LINCS: Learning through Interactive Networked Collaboration and Simulation

Network of Centres of Excellence--Letter of Intent

Research Proposal

Socio-economic Impact:

LINCS will support Canada's transformation into a learning society by creating a network for research and development on technology-based lifelong learning. The technological focus is the provision of universal access to collaborative, networked learning environments based on interactive simulations.

New technologies are only part of the profound socio-economic change Canada now faces. LINCS reconciles the move toward an information-based economy with the learning needs of our resource-based economy. Competitive national economies require people and institutions that are highly adaptive and responsive to change. This will occur only where new knowledge is widely accessible through learning technologies that encourage active engagement in lifelong learning.

LINCS targets five major socio-economic areas:

New technology mobilisation

LINCS has partnerships with Canadian industries at the leading edge of technology creation and use. These partnerships will enable systematic knowledge transfer from research to applications in industry, homes and schools. This effective use of high technology to enhance the value of natural and manufacturing resources supplied to world markets is essential to Canada's future economic prosperity and social progress.


Changes in the human resource needs of Canadian employers require new ways of training and retraining to insure work force adaptability. LINCS responds to this requirement by using high speed networks to combine the power of computerised simulations with the motivation of social learning environments. Partnership with Human Resources and Development Canada insures that the benefits of LINCS are widely shared through employee training and retraining programs as part of a new societal understanding of the importance of lifelong learning.

Cultural understanding

New technologies will significantly improve national access to art and cultural materials as well as cultural learning resources. The LINCS partnership includes cultural institutions and producers who are developing interactive content for distribution over networks (for example, museums, publishers and audio visual producers). These same resources will enrich Canada's tourism and leisure industries. It is also vital that the rich artistic expression of our multicultural society be available to people of all regions to promote deeper understanding of self and others. Providing access to such cultural resources will be an important contribution of LINCS.

International development

LINCS has partnerships with institutions across Canada involved in international development. Providing developing nations with learning resources is a cost-effective and productive form of international development. Technologies for lifelong learning developed in Canada will have immediate application to the cost-effective supply of learning resources overseas.

Commercialisation and new ventures

The methods, materials, and techniques developed in the context of LINCS research on technology-based learning will have potential for commercialisation by Canadian companies and for the creation of new companies. This will lead to economic benefits in the form of import substitution and exports facilitated by LINCS partnerships with a range of existing high technology companies. The involvement of management researchers specialising in new venture development will assist in making opportunities available to entrepreneurs.

Major new commercial opportunities are arising as Canada's service, manufacturing and resource industries become increasingly involved in training others in related activities world-wide. LINCS will provide a powerful infrastructure for the expansion of Canadian learning industries.

Proposed Research Program

The schematic of the LINCS research program below portrays the overall aim of facilitating lifelong learning through:

Evolution of the information highway

Universal access to information does not in itself create a learning society. While the information highway is widely recognised as a critical enabling technology for the new economy, at present it offers only widespread access to high-speed communication and information retrieval.

Currently, the information highway supports many electronic discussion groups and document archives, but these address the learning needs of only a small segment of our society. Technologies for interaction, collaboration, simulation and tele-presence are necessary to create the social and experiential conditions that will allow us to realise the full learning potential of the information highway.

Current approaches to technology-based learning are largely designed for local delivery and focused on individual learning. LINCS is predicated on the need for a basic re-evaluation of these aspects of the educational system. Interactive computer simulations have proven to be powerful motivators and provide dynamic and exploratory learning environments. The use of networked group interaction software creates interactive distance learning environments that are sensitive to the lifelong learning needs of both employers and employees. LINCS research will examine the feasibility and utility of these innovations.

Test cases and research issues

LINCS will model the transition to lifelong learning through test cases in a wide variety of contexts, from training for high-risk environments to cultural learning in homes and schools.

Space station training is based upon state of the art simulations and will be used to provide data on training in the use of high technology through computer-based simulation. Groupware business simulations will provide data on experiential learning of entrepreneurial and management skills. The manufacturing and construction industries will be prototypes for modelling the continuously changing skill requirements that require lifelong access to training.

Simulation and groupware training will be used to provide opportunities for cultural learning through interactive computers in science centres and museums in cooperation with LINCS partners in the cultural sector. These will be extended through networking to schools and homes to test the efficacy of technologically-supported home-based learning. LINCS will also explore the potential for using networked delivery of learning materials to developing countries.

In-depth studies will be associated with specific research questions such as:

Integrative research themes

These and other research questions that emerge will be explored in the context of the integrative themes within LINCS: systemic, focussing on an overall model of a next-generation educational system; horizontal, using the basic technologies for networking, collaboration and simulation; and vertical, using the same content in diverse application sectors. These themes integrate the range of research activities into a coherent program of socio-economic development.

Role of networking

Networking approaches have intrinsic and obvious values for all major research activities; in research on education and training they are mandatory. The size and scope of the educational system, the ever-changing demands for training, and the diversity of both problem areas and methods of inquiry are beyond the bounds of any one discipline or institution.

Some of the traditional approaches to the management of education have led to inefficiencies and rigidity that make it increasingly difficult to respond to the needs of a changing society. The aims and objectives of LINCS can only be achieved by a wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary, cross-sector network. The importance of this project will be not only in its specific research achievements but also in its contribution to educational reform.

Major research deliverable

The major research deliverable will be a working prototype of a learning layer built on the information highway that will support:

Networking and Partnerships

LINCS is a matrix of diverse research networks organized by areas of benefit. The other organising elements are: technology (modes of transmission, network security, groupware, simulation, virtual reality), learning (instructional design, collaborative and experiential learning and evaluation methods), and application environments (high risk, high technology training, arts and culture, distance education).

Network LINCS-- roles and associated networks for some participants

Highly Qualified Personnel

LINCS will have a profound impact on Canada's human resources. It will not only produce world class scientists and engineers, but will also provide improved methods of training and retraining for a wide range of workers. Finally, it will produce innovative educational resources for industries, homes and schools. LINCS will contribute at every level to improving Canada's industrial competitiveness, economic growth and productivity.

Initially, LINCS will include some 200 university and industrial researchers, post doctoral fellows, graduate students and technical and professional staff. Over a ten year time frame, this will increase to over 400.

Several LINCS partners have specific training objectives for highly qualified personnel. For example, the Canadian Space Agency is responsible for Mobile Servicing System Training for the international space station. Others, like Nova Corporation and Ontario Hydro, are engaged in major international commercial training activities. Still others (CultureNet, CulTech, Science World, CITI) will prepare specialists in the development and delivery of cultural materials. LINCS will develop a body of research and produce personnel that will strengthen Canada's role as a leading exporter of training technologies.

Commercialization and new venture marketing groups in the LINCS matrix of networks will ensure a coordinated multi-sector approach in the development of human resources. Those individuals receiving training in new and emerging technologies will obtain experience through industry internships, exchange programs, and applied research opportunities.

This multi-disciplinary approach to research and development in technology-based learning will create a community of innovative leaders in education and training, which will facilitate fundamental change in Canada's learning infrastructure.

Knowledge Exchange and Technology Exploitation

LINCS will generate new technologies for lifelong learning and will produce technology-based learning materials for a wide range of specific applications. Since LINCS industrial partners constitute a formidable segment of Canada's technology training sector, they are well positioned to take advantage of the international market potential of technologies for networked collaboration and simulation.

LINCS will also have a major impact in terms of import substitution. The technologies involved are essential to the socio-economic future of Canada, but it has previously been necessary to import them. The LINCS program offers the opportunity for domestic development, control and marketing of the primary technologies for lifelong learning.

LINCS will amplify the impact of its research findings by using networked collaboration and simulation technology to support widespread participation in its projects. LINCS will make its findings available through list servers and electronic document archives, and through conferences, workshops, reports and publications. It is intended that these communication channels will remain in place when the project is completed to continue to promote research, development and application of technology-based learning.

LINCS includes partners with extensive expertise in technology transfer (University Technologies International) and network security (First Class Systems) who will provide guidance in cases involving proprietary information. The New Ventures Group and UTI have extensive experience in the development of capital investment for new technology ventures. LINCS partners have been selected as Centres of Excellence with extensive funding for research, development and application of technology-based learning. All have direct and continuing commitments to the investment of their time and money in projects related to the aims of LINCS.

Network Management

LINCS has three major management functions: managing program goals, managing program coordination, and managing specific projects.

A Board of Directors representing government, industry and users' interests will have authority over program goals, project and budget authorization.

Projects will be managed by designated Leaders responsible for intellectual leadership, schedules, budgets and progress reports.

The coordination of project involvement across partners will be managed on a matrix basis through a Coordinator at each involved centre, who will be responsible both for resourcing projects and for managing the centre's interests in the project.

The overall Program Leader will manage liaison between the Board of Directors, the Coordination Board and individual Projects, and be responsible for overall schedules, budgets, and progress reporting.

Contents, Cover Letters, Participants, Budget, NCE Page, University of Calgary Page, KSI Page 1-Sep-94