Archive for the ‘online learning’ Category

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part Two: Working forward in the meeting

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck.  In the previous post I discussed the ‘warm-up’ event that the hosts organised with representatives of Austrian clusters and networks. In this post I discuss the work in the meeting and the general results. In the final post I will discuss the  results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

In a similar way as I did when reporting on the preparation, I will try to capture the main thematic blocks and the essentials of the conversations and conclusions:

1) Overview of the current phase of the project – working perspective: In his opening presentation the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley (TLU) restated the approach to present the results of the final year in one single package – with the emphasis to support the exploitation activities. This approach was reconfirmed by the partners.

2) Further development of the DevOps-Use model: Ralf Klamma (RWTH) presented an updated picture on the DevOps-Use model and how it has been introduced into the LL project. As the newest development he reported on the Community Application Editor (CAE) as a further support for dialogue between users and developers. Here again, the plan to produce a conceptually based overview on design-based research and design patterns in the LL project was restated.

3) Production of ‘training materials’ and dissemination materials: Pablo Franzolini (CIMNE) gave a brief presentation on this topic. He drew attention to the work that had already started with the healthcare pilot and the tools/combinations of tools that are used. Currently, this work has resulted in a relatively wide set of “Frequently Asked Questions” videos with short duration. Whilst this work was appreciated, we concluded that there is a need to coordinate the efforts to produce such materials and more content-related promotion videos. A working group was set up to prepare a proposal for producing “Layers OER” materials (and to address the orientation to OER in the follow-up phase).

4) Documentation of project achievements with “scorecards”: TLU had prepared a short workshop session to test the draft ‘scorecards’ by filling them with exemplary project activities. In the first phase we described the situation before the LL project, the intervention of the LL project and (inasmuch as it was possible) the situation after the intervention. In the second phase we used coloured cards to specify different aspects of the impact. This exercise helped us to get a common understanding on the kinds of activities to be reported and on the kind of impact to be stated. (TLU will follow this up.)

 5) Deployment of LTB and related evaluation measures: In a set of group sessions we had the chance to discuss the technical development of LTB and plan the deployment and evaluation measures.

5a) Technical development of LTB: The developers had presented a working document that highlighted the following points: a) addressing the stacks to groups of users, b) creating a  stack file system (SFS), c) content creation and sharing with the help of SFS, d) enabling bottom-up communication via chat channel. The users reported on improvements that are needed in the navigation and in the instructions. In this conversation we reached an agree of the necessary measures to be taken by the end of February.

5b) Deployment and evaluation measures: Based on these conclusions we could reach agreements on the introduction of LTB for training purposes and on a synchronised start of evaluation measures. We identified primary pilot groups from the trades of carpenters and well-builders and agreed on a timeline for kick-off workshop (with tool introduction and focus group), interim workshop and concluding workshop. We also agreed on the accompanying communication and feedback. (The detailed results were summarised by the powerpoints of the UIBK colleagues).

6) The exploitation measures: During the first afternoon we had a general introduction to the exploitation model (see my earlier blog on the preparation of this meeting). We also got an explanation, what role a jointly prepared and agreed ‘exploitation manifesto’ can play as a working agreement. We also were briefed of the IPR issues to be clarified. With this preparation the partners were invited to present their exploitation plans and/or intentions. During these presentations we were asked to list our wishes to have bilateral talks (persons, topics). On the second day a special time slot was reserved for these talks. (During this session there was a fire alarm and all people were evacuated outside. As we were well prepared, we could continue our bilateral talks there as well.)

I stop my reporting on the meeting here because I (and my colleagues from ITB and Bau-ABC) couldn’t attend on the last day. Thus, I have missed the wrap-up of the exploitation sessions and the discussion on the exploitation manifesto. We will have an opportunity to catch up very soon. Therefore, in the final post of this series I will focus on the exploitation plans/initiatives of the construction sector partners.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part One: Event with Austrian clusters

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck. Before the project meeting the hosts from UIBK had arranged a special event to present LL tools for guests from Austrian clusters and networks. In this first post I will focus on this ‘warm-up’ event. In the subsequent posts I will discuss the general results of the meeting and the specific results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

The event and the setup

As indicated above, the hosts from UIBK had prepared a stakeholder event to present the LL toolsets and services (work in progress). The participants represented Standortagentur Tirol (a Tyrolean cluster organisation, Ausbilderforum Tirol (a Tyrolean forum of trainers in vocational education and training (VET)) and vocational teacher education programs from Pädagogische Hochschule Tirol and University of Innsbruck (Wirtschaftspädagogik). The meeting room was arranged as four round tables and the event was organised as a ‘world café’. Firstly Ronald Maier gave a brief introduction into the LL project and into the tools/toolsets to be presented. In each table the participants got a 10-15 minutes presentation to one LL tool/toolset.  Then the groups switched clockwise and got another presentation. In this way the following tools/toolsets were presented: “Bits and Pieces” (by Sebastian Dennerlein), “Learning Toolbox” (by Gilbert Peffer), “Living Documents” (by Christina Sarigianni) and “AchSo!” (by Markus Manhart).

The Learning Toolbox table

For me and the colleagues from Bau-ABC (Melanie Campbell and Kerstin Engraf) it was a natural choice to join Gilbert in presenting the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In these presentations we could give an overview of the LTB as a mobile framework and as an integrative toolset. We were happy to present fresh insights into the mobile app, into the tilestore and into the contexts of deployment in Bau-ABC. From the participants we got questions regarding the use of LTB in training and in work processes as well as use of LTB in a personal learning environment.We were happy to discuss the development so far and the potentials that we see in the LTB (but made the point that phase of deployment is yet to come). Our counterparts were happy with this information and expressed their interest to learn more in the coming times. At the same time Ludger Deitmer completed the whole round of topic tables and got an update on all tools/toolsets as they stand now.

The event did not last too long (approximately 90 minutes) and the time was effectively used in the groups. As was deeply engaged in talks in our table, I only have a vague idea on the discussions in parallel tables. Yet, my impression is that we altogether could give informative and interesting presentations. The participants were clearly interested and congratulated the project for a good event. We could happily recommend the organisers of the next consortium meeting to prepare a similar ‘warm-up’ event as well.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 4: Working with the LL exploitation model

January 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I wrote a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meetings of the ‘local’ LL teams of ITB, Pont, and Bau-ABC (in Bremen and Rostrup). In the third post summarised a video conference that discussed a set of themes for our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016). In this fourth post I report on the video conference of the ITB team with our LL colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink on the Exploitation model for the LL project.

In my previous blog I had already given the following characterisation of the work of Gilbert and Raymond with this model:

“… Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities).”

Below I have copied the current draft of the Exploitation model:

Exploitation Model.v2.2

In our discussion in the video conference and after it we started a process of sensemaking, how to fit our exploitation initiatives into this landscape and how to grasp the zones of possible activities that we had not yet thought of. Here I try to interpret different areas of the exploitation model from this perspective:

a) The (peripheral) support area

Two fields in the model can be characterised as a (peripheral) support area for emerging follow-up activities with different intensity of support measures:

a1) “The Learning Layers Association” can be seen as a light-weight form to continue the cooperation across project consortium as an interest group that promotes the tools and ideas of the LL project in new contexts. For this purpose the interest group cam organise joint search conferences or workshops with new potential application partners. (Here the contacts of the LL partners at OEB with the UNHCR might serve as a clue for looking partners for such search conferences.)

a2) “The Learning Layers Cooperative” can be seen as a more committed service alliance – grouping of LL partners that are ready to support new initiatives with technical advice and facilitation in project creation. (Such cooperation has already been practiced between different partners to give shape for spin-off projects.)

b) The Research & Development area

The importance of this area is obvious, since we need to continue with R&D projects to develop the products and services of the LL project to more mature stage. Here we need to have a more differentiated look at the R&D agendas to pursue. Without going into details of specific initiatives it is worth taking into consideration the following type of R&D activities:

b1) Comprehensive follow-up projects (Horizon 2020 etc) that focus on further development of integrative toolsets for/with specific application partners – engaging different kinds of expertise from the LL project but linking it to new contexts.

b2) Specific R&D projects (e.g. within cluster initiatives) that link the further development of LL tools and similar toolsets to technical innovation programs.

Here the model emphasises that the R&D area needs to involve the application partners and the commercial partners as well (in order to take the products and services further).

c) The commercial exploitation area

We have already become aware of the fact that software development in research context may have different working patterns/perspectives than software development as customer service. This is reflected in the ‘commercial exploitation area’ by differentiating between three kinds of organisational entities:

c1) New enterprises (social/commercial) that dedicate themselves on further development of LL tools, software and services as their core business.

c2) Existing partners (private/public organisations) that continue working on the basis of their business models or institutional frameworks.

Here the model suggests that if new entreprises emerge, preferential ‘giving back’ partnership relations  should be agreed in the founding processes. (Also, new enterprises need advisory boards.)

c3) Third party organisations (SMEs, training providers, service providers, cluster organisations) need to be involved with appropriate partnership agreements.

Altogether, the model was shaped with an idea of an “Entrepreneurial symbiosis’. I am looking forward to our next phase of working with this model in our project consortium meeting in Innsbruck.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 3: Preparation of the consortium meeting in Innsbruck

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I started a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meeting of the LL teams of ITB and Pont, and in the second post on our working meeting in Bau-ABC. In this third post I give an account on the video conference in which the Work Package Leaders of the LL project discussed the preparation of our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016).

Below I try follow the reconstruct the discussion based on the recording of the meeting (in which I could not participate). I try to put an emphasis on the thematic blocks (and on the specific accents) that were set for the preparation of future activities. I do not try to give a comprehensive report but rather limit myself to the points that we should take up in the construction pilot team.

1) The integrated deliverable of the LL project of the Year 4

The idea of a single integrated deliverable was already discussed at the end of the Y3 Review meeting and it was agreed with great enthusiasm in the consortium. For our further work it is of importance that this deliverable is interpreted as the “Layers package of exploitables” (a comprehensive package of useful objects/resources to support exploitation of results). Now this idea is taking shape in different thematic blocks (see below).

2) Documentation of the impact of project with “Layers scorecards”

Tobias Ley had already in December presented a practical solution for documenting impact with the help of ‘scorecards’ that can be used in different field activities. The basic card has three main fields for describing a) the situation before the LL project, b) the contribution of the LL project and c) the situation after the project. In addition, the card has smaller fields for specifying different aspects of the impact. During the final year the project can collect booklets of scorecards within different activities and highlight ‘evidence of the month’. (See https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7vXuqBBjr9PX1RxUkpmZUt5Zkk/view .) This tool will be developed further in the Innsbruck meeting.

3) Collection of ‘training materials’ to support the roll-out of LL tools

Pablo Franzolini and Kai Pata presented the idea, how to include the component of ‘training materials’ into the deliverables. Already during the Y3 Pablo has supported the healthcare pilot team in preparing video material for webinars (with special emphasis on filming from different angles and making the presentations more lively). Whilst the use of webinars and videos have so far been rather tool-centered, the idea is now to shift the emphasis from single tools to combined use of tools in order to meet context-specific needs. (In this respect the demonstrations in the Y3 Review meeting were rehearsals for such materials.) As was mentioned in the discussion, we need to consider, when and how we can produce such material for different pilot sectors and spin-off initiatives.

4) Bringing together different evaluation agendas

The discussion on the evaluation activities – led by Ronald Maier and Stefan Thalmann – was inspired by the key question: “How to document changes  in the patterns of learning in the context of work in the pilot sectors (including the role of web tools/apps and mobile technologies?” It became evident that the more conceptual and context-oriented inquiries need to be supported by technical data collection (whenever it is possible) and these aspects need to linked to each other. In a similar way positive and negative findings regarding changes vs. obstacles to changes need to be discussed from the perspective of promoting innovations and marketing products and services.

5) Further discussion on the Dev-Ops model, Design patterns and Design-based research

One of the recommendations of the Y3 Review meeting was to enrich the Dev-Ops model with more elements of user engagement (that were presented in the sectoral reports). As a partial response to this, the meeting discussed the plan to prepare a comprehensive presentation on the Dev-Ops model, on Design patterns and on the LL approach(es) to Design-based research. It was agreed that the Confer Tool should be used to support this work. This work will be led by Ralf Klamma and John Cook.

6) Integrative group picture of parallel (mutually coordinated) exploitation initiatives

Already from the beginning of the year Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities). Alongside this work the clarification of IPR issues will be continued as a sub-theme of defining these partnership or business relations.

I think this as much as I can report on this meeting. At the moment we (the ITB-team) are preparing ourselves for the bilateral/trilateral exploitation talks with Gilbert (and Raymond). We are looking forward to this useful milestone in the set of the ‘start-of-the-year meetings’.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 2: Catching up with the fieldwork in Bau-ABC

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The first post reported on the first meeting of the local LL teams of ITB and Pont in Bremen. This second post reports on our first working visit to Bau-ABC to discuss the current tasks in our fieldwork. From ITB Ludger Deitmer and I participated, from Bau-ABC Melanie Campbell and Kerstin Engraf. (A more detailed report on this meeting is available (in German) in the Learning Layers Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lgL4hCjkaRZnrY17E0swQcvxWqR7XvrkmaK2fnUhh_s.)

Firstly we took up some issues that were already discussed in the ITB-Pont meeting, in particular the situation in the development of Learning Toolbox and the timeline for pilot testing and evaluation. Our conclusion was that it is crucial to get the interactive communication channel and the group functionality (in addition to some other improvements) for the pilot version to be tested from March on. The active period for pilot testing in Bau-ABC will be from March to the end of May. The optimal period for evaluation measures will be the end of May and beginning of June. This year the summer holiday will start in the middle of June and and by 24th of July.

Secondly we noted the situation with the new projects and in the preparation of new proposals. Considering the new project on continuing vocational training (CVT) we discussed the need of some bridging measures already in the context of the ongoing LL project (see the next point on User Survey). Concerning the cluster-initiative “Bauen 4.0″ we noted that colleagues from Bau-ABC cannot attend in the first meeting (on the coming Friday) but ITB will be represented and discuss some joint project ideas that were agreed earlier. We also agreed to cooperate with the preparation of a proposal for Horizon 2020, Topic “Technologies for Learning and Skills”. As a specific possibility for Bau-ABC we discussed the funding program of the German Ministry of Education (BMBF) to support digitisation of intermediate training centres. We agreed to get back to this once Bau-ABC has internally agreed on its priorities (in the light of two alternative funding priorities).

Thirdly, we discussed the continuation of the User Survey (on mobile technologies and web apps/tools as support for learning). In this context the Bau-ABC colleagues emphasised the urgency to collect data from the participants of the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes that are present in Bau-ABC during the January and February months. We checked the questionnaire that had been developed last year and agreed to use it (with one minor amendment). We also agreed that it is useful to start again a User Survey with apprentices when they come in March.

Fourthly, we discussed the continuation of the training campaign based on “Theme Rooms”. In general, this had been viewed positively, but continuity would have been needed to sustain the learning gains. However, due to the heavy workload provided by the CVT schemes, it was not possible to start immediately in January. Therefore, we concluded that we should also carry out a mini-survey on the use of digital media and web tools/apps among Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister). Based on the results we could then see the need for some ‘refreshing the basic skills’ sessions. These should take place in February before starting a new full cycle of Theme Rooms in March. When preparing the next cycle of Theme Rooms we should also introduce Learning Toolbox (LTB) to the Bau-ABC trainers who are engaged as tutors of the Theme Rooms.

In addition we discussed an interesting new initiative to develop mobile apps and web resources for construction sector – in particular for the well-builders (Brunnenbauer). This topic merits a blog of its own a little later (once the start-of-the-year meetings have been reported). Finally, we discussed shortly our preparation for the LL project consortium meeting. On this topic we got new information from the video conference of the  Work Package Leaders of the LL project (that took place when we were having our meeting).

I guess this is enough on this meeting. The next challenge is to summarise the results of the WP Leaders’ video conference (and to draw conclusions for the construction pilot).

More blogs to come …

 

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 1: Catching up with ITB/Pont team

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year I had a longer winter break, so I have started my working year with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the middle of January. As a consequence, my first working days have been filled with catch-up meetings in the local and regional contexts and as video-conferences at the level of our European project. I try to sum up the results, challenges and impressions with a series of blogs. In the first one I give a brief report on the first meeting of our local LL team involving colleagues from ITB and Pontydysgu. (A more detailed report is available in the Learning Layers Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lgL4hCjkaRZnrY17E0swQcvxWqR7XvrkmaK2fnUhh_s.)

In our first joint meeting of this year we started with a situation assessment on the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). My colleagues had taken some time to test the latest version and discovered several points that needed improvement. They had reported them with Trello cards and with an e-mail to the LTB developers – which were well received as precise feedback that is being taken up. On the whole, we are happy that both Android and iOS versions are available. Yet, the fundamental challenge is to introduce interactive communication channels and group functionality. These are the key requirements of the users in training centres and construction companies. Since our main application partner Bau-ABC is now hosting short-term continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in January and February, there is some time before the apprentices will return, Yet, we (the developers and we as the facilitators) need to get ready to start active piloting in March. We were happy to note that we have a German version of LTB Manual (thanks to Jaanika Hirv from TLU) and an English translation (thanks to Martina Lübbing from Pont). Yet, we need to do more work with training to support the roll-out. (For this purpose we had scheduled a working meeting with Bau-ABC for the next day, see my next blog).

Our second major point was the situation assessment, where we stand with the acquisition of follow-up projects to Learning Layers. Here, several things had happened by the end of the year and were in process in the beginning of the year. Firstly, the pending final assessment on the Learning Layers follow-up project in CVT (support for work-related training and learning of general construction site managers – Geprüfte Polier) is being prepared. Also, the estimated start time has been announced (provided that the assessment is positive). Secondly, the recently approved cluster initiative “Bauen 4.0″ (Construction 4.0) has been approved and the consortium (involving among others Bau-ABC and ITB) has been invited to submit a set of mutually linked project proposals that focus on digital transformation in construction sector (including consequences for training). Thirdly, we have started the preparation of a project proposal for Horizon 2020, Topic “Technologies for Learning and Skills” (taking into account the work of the ITB-project Kompetenzwerkst@tt and of Learning Layers). In addition to this, we (ITB) have been invited as partners to some other proposals that may have a role in the follow-up of the LL project.

In addition to this we discussed about participation in forthcoming conferences and (related) publication plans. Both of these topics will be taken up more systematically in our next meeting.

I think this is enough of our first meeting. On the next day we had a working meeting with Bau-ABC.

More blogs to come …

 

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Three: Indications of achievements of the LL project

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blogs I have reported on the results of a  field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) and our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In my first blog I  gave a brief news report, whilst in the second blog I discussed in closer detail the remarks of the trainers Markus Pape and Lothar Schoka.

With this third blog I try to relate these fresh interviews to our earlier encounters and on the changing circumstances and changing practices. Here, I want to draw attention to the new activities that have come into picture during the LL project and due to initiatives of the LL project. I try to link my comments to the points that I raised on the interviews in my previous blog:

Initial awareness of digital media, web tools and mobile devices

In the beginning phase of the project (January 2013) the ITB team made some early interviews with Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices. At that time both our awareness as well as the awareness of the trainers and apprentices was not advanced. None of us had a holistic view on the usability of digital media, web tools and mobile devices. In different trades the trainers could refer to some apps and tools. Yet, the trainers had mixed feelings about domain-specific apps for construction sector (some being apps for professionals, others for lay users and altogether with varying quality). Also, the use of web resources and Facebook groups was at an early stage. Furthermore, the use of mobile phones was banned during the training because it was perceived as mere distraction.

Workshops and User Survey: Awareness of web tools, readiness to use mobile devices

In the next phase (Spring 2013) the LL project started co-design workshops with apprentices and trainers (in different groups) to identify points of intervention and to specify the emerging design idea(s). In Autumn 2013 the ITB team organised a User Survey that covered most of the apprentices that attended their initial training periods in Bau-ABC.

The discussions in the workshops and the results of the questionnaire revealed that the apprentices were not at all informed of the existing construction sector apps and had made very little use of them. However, the apprentices indicated that they had made use of their smartphones to support their work and workplace learning (e.g. via web searches or by documenting their work  and learning results).

Co-design of LTB, Multimedia Training and follow-up activities

In Spring 2014 the co-design process brought into picture the framework of Learning Toolbox and parallel to it the LL project arranged Multimedia Training workshops to Bau-ABC trainers. Due to these processes the emphasis in the co-design processes shifted from expectations (on the design work of others) to initiatives (how to develop one’s own training practice with the help of new tools). In this phase the trainers started to work with their own trade-specific blogs and provide digital access to their training contents. Also, the trainers developed their own ideas, how the emerging LTB could be used in Bau-ABC (as was demonstrated by the videos for the Tallinn consortium meeting in the Autumn 2014).

Taking steps to customise and use LTB as integrative set of tools, apps and services

In the light of the above presented background, the interviews of the Bau-ABC trainers (see my previous blog) demonstrate remarkable progress in the LL project. The Bau-ABC trainers are becoming owners of LL-initiated innovations and in customising the LTB for their trades (to be used in training and working contexts). Also, the demonstrate clearly, how their overall competences in using digital media, web resources and mobile devices have grown during the project and due to the support from the project. And thirdly, due to peer tutoring and peer learning they have developed into multipliers who can bring their colleagues and apprentices to an active piloting phase.

I think this is enough for the moment. We will get back to Bau-ABC and our other application partners in a short while.

More blogs to come ...

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback from the trainers

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I reported on the field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) together with our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In particular they wanted to get feedback on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB), which we are developing together with our partners in the construction sector. In my first blog I could only give a brief news report and to raise some issues/requests to be considered by the developers of the LTB.

Now that I have listened the recordings, I find that the colleagues have had a very interesting discussion and that we can learn a lot of the points made by the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape (carpenter) and Lothar Schoka (well-builder/borehole builder). With this second post I try to pick some of their interesting points and reconstruct a red thread across their conversations:

Motivation to use digital media, web tools and mobile devices

Both trainers emphasised that their apprentices are very inspired when they get a chance to use mobile devices to access digital contents and web resources during their training and in the context of work. Compared to mere written instructions or paper-based documentation, the apprentices feel more motivated (since they are all eager to use their devices at any rate).

Usability of mobile devices, LTB  and digital contents

Both trainers made several points on the usability issues that emphasise the relevance of LTB:

  • Access to documents, web resources and real-time communication is often a problem at construction sites (no space for looking at papers or folders, no chance to have stationary PCs or even laptops). With mobile devices, communication apps and the toolset of LTB many problems can be clarified in real time. Furthermore, LTB can essentially facilitate communication between different trades and working groups on same construction sites or quality control between the teams and their supervisors.
  • The structure of LTB – tiles, pages and stacks – makes it easy to use without making it overly complex. This is essential for users in craft trades who expect tools that work properly in real work.
  • Both trainers emphasised the benefits of LTB in supporting well-structured web searches (with appropriate terminology) and steering it to good quality sources. Moreover, Schoka emphasised the possibility to use QR tags to direct searches to appropriate sections of user manuals and instructions for maintenance.

Use of trainers’ and apprentices’ own web resources and digital contents

  • Both trainers have created their own domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Brunnenbauer und Spezialtiefbauer) for uploading their instruction sheets for apprentices’ projects and for presenting other contents. By making their own LTB stacks they can provide access to the right documents when it is appropriate for the training schedules.
  • Schoka made a special point on the short videos that have been produced and uploaded by apprentices on the well-builders’ Facebook group. These short videos may serve several purposes. Now, thanks to LTB, they can be used in a more targeted way.

 Changes in training and learning practice

  • Both trainers are in the process of linking the pilot testing of LTB to specific training projects and content areas via their own stacks and with specific sets of tools, apps, instructions and tasks. In this way they are creating their own multimedia environments in which they are involving their apprentices as digital learners.
  • The two trainers have brought into picture different strengths in using digital media and web resources. Pape has been the pioneer in creating domain specific blogs. Schoka has been active in developing the well-builders’ Facebook group as a community resource. Partly these have activities have been started in the Multimedia Training of the LL project and partly they have been inspired by such support. Moreover, there has been a great deal of peer learning between the trainers, so that they early movers have shared their experiences with others.

I think this is enough of the points that I have picked from the interviews. I do not try to give an exhaustive report. The colleagues from UIBK will work further with the interview materials and put them into a wider context by linking the results from construction sector and healthcare sector to each other. My point was to pick these comments from Bau-ABC for an interim assessment.

With my third post I try to relate these points to earlier interviews and talks with Bau-ABC trainers (and apprentices)In that context I try to demonstrate, how their approach to using digital media, web tools and mobile technologies has changed during the project and due to their involvement in participative design process.

 More blogs to come …

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part One: Evaluation talks and plans for field testing

September 22nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the beginning of September we made an important field visit in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project to our application partner organisation – the training centre Bau-ABC (see my blog post of 13.9.2015). On Friday some LL colleagues had a chance to make a follow-up visit to Bau-ABC, while the others were having a meeting in ITB with the visiting delegation from Singapore Workforce Development Agency. Since I was involved in the meeting in ITB, I can only report on meeting on the basis of the information from my colleague Lars Heinemann.

Update 2.10.2015: I published this post some time ago as a single blog entry. Now that I got the chance to listen to the recordings of the interviews in Bau-ABC, I came to the conclusion that it is worthwhile to discuss some points of the Bau-ABC trainers in greater detail. Here again, I am also relying on the first-hand information from Lars Heinemann.

The aim of the visit

The visit was planned quite some time ago as a field visit to get feedback data on the ongoing pilot testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Since the LL teams of ITB and Bau-ABC could send only one participant to the LL consortium meeting in Toledo, our LL colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK), Stefan Thalmann and Markus Manhart, came to Bremen have planning meetings with us and to make field visits. However, given the very recent field visit (with the newly published Beta version of LTB), we felt that the evaluation talks were somewhat rushed. After all, the trainers had only made their first experiences  in making their own stacks, pages and tiles in the LTB (to be used by other users).

Talks in Bau-ABC

The visitors (Lars, Stefan and Markus) were pleased to see that their talks with the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape (Zimmerer = carpenter) and Lothar Schoka (Brunnenbauer = borehole builder) were well-timed and informative. Both trainers had made further efforts to familiarise themselves with the LTB Beta version. They had also made concrete plans for engaging their apprentices later in the autumn as users of LTB in their training projects. According to their information, the amount of apprentices to be involved in such pilots would be ca. 100 in both trades. As advance measure they had collected a list of volunteered users to start testing with LTB before that actual pilot.

In this respect they both could give informative reports on what is going on and what is to be expected in the near future. (We expect the UIBK colleagues to share recordings of theses talks with ITB soon.)

In addition to their own experiences and plans for piloting they had some urgent requests for the LTB developers. Some of these points have already been discussed with the developers, but now we got the points of the trainers from the pilot site:

1) For the trainers it is important that they can send messages to groups and individuals.

2) For trainers and apprentices it is important to have a notification function that alerts the apprentices when new learning materials have been made accessible and informs the trainers when apprentices have accessed the information. Moreover, both parties should be notified of replies or questions on further information.

3) For trainers and apprentices it is important to have a commentary function that makes it possible to add questions or comments to texts that are used for instruction and/or documentation of learning processes.

4) At the moment the LTB has been designed for Android phones and tablets – which are mostly used by the apprentices. Yet, about one third is using iOS-phones, so it is essential to proceed to iOS-versions or find alternative solutions to involve them in the pilot testing.

Update 2.10.2015: I have let my initial blog post stand as it was written before listening the recordings – with one amendment. Now that I have got access to the recordings, it is interesting to have a a glimpse at some of the points made by the trainers and to relate them to our earlier interviews and discussions with them. As I see it, via such examination we learn a lot, how the fieldwork of the LL project has made progress during the years of co-design and pilot activities.

More blogs to come …

Reports on ECER’15 Budapest – Part One: The symposium of LL, Kompetenzwerkst@tt and Employ-ID

September 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts have been reports on the Bremen International VET conference (2.9.-4.9.2015). The very next week many of the participants met again in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER’15) in Budapest (8.9.-11.9.2015). Here again, I will start my reporting on the session that was initiated by our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Then, I will give reports on some other sessions that were based on similar intervention research projects. Finally, I will make some comments on the conference (or on the program of the VETNET network) as a whole and on the general assembly of the VETNET network.

Learning Layers works together with Kompetenzwerkst@tt and Employ-ID

This year our plan was to have a joint symposium between the LL project and two neighbouring projects – the German project “Kompetenzwerkst@tt” and the European project “Employ-ID” with which we already had a joint session in the Bremen conference (see my previous posts). We also took into attention the conference theme “Education and transition – contributions from educational research” and developed our own ideas, how this could be applied to the three projects that we brought into joint session. For us – in this session – transition was related to evolution of project ideas and conquering new terrains for research & development work.

Originally we had submitted another proposal for a research workshop to discuss evaluation issues in complex European projects that promote users’ competences in digital media, web tools and mobile technologies. Due to clashes with other duties we had to withdraw this session (with the hope that we can get back to this topic some other time).

Kompetenzwerkst@tt proceeds to e-learning software and e-portfolios

We started with the Kompetenzwerkst@tt project that has the longest history to build upon. The literal translation “Competence workshop” hardly reveals the project idea and the connotative meanings of ‘competence’ in German language. Initially, the project started as a curriculum development project to base vocational learning on holistic approaches to occupational fields of activity (Handlungsfelder) and characteristic Working and Learning Tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben (LAAs)). The process of analysing the fields of activity and specifying characteristic WLTs had been practiced in different occupational contexts and in transitional training contexts. This had led to the phase of preparing a series of handbooks covering the conceptual foundations, the methodologies, different spin-off innovations and the occupational fields that have been piloted so far.

In the presentation of Falk Howe and Werner Müller (both from ITB) the main thrust was given on the development of e-portfolios in the context of the Kompetenzwerks@att approach. They gave a brief overview of the previous stages of the project and then illustrated, how the previous work (on the fields of activity and working and learning tasks) was reflected in the structure of software and in the pedagogic support for learners. In this way we got an idea, how the e-portfolio can be used in retrospective sense (for documenting already acquired experiences and learning gains) and in prospective sense (for shaping and illustrating learning scenarios).

Learning Layers proceeds from apprentice training to continuing vocational training

In the case of our LL project we had a shorter project history as our starting point. In our case  we had started with our pilot activities in the construction sector with the training centre Bau-ABC with special attention on apprentice training. Therefore, the co-design processes that we initiated were firstly focusing on digitisation of training/learning materials. Then, in a further iteration we shifted the emphasis to Learning Toolbox – a framework for managing contents, apps, web resources and communications via mobile devices. Now, in the current phase of project (when we still have to do a lot of field testing and exploitation of results) we need to look for spin-off projects.

In our joint presentation I covered firstly the work within the LL project and gave a picture of its evolutionary phases. Then I gave some insights into the Learning Toolbox and its functionality and into the search for appropriate spin-off projects with emphasis on continuing vocational training (CVT). In the second part of our presentation Ludger Deitmer gave an overview on the CVT framework in the German construction sector with three different levels: Foreman (Vorarbeiter), Specialised site manager (Werkpolier) and general site manager (Geprüfte Polier). In our current project initiative we focus on the new training regulation of the general site managers. In addition to their traditional introductory courses they are required to complete situational tasks and a comprehensive project report. With these last mentioned tasks they are expected to demonstrate their occupational and managerial competences. In the third part of our presentation Werner Müller discussed some restrictions, barriers and challenges to our project work in construction sector (in general) and in the learning contexts of apprentices and more advanced craftsmen. He concluded the presentation with an innovation map (to guide us) and with some open questions.

Employ-ID piloting with  MOOCs for Public Employment Services – lessons for others?

The third project in the symposium – Employ-ID – focuses on the changes in the public employment services (PES) in Europe (with major pilots initiated in the UK). The background of the project is in the changing role of PES organisations due to changes in working life and occupations. Whilst the previous model was to select and guide the right people to appropriate jobs, the current changes have shifted the focus completely. Now these services are required to produce and process data of changing labour markets and employment prospects for different target groups and stimulate initiatives for employment and self-employment. Moreover, they are required to prove their efficiency and to cope with policies towards privatisation or semi-privatisation. Yet, they are to comply with the strict guidelines of data security and data protection.

In the light of the above Graham Attwell had to give us a lot of background information to bring us to the central theme of his presentation – to pilot with adapted MOOCs (Massively open online courses) in the British public employment services (as the first pilot). This mode of staff training was selected since the time pressures and financial constraints are making it difficult to implement traditional forms of staff training. Moreover, it appears to be difficult to make use of (individual) learning gains in an organisational context. From this point of view the project team participated in external MOOCs and then designed a pilot MOOC with a more interactive and discursive nature. In the implementation the number of participants and the openness of pilot were reduced. Yet, the technology of the major British MOOC provider Futurelearn was used. Altogether the pilot seemed to have been well received by the participants due to its actively interactive character. Yet, the participant’s report by Jenny Hughes (who had been involved both as a trainer and as a learner) indicated that the current technology still is far from mature stage.

Altogether, it appeared that we had gathered into a joint symposium three projects that have a lot to learn from each other. This is even more striking since the persons are working side by side or (as some of us are) crossing the boundaries of the two projects. We noticed that the e-portfolio application of Kompetenzwerkst@tt very well complements the Learning Toolbox. We also noticed that the functionality of Learning Toolbox may essentially enhance the Kompetenzwerkst@tt. And the lessons from the pilot MOOCs are important insights for the forthcoming pilots in vocational education and workplace training.

I think this is enough of our symposium. In the next blog post I will focus on similar sessions with interactive research and ‘stealthy’ interventions.

More blogs to come …

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