Epic problem solving in a global learning environment

NASA wants to create global interest in space and attract the best and brightest graduating engineers to work in the aerospace industry.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA employs slightly over 17,000 civil service employees and typically develops one-of-a-kind, high-tech solutions to unique and demanding aerospace problems. NASA works on some of the world’s most challenging problems with partners around the world and believes that driving rapid solutions to complex problems requires connecting with just the right person who has exactly the right expertise at just the right time.


In the coming years a large percentage of the whole aerospace industry’s workforce of engineers and scientists will be eligible for retirement, which will create huge challenges in an industry where much of the resources is focused around human capital. One of the main concerns at NASA is the ability to attract the best and brightest graduating engineers and scientists to work at NASA. To create global interest in space and STEM subjects, NASA initiated the Epic Challenge program, which connects teams of students and subject-matter-experts around the world to solve the most epic challenges facing humanity.

The digital transformation of learning is creating a pressure to improve learning experiences online. Therefore, NASA wanted to renew, expand, and modernize the Epic Challenge program by using a digital learning experience platform. The virtual environment should make the digital learning experience fun, engaging, and accessible through all the different devices. Also, the platform should be easily scaled for massive amounts of users, who can be located on several different continents and in several time zones and use different devices to access the virtual environment.


The solution is a Valamis – Learning Experience Platform, where the Epic Challenge students around the world can virtually work in swarms/teams to utilize information they have learned by individual research, from team members/peers, or from subject-matter-experts (SMEs). The digital learning experience platform also allows experimenting with new learning pedagogies, such as phenomenon-based learning.

With a combination of Experience API (xAPI) and Learning Record Store (LRS) standards the learning experience platform offers a powerful learning analytics engine for tracking learning processes. xAPI collects all the important learning activities, including informal learning, social learning and real world experiences. LRS receives, stores and returns the data concerning accomplished learning activities, achievements and learning performance.


Using the Valamis – Learning Experience Platform students around the world are now working virtually and applying modern pedagogies to find solutions to the sustainable human habitation of Mars. The multi-national teams share information regarding the problems and solutions and the information is continuously curated. In Valamis learners constantly learn informally and formally, and are being coached in a socially engaging environment. Furthermore, with the help of the technology built in Valamis following up and authenticating the learning processes of the learners is effortless.

In addition to the teaching, the learning platform also is well suited to an international interdisciplinary research project, where the aim is to develop new solution models, for example to the technical challenges of space. Also, the platform enables testing and benchmarking different ways and tools of digital learning that can be utilized in workforce development. In Valamis, competencies, and capabilities can be defined, measured, analyzed, and transformed from an individual level all the way through to an organizational level.

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