The validation of competencess and qualifications acquired by non-formal and informal means formed a constant object of focus in the Programme for Lifelong Learning (PLL) and its predecessor programmes and is also a top priority in Erasmus+. This is also reflected in areas such as the application process for strategic partnerships. Initial project results became available at the end of 2016, and this makes it worthwhile to look at whether any thematic changes have occurred in the projects during the past years.
Firstly, the Council Recommendation of December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, which calls upon member states to introduce regulations to this effect by the end of 2018, has contributed to a change in the approach adopted by projects. Project results have increasingly been adapted to the European Qualifications Framework and to national qualifications frameworks. In addition, this has led to a greater emphasis on alignment to learning outcomes and on the formulation of competences. In the Match2NQF strategic partnership, for example, a validation procedure was matched to the national qualifications frameworks of the participating countries and transferred to certain occupational profiles in order to enable its use in vocational guidance. The vast majority of projects take place at the levels of identification, documentation and assessment of competences are aimed at practical application. By way of contrast, full recognition of a qualification by an official body seldom constitutes a project objective.
Increasing digitalisation in projects
The most clearly discernible change is that digitalisation is increasingly being introduced into competence validation projects. Project outcomes are more frequently being processed via learning platforms to provide easier accessibility for potential users. The IMPACT strategic partnership developed a comprehensive online learning environment that provided Open Educational Resources (OER) relating to every aspect of the topic of competence-oriented learning and deployment of validation instruments, and thus facilitates aspects such as continuing training for educational staff.
The structuring of project results as OER and the stipulation of rights of use via relevant licensing play an especially major role in Erasmus+. Although more projects than before plan to develop OER, it is often revealed that results are published without an open licence. This restricts the use of the results by others and constitutes a problem precisely for the further development, application and attendant sustainability of validation instruments.
The use of online tutorials has also grown quantitatively in the wake of digitalisation, the Destination eValidation strategic partnership being one case in point. This project developed an online tool in order to visualise, document and validate competences acquired in the field of voluntary work. It includes a brief film to illustrate how the instrument may be deployed and presents a series of instruction videos which explain on a step-by-step basis how to use the instrument.
Requirements and developments – integration and digitalisation
Because of the numerous instruments which are already available, there is less call for the development of models that are fundamentally new. On the other hand, the conflation of instruments and models already created would certainly be a useful approach. This could take place by feeding models back into the European Qualifications Framework and national qualifications frameworks, or via other transparency instruments.
The digitalisation of project results will definitely continue to increase. This is a strategic objective of the EU Commission in order to make results more readily available to educational staff and target groups. If this is to be achieved, however, the projects need to accord more systematic consideration to questions relating to OER and licensing.
The adaptation and transfer of validation instruments to certain target groups also remains an issue. The ROMINKO strategic partnership, for instance, is currently modifying the competence assessment procedure for the particular needs of Romany adults with the aim of strengthening their vocational reorientation and occupational pathway planning. Such projects are particularly relevant in the context of transferability to other contexts and target groups, e.g. to refugees and migrants.
Sufficient starting points and projects within the field of validation of competences are thus available for the further development of the topic. The website of the National Agency Education for Europe at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Nationale Agentur beim BIBB) contains a section on the validation of competences that provides more information on projects that have been completed and on current developments.