by Estela Daukšienė
The background behind personalized workplace learning
Adult education institutions are being faced with a shift in the target learner profile: adults migrating across the world and throughout Europe require learning services to be open, to be provided in international settings and to be available any time, anywhere and at their workplace. Teachers, trainers, and other adult educators therefore need training and advice on how to meet the challenges posed by these changing requirements in adult education.
In today’s economic climate, companies are faced with constant change. This is seen in a whole range of areas, including the development of products or services, the increase in available data that can be used to improve production, supply or service processes, and access to and use of constantly updated technologies for business or leisure, to name just a few examples. All this means that learners need to constantly update their knowledge and develop the skills required in the workplace.
Open Professional Collaboration for Innovation (OpenPROF) project
The above-mentioned changes and challenges faced by adult learners were addressed in the Erasmus+ KA2 strategic partnership for VET OpenPROF project. The partnership focused on educational institutions organizing Vocational Education and Training (VET) and the continuous VET sector, and suggested three types of innovations for adult educators and company trainers:
- development and adaptation, including the use and reuse of open educational resources (further OER) for open curriculum development and licensing;
- design of modules for diverse target groups, including the mode of work-based learning;
- open international collaboration for professional development for innovations.
The project ran from September 2014 to August 2016, so the project’s results have already been finalized and are all now publicly available as open educational resources on the project website, under creative commons licenses. The project proved fruitful and led to the creation of the following resources:
- three sets of training materials (on OER, tools for creating OER, and designing courses for work-based learning)
- 48 OER in English and/or adapted into national partner languages (German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Hungarian or Portuguese)
- six English-language open modules for work-based learning with their translations and adaptations into project partner national languages.
OpenPROF project results available for sharing, use, and reuse
All OpenPROF project results are publicly available at openprof.eu (http://openprof.eu/). There are three sets of training materials for teachers, company trainers and adult educators available there.
The first set of training materials is on OER and sustainability models. This aims to introduce the approach of open movement, help to identify specific characteristics of OER, analyse case studies of sustainable models of OER, and provide teacher guidance in finding, selecting, and using/reusing/creating OER. There are three assignments for teachers, trainers or adult educators in the training material that may be used for online or face-to-face training sessions. These help to understand the different concepts relating to OER, provide guidance in finding, using and reusing/creating OER, and help to analyse different OER sustainability models.
Educators are encouraged to use OER, however there is usually a need for qualitative OER in national languages. Therefore, the second set of training materials, ICT tools to develop and adapt OER, aims to provide guidance on selecting the right ICT tool for creating or adapting OER. It includes a wealth of step-by-step guidance and templates for selecting the right ICT tools. It also provides suggestions for ICT tools that can be used to create OER along with their functional descriptions (accessible at http://openprof.eu/ict_tools). The training material also covers five assignments, which guide teachers, trainers or adult educators in creating or adapting OER using suitable ICT tools and selected creative commons licenses.
The third set of training materials on Innovative curriculum designing for work-based learning aims to provide teachers, trainers and adult educators with knowledge of different tools and methods for designing innovative curricula for work-based learning, didactical approaches and methods for evaluating work-based learning. It also aims to list the characteristics of innovative curricula for work-based learning, and looks at the advantages and disadvantages of certain methods and learning approaches, whilst providing guidance on developing professional learning outcomes, and looking at critical reflection on the training approach.
All three sets of the above-mentioned training materials are available at http://openprof.eu/training-material.
The key characteristics of work-based learning followed in other project activities (such as adapting modules for work-based learning) are:
- target-orientated learning with learning activities focused on the development of real-world products or services
- interdisciplinary learning content with detailed specifications and proposed samples
- specific roles of teacher/trainer/tutor as a guiding facilitator and independent learners
- based on team work if possible.
There are nine learning activities across the three units of the last set of training materials, which guide users through the innovative curriculum design process by deriving suitable learning outcomes, and selecting appropriate work-based learning and assessment methods.
Open Educational Resources in English and other partner languages have been developed and/or adapted by educators from project partner institutions (available at http://openprof.eu/oer). The same OER have also been integrated into the modules, adapted for work-based learning. The six project modules have been translated to one partner language and are available at http://openprof.eu/project-modules for browsing and/or learning (registration required) or for download to be imported into institutional virtual learning environments (Moodle version 2.9.1). The modules developed vary in terms of subject matter and language; they are:
- Time management and online communities (EN, ES)
- Communication in Intellectual organization (EN, LT)
- Digital storytelling for training (EN, PT)
- Diversity Management (EN, DE)
- The mobility guide on-line - Planning and management with ICT support (EN, HU)
- Personalized learning at work place (EN, LT)
All of these are available for reuse under CC BY-SA licence.
Learning and open professional collaboration for innovation
Rapid technological evolution means educational resources constantly need updating. This requires development time. Collaboration with professionals in the field may therefore contribute not only to the volume of content developed, but also to improving its quality, increasing knowledge of the tools, and saving time. OpenPROF project promotes online collaboration in the development of OER, and also in adapting them. This OER development process highlighted the need for OER in national languages, and the need to share editable versions of the OER, in order to truly enable the use of OER, both in the form provided and adapted to your own purposes.
During the development of OER, it was suggested that users be given the option to upload OER they had created or adapted using templates. This option was to be open not only to project partners, but other educators as well. So if you create your own OER or develop/adapt OER during the OpenPROF project and want to, or are obliged to, share it publicly, you have the option of filling in the template provided at the bottom of the page at http://openprof.eu/oer and LieDM association specialists will upload and share them publicly online.
The following prerequisites for teachers were established for collaboration with professionals during the project:
- digital competence
- openness to sharing ideas, criticism and learning
- positive attitude towards collaboration and innovations.
Reflecting on the experience gained during the project in developing modules suitable for work-based learning, the following recommendations for creating or adapting courses should be considered:
- try creating them online, but delivering in blended format
- create coherent instructions for self-directed learning
- organize teamwork if possible
- no assessment necessary, but guidance and feedback by tutor/teacher/trainer are very important
- learning activities should refer to real world situations, products or services
- sharing good practices and providing examples is a necessity.
Let’s learn online in the workplace and share our experiences!
Estela Daukšienė is the president of the Lithuanian Association of Distance and e-Learning (LieDM association), where she is also a project manager and researcher. Her key responsibilities at the Association are to promote technology-enhanced learning in Lithuanian educational institutions, and to organize training courses or events for Lithuanian educators on innovations in education, such as virtual mobility, open educational resources/open practices, and technology-enhanced learning practices.
Estela Daukšienė holds a PhD in Education. She is also a lecturer and the head of the commettee of an online bachelor’s degree programme at the Innovative Studies Institute at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Her research and activities are focused on online learning and the use of technology in education.