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First contact with digital technology: The Co-Learning Lab 2021

Low-threshold access to current technology for employees in industry – from trainees to production managers: That was the vision with which the pilot project “Co-Learning Lab” was launched at the end of 2017 in cooperation with Innovationszentrum Kronach e.V.. After this first project got off to a successful start, another series of workshops followed in 2021, where participants could try out prototyping, mixed reality and machine learning. Once again, the focus was on small and medium-sized enterprises in the Kronach area. The aim of the workshop series was to raise awareness and educate participants on how to use modern technologies, as well as to provide initial contact via hands-on methods. This allowed the participants to explore each of the technologies themselves and develop initial prototypes.

Internet of Things workshop in Kronach 2021;
Source: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Professor Michael Zöllner and Marcel Igel, research associate at the Institute of Information Systems, planned a new edition of the knowledge transfer project in collaboration with the Kronach Innovation Center and the Human-Machine Interface Research Unit at Hof University of Applied Sciences.

The workshops

New to the Co-Learning Lab are workshops on mixed reality technologies. In the Virtual Reality Workshop, participants were able to create their own virtual world using the Mozilla Spoke web tool and Mozilla Hubs, and directly explore and put to the test the solution to their pre-designed problems using VR goggles.

I found it very interesting, I didn’t think it was even possible to create a virtual blueprint on the fly.”

Christian Wagner, Head of German Glass Production Heinz Glas

Virtual Reality – Workshop in Kronach 2021; Source: Hof University of Applied Sciences

In the Augmented Reality Workshop, virtual objects could be located and animated in the physical world. The Machine Learning Workshop was digitally accompanied via live transmission by Prof. Michael Zöllner, who incorporated his many years of experience in the field of Machine Learning into the workshop. The participants tested different models for object recognition, text-to-image and re-interpretation of images and their limitations.

The pandemic

The pandemic brought hygiene requirements, contact restrictions, and restructuring to the workshop series. The team developed the content and exercises for each workshop so that they worked both in presence and via videoconference. Plans included shipping hardware to participants on short notice, conducting some tasks entirely in VR in the event of more severe contact restrictions, to group work with pen and paper in the event that enrollees were allowed to meet.

With the Co-Learning Lab, we enable quick, playful access to new, often complex technologies in order to break down the access barriers of digital transformation and show participants their expanded competencies as a result.”

Prof. Michael Zöllner

Fortunately, all workshops could ultimately be held in presence. This is due in no small part to the tireless efforts of the IZK and the project team at Hof University of Applied Sciences.”

Marcel Igel, research associate at the Institute for Information Systems (iisys)

Other company representatives were also very taken with the offer

It is projects like these that prove the cooperation between IZK and Hof University of Applied Sciences as an innovation engine for the region. High-quality and application-oriented research moves companies and institutions forward by leaps and bounds.”

Hendrik Montag-Schwappacher, Managing Director Innovation Center Kronach

The team was encouraged by the positive feedback from participants after the workshops and the expressed interest in more in-depth workshops. If interested in a third edition of the Co-Learning Lab, interested companies and university employees can contact the network manager for the human-machine interface Katrin Müller.

More information and a video can be found on the project’s website

Katrin Müller

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