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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe




by Muneeb AHMAD
Language: EN
Document available also in: HU


University of Bergen - EUCEN 2018

About the Conference

The EPALE CSS attended the 50th EUCEN conference held in Bergen, Norway from 6–8 June 2018. The theme of the conference was ‘Times of transition – the role of university lifelong learning’. 

The 50th EUCEN conference reflected on the growth and evolvement of universities in lifelong learning programmes. In a time of transitions within education systems, society, and digital services, there is a greater need for policymakers to focus on lifelong learning. 

Read our full blog below to see how the conferenced progressed over the three days and the variety of topics discussed and insights shared.


EUCEN Bergen 2018

Day 1

The conference officially opened with a number of speeches alongside an icebreaker session for delegates to understand each other's professional background. The main speech was delivered by Anders Fremming Andersen, Department Manager within Skills Norway, a collaboration partner of the conference. Anders detailed how Skills Norway contributes to increased employment and active citizenship and promotes and demonstrates the importance of skills policy in Norway's development. The highlight of the speech was the details of the Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy, which was launched in February 2017, focusing on:

  • informed choices for the individual and society;
  • better learning opportunities and effective use of skills in the labour market;
  • strengthening the skills of adults with poor basic skills and little formal education.

"We need a stronger connection and more efficient dialogue between universities and university colleges on the one hand, and businesses and social partners on the other.’ - Anders Fremming Andersen, Skills Norway


/en/file/skills-norway-logoSkills Norway Logo

Skills Norway Logo


A closing speech was delivered by Julie Anderson, Policy Officer in the European Commission's higher education policy team in DG Education and Culture. As part of her role, Julie emphasised the importance of lifelong learning, as she contributed to the renewed EU agenda for higher education, with specific responsibility for the development of policies on social inclusion and citizenship; lifelong learning; the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants; and academic recognition.

Day 2

A series of presentations were delivered in the morning, on the theme of transitions of adult learners in lifelong learning in three distinct contexts – personal, professional and digital. To begin, Professor Natália Alves, from the Institute of Education of the University of Lisbon, discussed her findings on personal transitions. She explored the ways in which adult learners begin to transition during their learning and how practitioners can seek to better support this.

Following from this, Professor Frédéric Nils from the Catholic University of Louvain, continued with a look at professional transitions for adult learners. He analysed employability and university lifelong learning in the context of career development. The individual implications of a new career were detailed alongside the Professor’s own model of career adaptation through lifelong learning, which included the importance of participation, persistence and performance of adult learners for practitioners.

Finally, Jan Svärdhagen, an independent consultant in the field of IT and education, explored the digital transformation of lifelong learning. He detailed the key developments of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OERs) and video communications as tools for adult learning providers to adopt as part of a pedagogical transition.


Questions & Answers Session


EUCEN 2018 Questions and Answers Session

How do we address transitions that teaching staff have to go through to provide attractive lifelong learning approaches?

‘To engage teachers and trainers in a discussion, but also validation of prior learning. Most of the teachers may struggle to accept this as it is very difficult to implement. It can be done through peer-based discussions rather than formal training. We cannot teach the same we did before and professors know this. The question is – how can we change this?’ -  Professor Natália Alves

How can we create communities for learners in a digital learning environment? How can we make students interact and collaborate in virtual learning environments if there is such variation of opportunities and learners?

‘We try to create flexible learning models. We try to create cohorts of learners rather than to teach on an individual learner basis. We find the cohort model works well online and it depends on the course. If you're trying to develop an understanding, you need to be part of a cohort and understand the context of the work and how to engage with that.’ – Julie Andersen

‘We know education is a social process, so we had a big emphasis on online communications. We can't do MOOCs anymore, the dropout rate is very high, they are quite expensive and the question is what do you learn? We need to rethink what we are doing in online situations. Those people who need to go at their own pace can have one-to-one mentoring.’ – Jan Svärdhagen

What should be the different lifelong learning approaches for different career stages?

‘Increasing competencies in terms of employability as part of adaptation skills.’ – Professor Frédéric Nils

How can universities have capable and attractive transitions for adult learners?

‘For adult learners, we need to connect subjects with their own experience. With adult learners, we try to use their professional and personal experience to try to show how we can use it to learn and to articulate subjects through life experience. It is a challenge for adult learners within university, but we must give meaning to the learning. One of the main issues is to find the meaning to what we are learning. I really think if we don’t find a meaning it’s very difficult to learn.’ – Professor Natália Alves

What has defined the transition from continuing education to lifelong learning?

‘In the UK, in the 1980s there was a greater focus [on lifelong learning]. Every university had an adult education centre. There were social movements in many places and community education provision. That was killed off in the early 1990s. What we're left with now is a provision of continuing education courses rather than something that is embedded in research and pedagogy that was common previously.

Sociology and anthropology were influential but the universities grew around workplace learning and therefore the point of the original adult education got lost. As a concept, it was not very well developed but the idea was well thought out. The model was proven with research, development and pedagogy. It was subsumed into other education.

Adult education needs to again think about lifelong learning and continuing education, we need to recreate departments and schools of lifelong learning and bring the sociology and critical thinking to sustain it.’ - Julie Andersen


Parallel sessions - Digital Transition

Session 1 - Open University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Online and web-based learning (e-learning) requires a new role in lifelong learning, as it allows learners to be active and take responsibility for their own learning. Online learning is also a skill to obtain. In 2017 feedback, learning was promoted by motivation and interest in the topic, flexible learning opportunities and good learning tasks. Motivation and interest is from a learner’s own meaning and not something that can necessarily be influenced but possibilities can be created to make studying more interesting for adult learners.

Online learnings systems need to be easy to use and the study structures need to allow learners to achieve the objectives. Practitioners widely use online learning possibilities. In Finland, the pedagogical strength is to give individual feedback to learners. Recently, many teachers have focused on peer support, assessment and reviews to create different learning modes to allow learning together. 

They have a multi-disciplinary approach and defined a basic level of pedagogical policies to support best practice. The culture at the Open University is open-minded as it is multi-disciplinary, and they also have a learning cafe to facilitate peer-learning and best practice. 

Session 2 - The Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), Norway

The Competence for Quality Initiative (CfQ) is a government-supported framework that was developed to strengthen the competence of teachers and leaders (i.e. practitioners). This is to ensure a nationwide offer of a professional development programme for teachers. There has been an increase in purely-online programmes from local community education.

A NIFU study was conducted of teachers’ perceptions of learning outcomes when participating in online and campus-based professional development. 5617 teachers received the survey and 57% responded. The findings suggest there is no relationship between the format of the professional development programme and the learner’s perceived learning outcome. The limitations of the research mean that it cannot be determine if teaching methods have changed because of the collaborations or whether learner’s choices have changed as a result of these findings.

However, these findings can help to scale up continuing education and lifelong learning programmes through digital learning environments. The implications of this are to be studied in more detail. The full research paper will be published soon.


Parallel sessions - Professional Transition

Session 1 - Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences – Finland

Workplace learning is of increasing importance for the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. Workplace learning can be student-, company- or university-centred. The University partners with many stakeholders to develop training. Partners can be employers who require bespoke solutions developed to support lifelong learning of employees.

Work & Study: Validation in Practice is the University’s method of recognition and assessment of competences. Assessment is based on agreement that there will be feedback from work managers. The adult learners build knowledge, skills and attitude development at work that are required with further guidance about the process from the university as a lifelong learning provider and the employers. There is reflection towards the intended learning outcomes of study modules. Finally, the learner can fill possible gaps in knowledge after the work experiences, creatively and efficiently with lecturers. 

Workplace learning must be seen as an institutional policy and mindset to improve employability. Part of the framework must be the recognition and validation of prior learning. A majority of adult learners work while studying. Workplace learning will assist them to fulfil personal goals and obtain career-enhancing possibilities.

Session 2 - Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

In Norway, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) traditionally deliver to the learner a study programme resulting in a degree. However, adult learners require different learning modes including recognition of their prior learning. The Oslo Metropolitan University’s aim is to explore and demonstrate a new model of integrated university-professional learning in the Norwegian context, in a perspective of lifelong learning fostering social enterprise. 

Their research question was: How can a dualised study model contribute to social enterprise and lifelong learning?

There is potential power for change in challenging how learning can done for adults, from community learning, university learning, workplace learning and validation of prior learning. This dualised approach can help turn HEIs into stakeholders for social enterprises, such as those dealing with refugees and migrants, by bridging study programmes with work. This expands and encourages lifelong learning into communities that could be marginalised.  

This model will now be piloted in Norway. There may be challenges such as businesses not having the funds to participate. Their aim remains the same – to foster lifelong learning and social enterprises to enable human flourishing and develop universities as organisations with societal obligations.


Day 3

Lifelong Learning Workshop

A morning workshop was held to facilitate discussions about the important task of developing lifelong learning in universities for the next 50 years and how EUCEN can continue to supporting the work of adult learning professionals in the future. Delegates provided a variety of answers and insights. 

 ‘For the future, we need to continue to realise that we have to develop the social responsibility of the university to play an important role in socio-economic development. We must develop more partnerships and open collaboration, including outside of universities’.

‘We need more reflection and research to gain a proper basis for lifelong learning and there must be a balance between market-driven forces and societal benefits. This could be achieved with greater collaboration between stakeholders and universities’.

‘We must teach adult learners to be more digitally experienced to enable lifelong learning within online learning environments’.


Posters exhibition

A poster exhibition was available to view after the workshop. The posters were created by a number of delegates across Europe, based on extensive research and findings, to visualise the importance of lifelong learning in different contexts. They also aim to educate on how transformative learning can be enabled in different learning environments and study modes. A sample can be seen below:


EUCEN 2018 Posters Exhibition


EUCEN 2018 Posters Exhibition 2


Exploring Bergen, Norway

It wasn’t all work and no play. Delegates had the wonderful opportunity to explore the beauty of Bergen and understand its history!


EUCEN 2018 Bergen Bryggen


EUCEN 2018 Bergen Bridge


EUCEN 2018 Bergen Church


The EPALE CSS is thankful to have had the great opportunity to experience and exhibit at the EUCEN 2018 Conference in Bergen. With informative and well-researched themes and topics discussed, there was a stronger awareness raised of the transitions between universities and lifelong learning, by a diverse group of speakers and adult learning professionals. Future events include; the Autumn Seminar in Barcelona in October 2018 and the EUCEN 2019 Conference to be held at the University of Aveiro, Portugal in June 2019 with the topic of ‘University Continuing Education – Learning for a Better Living’. We look forward to seeing more from the EUCEN team! 

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