In my two previous blogs I referred to the fact that our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had come to an end and that we (the ITB team involved in the construction sector pilot) are working with follow-up activities. I then described briefly, how I came to start a joint initiative on digital media in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) with trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my previous post I sketched the initiative roughly. Now – after our second meeting – I can give more information and I need to reflect on lessons learned already at this stage.
Looking back – the achievements with the Learning Layers project
Firstly I need to remind myself how this initiative drew upon the achievements of the LL project. During the project some of the trainers had created WordPress blogs to present their training contents (Project instructions, support material and worksheets) to apprentices in their trades. Then, we had piloted the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that had been developed during the project to support learning in the context of work. The trainers had found their ways to create stacks and tiles to support the apprentices’ projects (based on working & learning tasks). However, the transversal learning area ‘health and safety’ had not yet been covered during the project. And – moreover – from the perspective of promoting the use of LTB and digital media in construction sector, this area is important both for training centres and for construction companies. So, we started working together to conquer this terrain.
Mapping learning materials for ‘health safety’ – filling the gaps and reflecting on pedagogy
I had initially thought that we could proceed rather quickly by mapping the existing material that is being used and by analysing some options for learning software – then to start working with appropriate learning designs. But it struck me that I had not thought of a necessary interim step – pedagogic reflection on the applicability of existing materials for the learning processes of apprentices and skilled workers. When discussing the potentially applicable learning materials the trainers informed me of several gaps to be overcome. Firstly, a lot of the reference materials are lengthy documents with detailed references to norms, standards and regulations. These, obviously, are not very easily usable in action-oriented learning (supported by digital media. Secondly, several checklists and work sheets for risk analysis (Gefährdungsbeurteilung) are designed for real work situations (involving skilled workers). However, for apprentices who are learning and working in the training centre the trainers need to develop adjusted versions. So, therefore, our initiative needed space and time – and digital tools – for such pedagogigic reflection. Furthermore, the trainers saw a possibility to shape an integrative approach that proceeds from general starting points through the main areas of construction know-how (Tiefbau, Hochbau, Ausbau) and special areas (Brunnenbau, Maschinen- und Metalltechnik) to specific trades (carpentry, bricklaying etc.) and to specific work processes (welding, sawing etc.). So, instead of taking this as an easy ‘packaging content to digital media’ exercise, we are in deep discussion on vocational learning and on appropriate ways to introduce digital media and know-how on ‘health and safety’ into working and learning processes.
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I think this is enough for the moment. I have learned a lot and the trainers are pleased to work in this direction. And as far as I am concerned, this kind of process confirms once again the fundamental principles that we applied in the LL project – orientation to ‘work process knowledge’ and to ‘action-oriented learning’. Now I will have a holiday break but I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Bau-ABC trainers.
In my previous post I started a series of posts on the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. I also explained how we came to the idea to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen). I then gave a picture of the arrangements and the agenda of Review Meeting and how we made use of the spaces provided by the NZNB to present our work in a more dynamic and dialogue-oriented way. In this post I focus on our reporting on the Construction Pilot – what we reported and how we presented our message (taking into account the different arrangements we had prepared before the review panel arrived.
Construction Pilot: Exhibition space and presentation session
We started our contributions with a ‘guided tour’ round the Exhibition space of the Construction Pilot and the first station was the Poster Wall that presented the story of construction sector pilot activities (with focus on Bau-ABC Rostrup. The poster wall consisted of nine posters that presented the different phases of co-design processes, training measures and emerging impact (the vertical columns). However, when reading the horizontal rows, the story became an integrated picture on mutually supporting activities that paved the way for increasing involvement of the users (Bau-ABC trainers) and demonstrated how they became owners of their own multimedia learning and of the use of Learning Toolbox in vocational training (in their trades and in joint initiatives). Below the screenshots give an impression of the poster wall:
Screenshot 1: Posters on co-design processes, training and expectations at an early phase of the project
Screenshot 2: Posters on progress with co-design, training and using tools in the interim phases
Screenshot 3: Posters on co-design (by users), training results and getting feedback on tools in the advanced phase
At this stage two Bau-ABC trainers – Markus Pape of the carpenters and Stefan Wiedenstried of the road-builders – had joined us and could answer to questions concerning their role in the pilot and on their experiences on using their trainers’ blogs and the Learning Toolbox in their training activities. With an additional poster Melanie Campbell highlighted the impact of Learning Layers activities at the organisational level and the steps that Bau-ABC has taken towards shaping its own Digital Agenda. Also, on the follow-up activities she had a separate poster to present the DigiProB project in continuing vocational training as a successor activity.
The exploitation tables: Start-up initiatives and successor projects
The next station in the ‘guided tour’ were the two exploitation tables. The first one presented the start-up companies that take the work of Learning Layers further on commercial basis. Here, the most important for us is the Bremen-based “stack.services” that has been founded by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support the use of the tool. After the project it will be the main partner for the follow-up activities that will use LTB. In the second table the reviewers got an overview of different UK- and German-based follow-up projects in which LTB is being used. Also, they got information on current talks with companies that want to start using LTB independently of publicly funded projects.
The presentation session: Insights into changing practices in training/learning and into evaluation studies
In the presentation session Lars Heinemann emphasised that the capacity-building in multimedia and web competences needed to get integrated into the pedagogy based on action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). He pointed to the evidence already provided by the Bau-ABC trainers. In the subsequent presentation Markus Manhart provided insights into the findings of evaluation studies concerning the following aspects: a) Challenges and barriers, b) Changes in learning and working practices and c) Enhancement of pedagogy in training. Here, the two Bau-ABC trainers could give further examples on their own use of Learning Toolbox and on the impact on the learning behaviour and motivation of apprentices. In the final presentation Thomas Isselhard presented an example on the use of Learning Toolbox in the marketing of good quality construction work in the competition “Grüne Hausnummer” (Green label on the quality of ecological and energy-efficient construction work).
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I think this is enough of the presentations on the construction pilot. Altogether, my impression was that we gave a coherent and genuine picture of serious efforts to achieve results. The contributions from the evaluation studies supported the picture that was given by the application partners and the accompanying researchers – the Learning Toolbox was becoming a tool that was appreciated by the users (alongside the trainers’ blogs that emerged as a result of the Multimedia training initiated by the project)- However, for further steps they needed further steps at the level of their own organisations and network partners. Yet, the interested partner organisations were taking initiatives to start their own pilots. Given this picture, we were in a good position to compare the results and learning experiences between the two sectoral pilots.
In this series of posts I am working with one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work it is necessary to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am presenting extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes. In this post I present our reflections on the parallel pilots – to be continued in the final post with conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)
Reflections on different factors influencing project work in the pilot sectors
In the light of the above presented process characteristics and findings it is appropriate to reflect the lessons from the two pilot sectors with their respectively different processes of project work. Below we summarise the lessons of the two sectoral pilots concerning
factors that facilitated successful project work and take-up of innovation,
factors that caused hindrances and required efforts to overcome them,
factors that enabled transfer from initial pilot contexts and supported wider engagement of users.
Lessons from the construction pilot
In the primary pilot context – training centre Bau-ABC – it was possible create a multi-channelled research & development dialogue, in which different activities supported each other. Work process analyses, analyses of critical bottlenecks in training, pedagogic reflections on the use of tools – all this contributed to the shaping of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, in the trades that have been involved in the pilots, the apprentices have taken the Learning Toolbox as an adequate support for their own learning processes.
During the pilot activities the following hindrances and restrictive factors were experienced and partly overcome: a) The initial design idea (comprehensive digitisation of training materials) was too specific to the primary pilot organisation and too complex in technical terms. This was overcome with the concept of Learning Toolbox and with its open and flexible framework. b) At a later phase the gaps of multimedia competences in the pilot organisation were seen as a risk for successful tool deployment across the organisation. This was partly resolved by introducing the Theme Room training scheme as a ‘whole organisation’ engagement.
The transfer of innovation from the initial pilot context (training centre) to further pilot contexts – to construction companies and to other organisations in construction sector has been enhanced by the following factors: a) A specific impact case was presented by a construction site manager who demonstrated the usability of Learning Toolbox as means to share information in real time (and for reporting from the construction site). cb In promotion events both the training-related examples and the case of construction site management have enabled the company representatives to express their own interests on using Learning Toolbox.
Lessons from the healthcare pilot
Factors that appear to have supported adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include working with organisations whose key remit/focus is training/education. This occurred with our work with both PCTC and AMEE. Both organisations had the interest and knowledge to see how they could use the tools within their practice and to use their own resources to support this. Another approach that has led to change in healthcare has been the involvement of a commercial/development company (PinBell) who already have a related product (Intradoc247) in the market.
Factors that appear to have hindered adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include the workload pressures within the healthcare SMEs. Learning Layers was working within the UK healthcare sector at a time of constant change and national reorganisation. Staff feeling under pressure have little time to devote to R&D projects which do not have a clear service delivery output. The co-design activity did lead to some healthcare professionals feeling ownership of the tools. However, this engagement and adoption did not appear to transfer fully when the tools were taken beyond the co-design teams and into their networks for the pilots.
Factors that have facilitated transfer beyond the initial contexts in healthcare include the use of the tools by healthcare professionals in real work settings and their own presentation and championing of the tools to others. Based on their understanding of the tools (developed through their engagement in the co-design work), healthcare professionals were able to present the tools to their healthcare networks and engage those networks in the pilots. However, this approach only succeeded in getting the wider networks involved in the pilots, it did not yet lead to the wider networks adopting the tools or making long-term changes in practice.
I think this is enough of our reflections on the two parallel pilots. We already start to see different constellations of facilitating and challenging factors coming up. In the next post I conclude this series with our reflections across the pilots.
In this series of posts I am working with one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work it is necessary to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I have been working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell with a joint draft document. In this series I present extracts from our document as ‘loud thinking’ to ‘blog them into maturity’. In my first post I presented our approach and the starting points of the sectoral pilots. In this post I present some insights into project work in the two pilots. In the final posts I will present our reflections and some emerging conclusions. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)
Insights into project work in the two parallel pilots
“In both sectors the general approach was to adopt co-design and capacity for implementing and rolling out the technology in the application partner organisations. In addition to work in the primary pilot contexts, the pilot teams engaged additional, ‘secondary’, contexts.”
“In construction the process started as digitisation of existing training and learning resources and through a process of research and development dialogue. In this context the co-design shifted from digitisation of learning content to shaping a flexible digital toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). The Bau-ABC trainers adopted the Learning Toolbox as part of their normal practice and starting to develop digital learning resources themselves. This activity enhanced their efforts to change the role of the trainers from a more didactic role to a facilitative one.
In the outreach activities to present the LTB to other users in construction sector the ‘champion case’ has been the example in which a architect Thomas Isselhard (from the network for ecological construction work) demonstrates how to use the toolset in managing a construction site and the cooperation between different craftsmen. In the light of this example the construction companies have developed their own ideas, how to use the LTB for their purposes.
In healthcare the initial empirical and co-design work had identified three potential opportunities for technology to support informal learning at the healthcare workplace. Co-design teams w followed a Design Based Research approach to the subsequent development and field-testing of the tools – Bits & Pieces, Confer and Living Documents. By the end of the third year the tools had been used by small groups within each General Practices within a short field-study to support their collaborative work. There was some evidence that the groups involved in the pilots started to work in a more collaborative way. Yet, there is little sign that the pilot tools themselves will continue to be used beyond the project.
However, Learning Layers had involved a key commercial partner (PinBell) in the co-design work to help with longer-term sustainability. PinBell’s Intradoc247 software is a leading intranet solution designed specifically for General Practices. Therefore the changes in practice observed within the pilot activities may be continued through the use of collaborative working functionality now embedded within Intradoc247 and supported by PinBell.
The wider stakeholder engagement work in healthcare has involved work with a regional training company (Primary Care Training Company – PCTC) and an international medical education organisation (Association of Medical Education in Europe – AMEE). In year 4 with the maturing of Learning Toolbox, PCTC identified the possibility for it to support their annual conference for Healthcare Assistants and they are now also exploring whether it can support their training courses. Learning Toolbox was successfully used as part of the technology-enhanced informal learning package at AMEE’s 2016 conference.”
I think this is enough on the implementation of the two pilots and of the outcomes at the end of the day. In my next post I will present reflections on the processes (relative strengths and weaknesses) in the parallel pilots.
Twice I have already tried to say goodbye to project work in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – in vain. Having completed the reporting on the construction pilot with the the forthcoming web documents (impact cards, learning scenarios and methodology documents) I thought that I could step to a follow-up phase. However, at that point I had not realised that there is one more pending task that we need to address in the context of our reporting. We need to have a closer look at the efforts, achievements and experiences in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – with a comparative view. We need to see, what specific lessons we have learned in each of them and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of both sectoral pilots. So, now I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell to summarise the picture of the two pilots in one document and to outline common conclusions.
In this series of posts I present some extracts from our draft document – firstly the starting points, then some insights into project work and some reflections on the parallel pilots and finally some emerging conclusions across the pilots. I hope that my colleagues accept my way of ‘thinking aloud’ in blogs and ‘blogging through’ the draft texts to maturity – this is the way of work I have learned during the LL project. So, here we go with the first extract:
“Challenges for research & development activities and for valuing the achievements
The Learning Layers project has worked in two pilot sectors – construction sector and healthcare sector. The aim has been to develop and introduce appropriate tools and technology solutions that support the application partners in workplace-based learning, knowledge sharing and networking – given the sectoral boundary conditions. However, during the project work the pilot teams have encountered also several hindrances as well as organisational and cultural barriers.
In the reporting of the project this has been taken into account by providing a picture on the progress in both pilot sectors. This may easily lead to particularisation of the view – the achievements of the project are to be judged on the basis of success in particular pilot organisations with the respective tools and measures introduced there. This would leave to margins the fact that the project worked towards integrative tool development and that the sectoral pilot teams tried to learn from each others’ experiences. Therefore, this document provides comparative insights into project work in the two pilot sectors and reflects on lessons learned when comparing the experiences and achievements.
Starting points for the sectoral pilots
Starting points for Construction pilot
In the beginning phase of the project following kinds challenges, problems and interests were identified in the initial interviews and stakeholder talks in the construction sector:
Recent innovation campaigns of construction industry and trades (see e.g. the joint document of construction sector stakeholders “Leitbild Bau”2009) highlighted improvement of human productivity as a major innovation factor. At the same time construction sector was suffering from lack of skilled workers and apprentices.
Construction companies that had pioneered with digital tools, mobile offices and first-generation apps at construction sites had made negative experiences with non-mature technologies, less user-friendly software solutions and compatibility problems between different tools and apps. Construction sector trainers had mostly encountered such ‘domain-specific’ apps that were designed for laymen users but were not adequate for professional use (or as support for learning).
Apprentices were not familiar with domain-specific apps and had mainly become familiar with digital tools, web resources via private use of Internet.
Most construction companies were very restrictive regarding the use of mobile devices at construction sites – partly due to data privacy issues, partly due to hazard risks and partly because use of such devices was perceived as distraction.
Given this background, the training centre Bau-ABC was interested in starting pilot activities that would give mobile technologies a new role in construction work, training and learning.
Starting points for Healthcare pilot (Prepared by Tamsin Treasure-Jones)
In the healthcare sector the Learning Layers project was working with General Practices within the UK National Health Service. These General Practices are independent, SME organisations (usually owned by a partnership of doctors) employing doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to deliver first-line healthcare services to their registered patients. In the early stages of the project the following issues were identified from the empirical work (interviews, focus groups, observations) and stakeholder meetings with these healthcare professionals:
There was an increased emphasis on collaboration both within General Practices (working in interprofessional teams) and between General Practices (working in the newly set-up Clinical Commissioning Groups and Federations).
This collaboration was currently being facilitated mainly through email and face-to-face meetings but healthcare professionals felt that this was not effective, was contributing to their information overload and was inhibiting the work.
The General Practice work was mainly office-based, using PCs, and the General Practices did not have wifi installed nor any plans to add this.
The key driver for the General Practices was healthcare service delivery and improvement, particularly through collaboration.
I think this is enough of the challenge that we are facing when comparing our project experiences and process histories in the two pilots. In my next post I will give insights into the processes – and into the findings that we are considering.
Two weeks ago I wrote and published my ‘Goodbye’ message to our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Obviously, I was too hasty – my work in the project was not over although my contract had come to an end. And apparently my colleagues guessed this because they didn’t react as if it were really the end. During the two last weeks I have been heavily involved in finalising the contributions of the LL Construction Pilot to the final deliverable. Now – as far as I am concerned – that work is done. I pass the ball and leave the field.
In the meantime I pulled the original ‘Goodbye’ blog out. Now it is time to publish it again. Here it comes:
The Goodbye Message
During the last four years most of my blogs have been related with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (2012-2016). I have used my blog to document the ongoing work, present our contributions, report on achievements and reflect on lessons learned. Now this period is over. This week my contract with the project came to an end. During the last few weeks I have been writing our contributions to the final deliverable of the project. There are still some tasks to be completed but by and large the work is done. This is also reflected in my latest blogs on wrapping up our experience.
Now it is time to welcome the follow-up phase. However, in my case there is not a seamless transition from this project to immediate successor project. Instead, I have to go through an interim period during which some solutions have been found and others are being sought. At the same time I have to cope with health issues that take their time as well.
On the whole I try to put on top in my mind the good experiences with the Learning Layers project and the Construction pilot. We have achieved a lot and learned a lot – and this is not all wrapped up in the final deliverable or in my 170 blogs during these years. There is a wealth to look back and an experience to build upon. I hope that the opportunities are round the corner (if not quite at hands).
I now thank the colleagues with whom I have worked in all participating countries and at all phases of the project. I hope you all the best. And I hope that I still meet some of you in the final review and in the follow-up activities. If I were asked to give an honest answer, how I felt about the project, I would ask De Dannan to give a musical answer for me:
So, with this post I close my last Logbook on Learning Layers blogs on Working & Learning. Now it is time to enter a new phase of blogging after this project experience. I will continue blogging – working and learning – but in a new era.
With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I have indicated, we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. In my previous post I discussed, how we are showing impact of our project with Impact Cards. Then I discussed, how this can lead to a particularisation of the picture. As a contrast, I tried to bring together the messages of different cards to show, how our interventions in the Construction pilot have had impact in terms of promoting digital transformation. However, my examples remained at the level of presenting local and context-specific success stories and progress reports. This gives rise to the question, what is the value of these achievements in terms of promoting the presented innovations. And this then leads to the question, on what grounds we can interpret this potential.
Below I will discuss these issues in the light of the two Learning Scenarios that we have prepared on the basis of the Construction pilot. In both examples we introduce firstly an exemplary case on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB). On the basis of such a case we then draw scenarios for further work with LTB and for dissemination of the innovation. And with both examples we can demonstrate the role of research and of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact.
LTB on construction site – the scenario on the work with multiplier networks
In the first “Learning Scenario” on cross-organisational learning with used as a starting point Thomas Isselhard’s presentation on the use of LTB as support for coordination of the work at a construction site and for real-time communication on plans, orders and reports. In the two videos recorded on his presentation Thomas gives a picture, how the use of LTB can help to avoid communication gaps between different parties involved (video 1) and how to get new users accustomed to work with LTB (video 2). The background text in the ‘Learning Scenario’ draws attention to the way in which the the functionality of LTB help to overcome the gaps. In a similar way the text draws attention to the benefits of LTB as an integrative toolset – customised for the users and by the users with their own sets of context-specific stacks and content tiles. Furthermore, the videos and the text give insights into the ways in which new users are introduced to using LTB while getting their instructions for the construction work.
This exemplary case shows the potential of making interactive use of LTB as a common integrative toolset for sharing knowledge and information between different parties at a construction site. In the ‘Scenario’ part of the document we step out from the site and shift the emphasis to different organisations and networks involved in construction sector. Thomas Isselhard is a member in several networks on ecological construction work and these networks have a wide range of specialised cooperation partners. In this respect the ‘Scenario’ outlines a spectrum of activities via which these networks can promote the use of LTB in sharing knowledge and promoting cooperation in ecological construction work and in different campaigns for awareness-raising.
LTB as support for apprentice training – the scenario on supporting learning in special learning areas
In another “Learning Scenario” document we draw attention to the way in which full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup have used LTB to support their training. In the background sections the document gives insights into the transition from working with paper-based materials to creating web-based resources that are available via trade-specific stacks and content tiles.
In further sections we present results from field visits in which researchers have had interview sessions with the trainers and focus groups with apprentices. Here we found an interesting difference between otherwise similar approaches:
Trainers who follow a problem-oriented training strategy tend to equip learners with comprehensive resources. The apprentices need to search as self-organised learners to find the problem-relevant information. In a nutshell, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘well’.
Trainers who follow an interest-oriented training strategy tend to provide in the beginning fewer resources and only gradually open access to new resources. The learners are nurtured step-by-step with new impulses and challenges once they have started to find their own solutions and ways of working. In this case, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘watering can’.
In the ‘Scenario’ part we stepped out of the trade-specific contexts of apprentice training and shifted the emphasis to specific challenges in the training of Bau-ABC. One issue that the Bau-ABC trainers had raised already at an early stage of the project was, how to make training in Health and Safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) more inspiring. Another issue was, how to provide easy and filtered access to DIN norms that are relevant for skilled workers. For both cases it is possible to provide interim solutions by providing an overview on the sets of resources via Moodle (or similar platform). Then linking LTB to the respective Moodle application (or similar application) the users could find the resources easier (‘LTB as a well’). However, in the training with these resources it would be possible to introduce some kind of ‘gamification’ to guide the learners from tasks that require general knowledge to more demanding cases that require special expertise (‘LTB as a watering can’).
We have also used these documents to highlight the role of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact demonstrated in these exemplary cases (as a basis for the scenarios):
We have interpreted the first case – the use of LTB at the construction site in Verden – as a micro-case that demonstrates organisational and cross-organisational learning in a local context. Here we underline that ‘organisational learning’ is not merely a result of good management skills or good consultancy. Instead, the key point is in finding the way to promote interactivity and responsiveness between site manager, craftsmen and stakeholders involved. This point has also been highlighted in the concept ‘work process knowledge’ that we have discussed in the project on several occasions.
We have interpreted the second case – the Bau-ABC trainers’ transition to use LTB – as an example of gradual digital transformation and as enhancement of their pedagogy. Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that the trainers have challenged apprentices to become self-organised learners and to take ownership on their learning. With the use of LTB they have seen more possibilities – and the learners have felt themselves more empowered. In this way the use of LTB has strengthened the training and learning culture based on action-oriented learning in Bau-ABC.
We worked out these interpretations in the latter case by combining the empirical findings of a visiting evaluation researcher, the process-related knowledge of a ‘local’ accompanying researcher and the insights into instructional designs provided by an educational technology researcher. In this way way came to interpret the changes in Bau-ABC as indications of a digital transformation based on step-by-step transitions – not as an abrupt digital revolution with great leaps to unknown. Moreover, we could conclude these changes as contributions to the Bau-ABC approach that celebrates action-oriented learning– not as a radical paradigm shift in pedagogy.
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I think this is enough of our work with the ‘Learning Scenarios’ and altogether on the theme ‘digital transformation’. In the coming days our deliverables will take shape and will be made available in due time. There is some more work to be done, but most of the Learning Layers experience is getting wrapped up. Then we have to prepare ourselves for the follow-up.
With my two latest blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Currently we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. One part of this exercise is writing “Impact Cards” to demonstrate, what kind of achievements we have reached in the sectoral pilots in Construction sector and in Healthcare sector as well as in the supporting activities (development of tools, software and infrastructure). In general, I have welcomed the idea of preparing such impact cards. They present in different contexts a) the situation before our project activities, b) the interventions that we have carried out and c) the situation/developments after our interventions.
However, such cards have also their limitations. Whilst they are good tools for demonstrating particular achievements in specific contexts, it is difficult to keep the big picture visible with such tools. Thus, we may have details but loose sigh on the overall developments to which these achievements contribute. Also, we may fail to see, what kind of challenges we have had to meet during the work to show any impact whatsoever. This, to me is important when we discuss the theme ‘digital transformation’ and consider, how our project has contributed to changes in working and learning processes. From this perspective I will discuss below the picture that we have given on the Construction pilot by reading across the impact cards we have prepared. For practical reasons I focus now on the cards that deal with the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup.
The situation before the Learning Layers project
Here it is worthwhile to emphasise that the general atmosphere in Germany concerning the role of mobile devices as support for learning – and in particular for workplace learning – was mainly sceptical and restrictive. The use of mobile devices during work was forbidden in most companies and in the training centres. The use of smartphones was considered as distraction and in the worst cases as a risk factor (concerning hazards at work or concerning data privacy in work contexts). Furthermore, the companies that had been involved in early pilots with digital tools had made negative experiences with ‘infant diseases’ of specific tools and compatibility problems with stand-alone tools and apps. The trainers in Bau-ABC had been monitoring tools and apps that were advertised for their trades, but not many of them had proven appropriate for professional use or as support for apprentice training. Moreover, the apprentices had not learned to know tools or apps relevant for their learning and most of them had used smartphones only for private hobbies.
However, having said all that we started our cooperation with Bau-ABC trainers and management in good spirit and the apprentices were keen to join in the activities when there was a chance. All parties were interested in looking, how to bring mobile devices, digital media and web resources into learning and into work processes. All parties informed us of communication gaps and practical difficulties in which they saw the possibility to bring in digital tools to facilitate work and learning. However, the important point was that the new technologies should offload them, not add to their workload. And regarding apprentice training, the new technologies should empower them as self-organised learners, not provide easy shortcuts that reduce the learning effect.
The training interventions as capacity-building
When starting our co-design process with Bau-ABC trainers, we soon realised that we (all of us) needed to raise our awareness on existing tools and apps as well as of processes of using, co-creating and co-developing. From this perspective it was great help that our Pontydysgu colleagues – in particular Jenny Hughes – had a lot of experience with the TACCLE courses in getting teachers familiarise themselves with such technologies for their own use. Moreover, those courses had brought the teachers together to make their own plans for using web resources in their teaching. This provided the background for the first training intervention – the early Multimedia training workshops in Bau-ABC. This training encouraged some of the participants to create their own WordPress blogs and to use them as repositories for making their training materials publicly available (see Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog and Brunnenbauerblog).
Based on this experience the Bau-ABC trainers proposed at a later phase the Theme Room training model to raise awareness and to promote digital competences across the organisation. This provided the basis for the second training intervention – the Theme Room training campaign in November 2015. This time the whole organisation participated, whilst partners from LL project worked together with the advanced trainers as tutors and mentors. Here again, the emphasis was on creating an overview on the themes (social media, digital learning materials) and to work together to get an idea, how to use the web-based and tools in apprentice training.
The co-design and pilot testing of Learning Toolbox (LTB)
In the early phase of the LL project the Bau-ABC colleagues proposed as a major design idea the digitisation of the White Folder of Bau-ABC (the collector of training materials, worksheets and reporting documents in their apprentice training). Already at this phase we got a lot of feedback, how the use of the forthcoming tool should enhance the learning of apprentices (instead of providing easy shortcuts to answers before reflecting the task). During the process the design idea got transformed from digitising the materials to developing an integrative toolset to facilitate the work with web-based resources and real-time communication. In this way the co-design process took the course to developing the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And due to their intensive participating in this work and in Multimedia Training the Bau-ABC trainers were supporting this idea. The strongest evidence for this were the videos that Bau-ABC trainers produced in August 2014 on potential use of LTB in different training and working contexts. In a similar way the ca. 80 apprentices that participated in the Demo Camp workshops in June 2014 were very inspired by the idea of getting such a toolset to work with.
In the final phase of the project when the LTB was ready to be introduced for piloting in the apprentice training (with several few trades and selected training projects) we were pleased to witness a relatively smooth take-off. In spite of some technical problems we got positive feedback from trainers and apprentices. The trainerswho were leading these pilots had found their own ways to use the LTB (building their own stacks, screens and tiles) to provide access to learning resources. Some of them provided a wide range of information resources (for problem-oriented searches), some preferred to open the acess to wider resources as a step-by-step procedure (based on learning progress and interests). The apprentices also found their own ways to make use of the LTB and gave their own views as feedback. In a similar way, the separate introduction of AchSo (video annotation tool) in some of the trades was taken as an enrichment (although there was some confusion, whether it can be integrated into LTB or remains as a stand-alone tool). Altogether, the experiences with piloting were by and large positive.
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I think this is enough of the situation before the Learning Layers activities and of the interventions that we have carried out during the project work. The impact cards do contain an assessment, how the situation has developed after the interventions and on what points we can show impact. However, from the perspective of the theme ‘digital transformation’ these points would be very detailed. Furthermore, we are still looking forward to having concluding discussions with Bau-ABC trainers and with the management. Therefore, I will not go into the details here. However, I need to emphasise that in our final reporting we have a further task to interpret the impact and achievements in conceptual and future-oriented terms – with Learning Scenarios. I will discuss this task in my next post.
During the last four years I and my colleagues have been working in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now we are in the phase of drawing final conclusions and editing the final deliverables. Whilst such a phase easily requires more focused work on particular products – in our cases tool descriptions, impact cards, scenarios, methodology descriptions etc. – it is essential to keep the big picture in our minds. Our project was about introducing new technologies – tools for mobile devices to support access to web resources and to online communication – but not only of that. Most of all it was about changing practicesin workplace learning or learning in the context of work. And it is in this context that the project has gone through a long journey and made important experiences. With this post and the next ones I try to revisit our learning journey in the LL pilot in construction sector draw some conclusions and key messages arising from it. In this post I will focus on the overarching theme ‘digital transformation’.
Digital transformation as lived practice
I am aware of the fact that there is plenty of literature on the theme ‘digital transformation’ and that I should do my homework with if I want to use this concept properly. However, given the intensity of our project work, I have come across this theme from the perspective of our fieldwork and in our own processes of work. In this context we have experienced many transitions from earlier modes of work to new ways of using online resources and web-based communication and interaction. A great deal of our research and development work is carried out on web platforms and by using shared resources. And if we use traditional e-mails, then mainly when sending out group mails for wider target groups. Furthermore, when developing new online tools, such as the much discussed Learning Toolbox (LTB), we are more and more inclined to find ways to use for such tools in our own work – not only in the pilot fields. Altogether, my perspective on the topic ‘digital transformation’ is primarily that of manifold step-by-step changes in everyday life as lived practice.
Digital transformation as precondition for/aim of a R&D project
Shifting the emphasis from our everyday life as project partners into our field of piloting – the construction sector – we need to take a broader perspective. Indeed, there have been many speculations on automation and new technologies making skilled workers redundant – or cautious statements on the limits to digitisation in construction work. To be sure, the true picture is probably characterised by an ongoing change between the extreme poles. But how to grasp the real picture of changes in construction sector?
Looking back at the earliest interviews in the project, we learned a lot of the infant diseases of several ‘new technologies’ that didn’t work properly or didn’t reduce the workload of construction professionals. Likewise, we heard of several stand-alone apps that were advertised for construction sector, but were not good enough for professional use (or didn’t promote learning at work). So, in the further work we needed to keep an eye on real innovations that made a difference to our application partners and improved the quality of working life. Here we found ourselves in a similar position as the researchers studying the early automation processes in the 1970s and 1980s. As the German researcher Rolf Nemitz formulated it: ‘So far, the studies on automation have focused on, how automation can replace or reduce human contribution. However, the real innovation lies in combining automation and human potential.’ Or, as the founders of our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – took this further: the contribution of research is to equip practitioners with capability for social shaping (Gestaltung) of work, organisations and technology. However, the researchers of that time were talking about production technologies, not about present-date technologies and new media to promote learning at work. Now we have been facing new challenges.
Digital transformation as a research theme and as transformative practice
In the light of the above, for us the topic ‘digital transformation’ has notbeen merely a research them to be dealt with via academic contemplation, empirical observations and testing designs for learning technologies. For us, the understanding of digital transformation can only arise from processes of working with the application partners and for changes that enhance them as pioneers for innovations in construction work. In this context I hear the echo of the words of young Karl Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach: “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” (Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, Progress Publishers Moscow, 1969). Or in original version: “Das Zusammenfallen des Ändern[s] der Umstände und der menschlichen Tätigkeit oder Selbstveränderung kann nur als revolutionäre Praxis gefaßt und rationell verstanden werden.” Marx-Engels Werke, Band 3, Seite 5ff. Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1969).
Here, in our context, we could interpret this classical phrase as referring to digital transformation as a coincidence of changing circumstances and changing self-understanding of actors as an interactive and transformative process. Thus, it is not enough to document the changes as observable facts or to record the self-understanding of practitioners as their testimony. Instead, a real understanding of such processes arises from experiencing the changes as efforts of change agents and sensing changes in their views on, what to pursue and how to make it work. In this way in-depth research has to be involved in the transformative practice, but has to maintain its ability to reflect on the practice.
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I guess this is enough for introductory thoughts. In my next posts I will take a closer look at the role of research and training activities in the project. Then, later on, I will discuss issues on ‘showing impact’ and ‘drawing scenarios’.
Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners. We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.
Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)
In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.
Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)
The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.
a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)
In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.
In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:
b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice
In my second pitch – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.
c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes
In my third pitch – with focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:
Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.
Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as
explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).
Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.
Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run
Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.
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I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.
According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).
They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:
Coursera – 23 million
edX – 10 million
XuetangX – 6 million
FutureLearn – 5.3 million
Udacity – 4 million
XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.
In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.
Jobs in cyber security
In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.
Number students outside EU falls in UK
Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.
Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.
Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.
According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers