Life-long learning, especially professional training, is undergoing major changes: throughout Europe, we are in the process of moving from the practice of offering training, to a logic of supported careers. The recent laws in France demonstrate this change. They are related to the "VAE" (Validation of prior learning).
We are faced with a real challenge: to devise and implement new engineering methods to serve our educational systems which are permanent in themselves, and which apply equally to all publics.
- Equipping students (or those already trained, or VAE candidates) in such a way that they can manage their own career paths and, more widely, their choice of personal and professional direction. This capacity involves access to knowledge, access to resources, and the opportunity to make use of them and to share them: this is how knowledge is developed and acquired.
- At the same time, ensuring the development of the necessary experience to use the expected skills, both in the professional world and in society. This development covers the activity of learning in itself, by itself, and in conjunction with others: this is how the ability to act in a competent manner is developed and acquired.
- Finally, to enable these acquired skills to be recognised through the awarding of qualifications and degrees, by ensuring that equal validity is granted to qualifications gained by these means of access throughout the career path.
From this perspective, VAE appears as a significant approach:
- because in the context of life-long learning, VAE, de facto, offers a chance to restore the missing link between disconnected elements of progress, where the total progress achieved can be established;
- because, from the life-long learning perspective, these results already are, and will no doubt become increasingly, necessary to establish and justify training courses, to ensure a smooth transition. Confirming these ongoing changes, many so-called 'hybrid' courses have recently been developed in universities (Montpellier, Nice, Cergy, etc);
- finally, because in its fifteen years of existence, VAE has functioned as an virtual laboratory to support the expression of acquired experiences, as well as to assess and evaluate them;
- from this virtual laboratory, we can draw many lessons for the expression, assessment and evaluation of all acquired learning, including the acquisition of school and university experiences, alternance training, etc.
The recourse to digital technology, which we have seen it at its height, is far from being absent from this view of the development of new engineering methods which require us to think simultaneously of the forms of support specific to the development and expression of individual and collective experiences arising from working, training and social life in general; the forms of assessment and evaluation adapted to the different spaces and times in which these life-long experiences are developed; and the ways in which these experiences are committed to memory and then retained and expressed.
Since very soon, VAE candidates as well as professionals will all be 'digital natives', we must also take into account the digital transition which is creating so many changes in the organisation of work and training, as well as in society in general: there lies the major challenge for tomorrow's training and VAE, which must be considered today.
These are the horizons from which to visualise solutions for tomorrow's engineering methods and their potential stages of development, so that VAE keeps up with current practice as well as the important questions which arise in society as a whole, namely:
- the availability and accuracy of information
- access to knowledge
- the safeguarding and making available of personal information
Isabelle Houot is a lecturer at the University of Lorraine and thematic expert with EPALE France.