ELAICH is an innovative approach to education for cultural heritage conservation for and by the general public. ELAICH educational e-learning toolkit is based on an innovative methodology, specially developed for this project by scientific researchers (Lobovikov-Katz, A., Moropoulou, A., Konstanti, A., Ortiz Calderón, P., Van Grieken, R., Worth, S., Cassar, JA , De Angelis, R., Biscontin, G., Izzo, F., 2014. Tangible versus Intangible in e-Learning on Cultural Heritage: From Online Learning to On-site Study of Historic Sites. In: Ioannides M., Magnenat-Thalmann N., Fink E., Žarnić R., Yen AY., Quak E. (eds) Digital Heritage. Progress in Cultural Heritage: Documentation, Preservation, and Protection. LNCS, vol 8740. Springer)

ELAICH teaching material, examples and analysis are based and focused on European and Euro-Mediterranean heritage, but have a wider international impact and interest. ELAICH e-learning platform was visited from more than 120 countries. ELAICH educational toolkit is based on a methodology developed by international team of experts from five universities in Israel, Italy, Belgium, Greece and Malta, working in both research and education and representing different fields of conservation of cultural heritage, including architecture, chemistry, and material science. ELAICH “opens the door” for young people “into conservation of cultural heritage - a much needed and fascinating inter-disciplinary field, combining arts, architecture, sciences, and technology” (ELAICH Educational Toolkit, Manual, p.4, ELAICH, 2012).

Built heritage comprises the major part of our cultural heritage, in quantity and the might of its impact. One might decide to avoid museums, or have no interest in folk or classical music and dance, but built environment, often interwoven with gardens or natural landscapes, is simply unavoidable. We meet and use it every day. However, values of cultural built heritage are often not self-evident to a non-expert eye. This causes neglect, misuse and vandalism of heritage buildings and sites by general public.

ELAICH reconsiders the role of the general public in preservation of cultural heritage, and provides the tools for its dramatic change - from unawareness and vandalism to understanding and protection - with regard to the preservation of European and Euro-Mediterranean heritage, and beyond.

One of the central concepts of the project and the ELAICH e-learning educational toolkit is its ability to create, in a short period of learning, a seemingly impossible link between the advanced research in conservation of cultural heritage, and the general public who is usually unaware of it. According to our extensive survey, only a small number out of numerous educational activities introducing the general public to cultural heritage addresses its conservation. When they do, their activity is mostly reduced to a limited number of conservation aspects, or to a mere assistance of general public learners to actual conservation works (e.g. cleaning heritage sites, assistance to conservators in preparing conservation mortars, etc).

The ELAICH Project’s idea was to go beyond a pre-defined contribution to cultural heritage, and to develop a know-how, for diverse and lasting uses of conservation of cultural heritage, through developing and providing the tools for (self)education of the general public.

We claimed before the project that new-comers can not only learn from and about cultural heritage, but also make an “intelligent” contribution to its preservation through their “intelligent in-situ” study, e.g. analysis, study, monitoring and documentation. This claim was demonstrated and proved in the project activities (A. Lobovikov-Katz, “The ELAICH project, a contribution to the documentation and survey of cultural heritage” in: International Conference on Cultural Heritage Preservation, Split – Croatia, May 29 – June 1, 2012 http://www.eu-chic.eu/ ).

Another novelty of the ELAICH educational Toolkit is its integral approach to the conservation of cultural heritage. “Contemporary conservation of cultural heritage comprises such different areas as art, history, architecture, crafts, technology, engineering, and scientific research in different fields, e.g., chemistry, mathematics, physics, biology and nano-materials”. (A. Lobovikov-Katz, eLAICH, Topic 1.1 (1), slide 38). ELAICH outlines, explains and makes accessible to its virtual learners the complete overview of the modern multi- and interdisciplinary field of conservation of cultural heritage.

The scientific-technological side of conservation of cultural heritage, exposed by ELAICH yet largely unknown not only to general public, but also to non-conservation researchers, bears an additional value: the contribution of ELAICH to education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and to widening the limits of research areas. It gives the general public, and especially young people, knowledge and skills for a complex and globalizing world through the -basic understanding of the ultimate contemporary inter- and multidisciplinary field of conservation of cultural heritage (Lobovikov-Katz, A., 2015. The virtual and the real: e-learning in interdisciplinary education - the case of cultural heritage, The 13th MEITAL Conference: New Technologies and Their Evaluation in Online Teaching and Learning Technion, Haifa).

ELAICH innovation is multilayered. ELAICH educational e-learning toolkit-platform:
• provides a unique know-how for education and self education for general public in cultural heritage and its conservation;
• innovatively makes accessible for general public the complete overview of conservation / preservation of cultural heritage, by means of a unique methodology;
• applies the ELAICH methodology for “research through education”, which makes it dually-beneficial: first, - enabling its learners to reach educational goals in their (self) education; second, - allowing them to make a valuable contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage as a product of their education (e.g. analysis of a historic site);
• enables advanced “intellectual” contribution of the general public to conservation of their immediate heritage;
• exemplifies the interdisciplinary essence of the modern science and technology through a multi- and interdisciplinary field of conservation of cultural heritage along with the complexity of values of cultural built heritage, and the challenges of its conservation;
• allows, through its flexible structure and alternative teaching material, to expand virtual learners knowledge with ELAICH, beyond a core learning program on specific themes of their interest, e.g. arts or chemistry, in the conservation context.

ELAICH was developed in 3 stages:
1: Developing a methodology
2: Testing the methodology through actual teaching the courses in 5 different countries (assisted by experimental website).
3: Developing the concept and actual designing the e-learning platform based on the knowledge and methodological tools which were developed in the first 2 stages, in order to enable future on-line students to learn the material of the ELAICH e-learning toolkit.

ELAICH is a visually and didactically attractive, easy, smart, well-structured and flexible toolkit, based on “ELAICH methodology” and accessible to any school teacher and student. It is an educational toolkit, based upon a scientifically validated and tested educational methodology, providing tools to introduce the values of cultural heritage and principles and challenges of its preservation to the general public and especially youth. The Toolkit is accessible to the general public via the ELAICH e-learning platform, which provides interactive on-line exercises, as well as teaching material and guidelines for laboratory exercises, and enables educational activities on the historic sites.

The unique ELAICH feature – intelligent in-situ study on historic sites by the ELAICH students - has been methodologically designed and tested during the ELAICH courses. The support by heritage authorities of learning activities undertaken by “virtual” ELAICH on-line students on real historic sites was tested during a pilot simulation on-line course in Haifa in January 2012.

Although ELAICH was developed for young people, anyone can learn it. It was applied in professional and university courses for architects, archaeologists, preservationists, students in arts, engineering, science and technology in Italy, Greece, Great Britain, Israel, Malta and other countries.

The teaching-learning activities and material are focused on and are rich with European and Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Heritage examples and give the virtual learner access to a wide spectrum of case studies in conservation of the European cultural heritage. At the same time, it has various effects on the development, education and cultural heritage protection in general. ELAICH promotes social inclusion, intercultural and inter-generational dialogue, educates responsible citizens and is in line with recent EU initiatives. The multiple values of the ELAICH E-learning Toolkit are evidenced by lasting and increasing interest of heritage and education authorities and organizations from different countries in applying the ELAICH in their awareness, education, and training activities.

The ELAICH e-learning platform is user-friendly. It enables easy navigation and immediate access to every piece of learning material, interactive exercises, and instructions for the off-line laboratory or on-site activities, while at the same time allowing successive progress through the whole ELAICH e-learning package.

The ELAICH Educational Toolkit provides an obligatory Basic Course and optional Advanced Topics. Users can choose Advanced Topics according to their interests. Through its flexibility, ELAICH addresses diverse learning needs. It provides rich learning content, assisted by on-line downloadable manuals. It combines interactive on-line educational activities and in-situ study of cultural heritage, contributing to heritage preservation by building a sense of identity, ownership and responsibility.

The manual – a set of introductions and guidelines (available in English, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Maltese) - facilitates independent learning with ELAICH. Introductions and guidelines are provided at all levels: from the general level to that of a single topic. Introductions explain the content, while the guidelines direct how to actually study (duration, equipment, etc.).

The ELAICH e-learning platform consists of six modules, subdivided into topics. Each module is devoted to a specific integral part of contemporary interdisciplinary conservation of cultural heritage, and linked to ELAICH’s on-site teaching unit - “Adopt a site”. The modules are the following:
• Module 1 - Values and Awareness
• Module 2 - Knowing the Built Heritage
• Module 3 - Decay and Environment
• Module 4 - The Conservation Process
• Module 5 - Monitoring and Maintenance
• Module 6 - Management and Use
The ELAICH modules should be studied sequentially – from 1 to 6. After Module 6 the “Adopt a site” unit should be undertaken.

“Adopt a site” unit is based on knowledge and understanding developed through all 6 modules. It allows students to link virtual e-learning with the real world of cultural heritage. It enables them to contribute to their own cultural heritage through its study, monitoring, and documentation. At the same time small portions of on(historic)site activities are explained and recommended throughout ELAICH, enabling the unique SHUTTLE ONLINE-ON-SITE LEARNING WITH ELAICH.

Each of the six Modules includes basic and advanced topics addressing a specific theme, set of values or conservation problems in conservation of cultural heritage, through the specific examples of European and Euro-Mediterranean cultural heritage sites. This provides knowledge and understanding needed by the ELAICH virtual learners in order to implement the in-situ intelligent study on specific heritage sites of their choice. Incorporating local case studies in Modules generates the students’ interest to study and preserve their own cultural heritage.

The positive approach of ELAICH enables its virtual students to link between modern technological globalization and universal humanistic cultural values.

2014: ELAICH - the "Project of the Year" - FIRST PRIZE IN THE CATEGORY RESEARCH, the Project of the Year Competition of Architecture of Israel and the European Union. http://www.aiq.co.il/competitions.php
2013: ELAICH - Inter- and multidisciplinary e-learning platform on cultural heritage conservation was nominated for the World Summit Award, as the best E-CONTENT EXAMPLE IN E-LEARNING & SCIENCE from Israel.
For ensuring the continuing impact of the ELAICH Educational Toolkit beyond the time limits of the ELAICH Project period, the head and the partners of the project presented it in events and conferences incl. scientific papers on cultural heritage conservation, digital heritage, in Italy, Greece, Belgium, Malta, Cyprus, France, Israel, Portugal, Spain in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. It was presented in many dozens of publications by journalists in newspapers, radio and TV interviews by project partners and students of the ELAICH courses, and information on websites by European and international organizations.