Archive for the ‘Small and Medium Enterprises’ Category

Scaling up the use of technology for learning through SME clusters

October 21st, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Much of the work we do in Pontydysgu is project based. And a lot of that work is funded by the European Union, inv0olving multi national consortia of partners working together over a period of two to four years. The two year projects are a bit tight for time, especially if this includes technology development. But the big problem is what happens after the project funding ends. In the best cases, the ideas and products get taken up, further developed and embedded in practice. For instance  work we undertook through the MOSEP project has led to the introduction of e-portfolios in German schools. And work piloted in the Mature IP project has led to the development of an open portal and database for labour market information to improve career choices and decision making in the UK.

But all too sadly, many projects just fade away at the end of the funding. Of course sometimes this is because the work turned out to be less impressive than we had initially hoped. But there are also two big problems more relater to the structuring and fincaci9ng of European projects. The major one is the scaling up of projects and innovations. If products and processes are to be used after a project ceases funding, whatever the outcome, substantial numbers of users are needed. This is true for software, for processes or for more traditional products such as handbooks. Of course it is difficult to scale up to substantial numbers of users with two years. But regardless of the length of a project it requires a strategy. And most projects do not have such a goal, let alone a strategic approach.

The EU funded Learning layers project has as a major objective, scaling the use of technology to substantial numbers of small and medium enterprises in the construction and health sectors. To do this we are looking at developing engagement with clusters of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Between 2002 and 2010, nearly 85% of new jobs in Europe were created by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are currently employing 67% of the total workforce (De Krok et al., 2011). Notably, it is the smallest and youngest SMEs that drive this trend, while more established and larger firms are shedding jobs on a net basis. Many of the new jobs created by these SMEs are knowledge intensive and demand specialised skills. According to a European Commission study, the number of low skilled jobs is expected to fall from 21% of total jobs in 2012 to 18% by 2020, while jobs that require higher skills levels are expected to rise by 20%. (European Commission, 2012).

Highly specialised and high-skill growth SMEs increasingly organise in regional clusters as competitive pressures and the difficulties in some sectors of finding skilled workers make collaboration even among competitors an attractive value proposition. At the same time, clusters have a unique negotiation advantage in the region compared to smaller actors, and have the power to influence educational institutions and policy makers. In theory, by joining clusters together with other firms and regional players, SMEs have  a means to influence educational and business development policy in their region and the bargaining power to lean on local colleges and universities to produce the skills and talents needed for economic advancement. Cluster organisations can drive innovation in learning at the workplace by helping SMEs and other cluster members in developing joint technology-enabled training and skills services, which in turn provide an additional funding source for the cluster organisation.

A recent study conducted by the Cluster Excellence Initiative (Meier zu Köcker et al., 2012) of over 300 European cluster organisations shows that the depth and breadth of services offered to their members is the most important contributor to generating impact on the business of SMEs. In terms of the type of service offered by the cluster organisation, our research indicates that currently, services focusing on training and skills development have the greatest potential in terms of generating revenues. This supports the Learning Layers project strategy of targeting cluster organisations as scaling partners and the focus on training and skills development services for SMEs in and across regional clusters. Inter-cluster collaborations in developing learning services makes economic sense since clusters in a given region share common actors, including regional policy makers in education and business development, universities, VET and general upper secondary schools, research institutions, and financial institutions and investors. (more to follow).

Reflect – an App for recording ideas and learning

July 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Reflect is a free Android App for phones and tablets developed by students from Hochschule Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences) for Pontydysgu as part of the Learning Layers Project.

The app is presently in closed beta but will be open for use by everyone in August 2013. If you would like more details please email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

We demoed the App at a workshop jointly hosted by the UK National Health Service developers network Handi and the Learning Layers project in Bradford last month and share here the report we produced on the feedback.

Aim:

  • To elicit user feedback from developers and healthcare professionals
  • Evaluate potential of the App

Background and Key Idea:

The original idea came from talking with a doctor in the UK at a Learning layers workshop. He explained how little time he had to reflect on his ongoing learning. The most time he had, he told us, was when he was in his car between meetings and visiting patients.

The Reflect App was originally designed to make the recording of learning, both formal and informal, easy.

The App is voice controlled and translates voice recordings into text.

Users can build a ‘stack’ of questions by typing them into a simple form on a web interface. Then they can use an Android Phone App which reads them the questions. They can skip to the next question, resubmit their answer or ask for help. The answers are automatically converted to text and can be downloaded to their own computer or tablet.

What we hoped to learn:

We were concerned to get feedback about:

a)    The general idea and potential interest in the app

b)    Usability and UI

c)    Ideas for further development

Feedback from developers and healthcare professionals:

Negative feedback:

  • GPs are concerned about the level of security, regarding sensitive data.
  • Developers were concerned about quality of voice recognition and difficulties with background noise

Questions that were raised:

  • What is the maximum recording time?
  • Where does the voice recognition processing take place?
  • Is an off-line mode possible?
  • could Reflect be integrated into other systems (e.g. NHS)
  • What are business models for future sustainability?

Positive feedback and further potential:

  • Reflect could be a good tool to report back the first impressions on meetings
  • A future approach could be to develop an APi to allow use with other systems
  • Domains for groups to work together
  • Reflect could be used for research purposes e.g surveys
  • Learning tasks could be created for students (microanalysis)
  • Link to Evernote
  • Reflect provides strong support for scaffolding learning

Suggested Business Models:

  • Advertising
  • Premium domain accounts
  • Develop market ins tacks of questions for different occupations / domain and license under revenue sharing model

What Next?

We are continuing to test the App on a closed beta and are working on an open beta release for Reflect.

We are hoping to get further developer support for:

a)    Exploring off line potential

b)    Developing a API

c)    Porting to iOS

Evaluation of the activity:

From our point of view we were delighted with the critical and positive feedback. We especially noted the concern from external developers that there is a strong business model and suggest that this should be noted by other Learning layers development teams / design groups.

The workshop was very well organised. Whilst it would have been useful to have more health care professionals, the opportunity for engagement with so many developers and with commercial companies was extremely valuable.

Where we work and how we collaborate

March 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

This is the first of a new mini series of articles on the impact of technologies on how we work. I started thinking about it after Yahoo announced they were ending the practice of employees being able to work from home. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together.” Mayer has said the change in policy was necessary to foster more collaboration among employees and restore Yahoo’s competitiveness. A number of other companies have since followed suit.

I think Yahoo has got it completely wrong. When I first started work, working from home was virtually unknown, except for consultants or university researchers. The first signs of things changing came with the invention of telecottages, enabling internet access at a time when connectivity was slow, expensive and tenuous. With the availability of cheap and reliable bandwidth and apps, home working took off rapidly. I might be wrong, but my suspicion is that not only did organisations save on infrastructure costs – imagine what would happen if every university employee turned up on the same day, but with the blurring between home life and the word of work, many employees actually worked longer hours. Years ago Saturday and Sunday working or working in the evening incurred time and a half or double pay, that has long since gone.

In many occupations, work is changing rapidly especially because of the use of video, conferencing and networking applications. This includes not only research but occupations in sectors like construction. But coming back to the Yahoo decision the point is not whether people are at home or at work but how they are working. I used to work physically in a university but would rarely see others, individuals spent all day locked away ion their offices with closed doors. Equally, I now work from home and probably spend much too much of my time discussing with others on skype or in conference calls.

Developing collaboration, quality and innovation depend on work organisation. Technology is disrupting work organisation, both allowing new ways of working and challenging how we are used to doing things. This requires far more subtle interventions that just requiring employees to clock on at a set time in a set place each day. And to a considerable extent we are all still struggling to realise the most effective forms of collaboration. Research is lagging behind practice. So Yahoo needs to look at the process of collaboration within their organisation and the culture of the organisation. Maybe they are doing this but it doesn’t appear to be from their press releases. Rather than focus on where people work, they need to look at how the work is organised including how learning takes place at both a individual and organisational level. This is much harder but much more effective in the long term.

 

Communicating with stakeholders

February 25th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Some time in the mid 1990s I can remember writing my first project web site – for a project called DETOP, I think. It was pretty crude – I got myself a teach yourself HTML book and away I went. Now of course very project has its own web site – and many have more than one. Content management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla have made the technical process pretty easy.

But that hasn’t done much for the quality of the content. In particular, most research projects are pretty dull stuff. The aims and objectives, a list of partners with their logos, various reports downloadable in Word or PDF format, a news page usually showing a picture of project partners at their last meeting and sometimes (but too rarely a blog).

These sites are basically a formality – to fulfil funding conditions rather than to involve users. We have been thinking about how to change this for the EU funded Learning Layers project. The project is researching and developing the use of technology for informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. And one of our targets is to engage with significant numbers of users – initially in two ‘industrial clusters’, a health cluster in north east England and a construction industry cluster in north Germany.

To help in this task we are developing a User Engagement Model. And of course, we have to develop a dissemination plan. I have been doing some literature searches around user engagement models. Surprisingly, not much came up. Most of it is either promotional materials offering (for a price) to help you gain users or ideas social software providers can fi9nd out more about their users. Changing the search string to Stakeholder Engagement, though, provides much richer results. Although many of the ideas have been written by NGOs or charities written from the viewpoint of engaging with stakeholders in their various projects or from local authorities and other organisations wishing to consult with service users, their is much which is relevant and well though through.

One research paper which particularly interests me is ‘An Organizational Stakeholder Model of Change Implementation Communication‘ by Laurie K. Lewis.

Implementation is seen as ‘‘the translation of any tool or technique, process, or method of doing, from knowledge to practice’’ (Tornatzky and Johnson, 1982 p. 193) and the authors quote Real and Poole (2005) who argue that ‘‘without implementation, the most brilliant and potentially far-reaching innovation remains just that—potential’’ (p. 64).

The paper argues that change models and processes need to be linked to communication strategies towards different stakeholders. They advance four dimensions of communication strategy choices:

Positive versus balanced message

In considering the positivity or the balanced nature of the communication messages, implementers decide whether positive aspects of the change should be emphasized or whether emphasis of positives should be balanced with acknowledgment of negative aspects of the change or the change process……

Dissemination focus versus input focus

In considering the focus of the communication campaign, implementers decide whether to orient their communication resources toward sharing information about change or toward soliciting input from stakeholders. This is essentially a question about whether to engage in a participatory approach to implementation wherein stakeholders at various locations around the organization are invited to be heard and/or are empowered to make decisions. The alternative approach emphasizes information or instruction about the change in top-down messages that attempt to influence compliance……

Targeted message versus blanket message

This dimension of the communication campaign deals with the degree to which messages created about the change will be customized, targeted to specific stakeholders or stakeholder groups, or whether the campaign will have a more blanket strategy wherein the same basic messages are repeated across all stakeholder groups…..

Discrepancy focus versus efficacy focus

This dimension of the communication campaign concerns the degree to which the message is focused on creating an urgency that motivates the need for the change (discrepancy) or on creating a belief that the organization and the individuals in it have the resources necessary to close the discrepancy gap (efficacy)…..

And whilst the research and model is intended as a scholarly contribution, it seems to me to provide some very real ideas and choices for how we might want to deign a communication strategy for different stakeholders, of which our project web site will provide a key element (more on these issues to follow).

Linking mobile learning to real world artefacts and tools

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

More on work based mobile learning.

One of the major problems with Technology Enhanced Mobile Learning has been the split between the digital and analogue worlds. The digital world enables all kinds of personal interactions and interactions with digital artefacts. Some things are easier to digitalise than others. So books, diagrammes, audio, video can all easily be transmitted through digital media. But some artefacts are more difficult to capture in digital media – for instance a hammer, a saw, an earthmover. Of course it is possible to simulate some of these things – for instance flying an aircraft.

It is much more problematic to capture the haptics of using a hammer. Thus Technology Enhanced Learning has tended to focus on cognitive processes of learning. When it comes to practice we tell learners they should use their computers to assist in the process of reflection. That is fine but it is not enough. Many areas of work require real world interactions with both people and with physical artefacts. And I think that is why Technology Enhanced Learning has made only a limited inroad into work based learning and for that matter into learning in Small and Medium Enterprises.

The importance of tools and physical artefacts should not be underestimated. Artefacts are closely linked to practice. Wenger (1998) points out that amongst other features a Community of Practice is defined by “what capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.”

There are different approaches we can take to integrating physical artefacts with applications and technology for learning (and in a further post I will outline some ideas). At a more abstract level I think we have to progress beyond seeing technology (like Learning Management Systems) as a container for learning into using mobile technologies as a tool for working and learning. In other words mobile technologies themselves become an artefact, on the same level as other work tools. We also need to look at integrating learning with the increasingly sophisticated data that many machines and artefacts produce – data that at the moment often exists in a silo.  Of course that means integrating learning in the work process, and bringing together digital work tools with digital learning tools. That learning needs to be scaffolded seems obvious. But the scaffolding should move seamlessly between the use of digital devices and interactions with real life objects.

And that again requires co-design approaches, involving potential suers from the start in designing and developing learning processes and applications. Learning layers is making good progress with this and I am increasingly confident that the project can transcend the divide between the physical and digital worlds.

Learning Layers: supporting the emergence of innovation clusters

February 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

My colleague Pekka from the University of Bremen has posted a series of useful reports on this site about the Application Partner Days, held as part of the Learning Layers project, funded by the European Commission IST programme.

Learning layers is aiming to increase the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe, particularly through the use of mobile devices for informal learning in two ‘industry clusters, in the north German construction industry and in the medical sector in north east England.

Obviously such a project faces a number of challenges, given the slow take up of technology enhanced learning in SMEs. The Application Partner Days are designed to bring developers and researchers together with potential end users in organisations in the two sectors. And prior to the Application partner Days in north Germany, we also spent two days visiting companies and organisations in the sector responsible for education and training and for policy development in this area.

Rather than repeat Pekka’s excellent summary of the proceedings, I will offer a few observations, based on my own attempts to make sense of all we saw and of our discussions.

Firstly there is a perception that there are barriers to introducing technology for learning in small enterprises. But most people we spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about the potential especially of mobile devices. Although it was felt there may be some individual resistance, due to lack of familiarity or fears over privacy, in general it was felt that mobile devices would be easily accepted, especially by younger workers. Indeed, some people we talked to felt that introducing technology could make the construction industry more attractive and help overcome recruitment problems. The big driver for this seems to be the increasing everyday use of internet enabled phones. And  flat rate data contracts mean more workers are prepared to use the ir own device for work purposes.

The issue of sharing between enterprises is more problematic. Some seem willing to share data, others less so. My impression is that this is a new situation where companies are undecided on the implications of sharing. And, of course there are worries over privacy and security, particularly and understandably in the medical sector. Interestingly, I was talking last weekend with someone responsible for the introduction of mobile devices in a major agency in the UK. One of their key requirements is that data is not held in the USA, due to fears over US security policies.

During the different workshop and focus group sessions we held in the Application Partner Days, we sought to gather ideas for applications which could be useful within the SMEs. A number of these =focused on better communication and information flows. The boundary between applications that support learning and those supporting communication and information exchange is becoming blurred. Better information provision can support informal learning but this may not be an automatic process.

Even though the Learning Layers project has relatively generous funding support from the European Commission, there are of course limits to what we can do. Even with the increasing functionality of Software Development Kits and frameworks, development takes time and resources. How do we decide what developments we wish to prioritise. And at the same time there is an avalanche of commercial applications being made available for both Apple and Android operating systems.

One answer may be to develop interlinked physical and on-line ‘Demonstration Centres’ which can bring together both relevant commercial Applications with apps produced through the Layers project.

A second approach may to to focus on boundary points. Obviously the medical and construction sectors both contain workers from different occupations organised through various structures and networks. These I would characterise as Communities of Practice. It is where innovations – both technical and social – occur that innovation occurs and new cluster emerge transcending the boundaries between traditional Communities of Practice and occupations and challenging existing occupational practices. It may be that it is at these points that the need for learning and new forms of collaborative working are at there greatest. Of course much of this learning is informal. And if the boundary points offer opportunities for the emergence of new innovation clusters, they may also serve to frustrate innovation where learning is impeded by existing organisational and occupational practices.

Lets try and provide a couple of examples to make this discussion a little less abstract! In the construction industry we can see a series of emergent innovation networks in the area of green or ecological construction. these involve collaboration by workers from different occupations using new materials, or old materials in new ways and developing new practices. Similarly, the use of Programmable Logic Controllers is crossing boundaries between programming and electrical installation. In the medical industry, we are looking at new practices and forms of organisation for supporting those with diabetes.

If we focus resources on such emergent practices, the result might be both to stimulate economic and social sustainability for small enterprises, to promote sustainable growth and the generation of new employment and at the same time support the development of knowledge maturing and informal learning within and between Communities of Practice.

Lastly but not least. The Learning layers project will run for four years and is keen to involve organisations and researchers interested in our work. You can sign up on the Layers website to become part of a Stakeholder Network, giving enhanced access to the work and to the applications being developed.

 

 

Only 15 per cent of UK companies offer apprenticeship training

December 14th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills has published an interesting survey of Employer Perspectives Survey, the second in a series of biennial, large scale surveys of employers designed to provide a UK-wide picture of employer perspectives of, and experiences in, the recruitment and skills landscape. The draw attention to the following key findings:

  • There are perhaps unexpected signs of business confidence amongst private sector employers: almost half of establishments expect their business to grow in the coming year, and there is also greater confidence amongst younger businesses than older ones.
  • Employers typically use a range of channels when they are looking to recruit. They tend to make most use of private recruitment services which they do not have to pay for. Indeed, the single most common channel employers used to find candidates to fill vacant posts was ‘word of mouth’.
  • Candidates’ qualifications play a role in most employers’ recruitment processes and decisions, and a significant role for more than two in five. Academic qualifications continue to be better regarded than vocational qualifications.
  • Whilst the majority of employers train and plan their training there is a significant core of employers that do not.
  • Employers are more likely to provide training internally than to access the external workforce development market, although overall around half of employers do use external channels to deliver workforce development for their staff.
  • Employers most commonly look to commercial providers (private sector training firms or third sector providers) when they are looking outside of their own organisation to deliver training.
  • Overall take up of vocational qualifications remains at a steady level. However, there has been qualitative improvement in satisfaction with vocational qualifications amongst those employers that offer them.
  • Only a minority of all UK establishments offer apprenticeships (15 per cent). However, almost a quarter of those who don’t currently offer Apprenticeships expect to in the coming 2-3 years.
  • Employers are open to the recruitment of, or providing opportunities to, young people. Just over a quarter of all establishments, or 62% of those who had recruited, had recruited a young person in the previous 12 months. A quarter of all establishments had offered a placement to schools, college or university students.

A number of these findings appear significant. Employers still often rely on word of mouth – i.e. informal networks – when recruiting. And if qualifications play significant role for more than two in five decisions about who to recruit this means for three out of five they do not! The report also notes that

Academic qualifications continue to be better regarded than vocational qualifications and that when employers are looking to recruit new employees to key occupational roles, they usually anticipate that they will need to develop these new recruits’ skills, at least to some extent. UKCES report that employers are more likely to provide training internally (63 per cent did so) than to access the external workforce development market. Furthermore there is a wide sectoral variation in the provision of external training, ranging from 86 per cent in the Non-Market Services to 49 per cent in Trade, Accommodation and Transport sector.

Prospects for young people are problematic. “Amongst those active in the labour market in the last 12 months, the recruitment of young people was highest in the Trade, Accommodation and Transport sector at 71 per cent falling to between 55 and 59 per cent in all other sectors. This reflects the roles they are recruited to: 21 per cent of all employers recruiting young people reported that their most recent recruit was to a Sales and Customer Service role and 20 per cent to an Elementary occupation.”

Just 15 per cent of enterprises were offering apprenticeships. And of those that were: “Approaching a third of those who offer formal Apprenticeships (31 per cent) offer Apprenticeships that take 12 months or less to complete, and five per cent offer Apprenticeships with a duration of six months or less.”

All in all the report reveals some pretty big challenges ahead if the UK is going to develop an advanced education and training system, especially where employers are concerned.

 

The changing world of work

October 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

As explained in my previous post, last week I visited the Hub Westminster in central London. The Hub is located on the first floor of New Zealand house, the New Zealand embassy near Piccadily.

The hub website explains

We believe there is no shortage of good ideas to solve the issues of our time. But there is an acute lack of collaboration and support structures to help make them happen. The HUB was founded to address this need.

We set out to create spaces that combine the best of a trusted community, innovation lab, business incubator and the comforts of home. Spaces with all the tools and trimmings needed to grow and develop innovative ventures for the world. But above all, spaces for meaningful encounters, exchange and inspiration, full of diverse people doing amazing things.

The idea has been spreading like wildfire and resulted in the emergence of a global movement. To date, there are 25+ open HUBs and many more in the making, from London to San Francisco, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Sao Paulo and Milan.

Not withstanding the hype, the Hub was impressive. It consists of a large open working space, with different small work areas, and different meeting areas. there must have been some 60 or 70 people there last Friday. some spaces seemed to be for particular teams, others were hot desking areas.

True, the tech area is very different to more traditional industrial and craft sectors. But it illustrated to me how work is changing. And although European Commission policy recognises the centrality of small enterprises for future employment and economic growth, I think they have been slower to think through the implications of this in social and education policy terms.

Probably the biggest problem for micro and small businesses remains access to capital. and for micro businesses without fixed assets, and with a business plan that is yet to show profits, banks may be even more unwilling to lend that to start ups in more traditional areas of the economy.

Equally such start up businesses are heavily reliant of skills and knowledge. yet the traditional education and training systems seem slow to adapt to new and growing areas of the economy and to the needs for higher level continuing learning than traditional qualifications structures provide.

If SMEs are to play such a key role they are going to need state support. The present EU policy seems to be based on reducing legislation and providing targeted help. Yet the ‘system for targeted help may be to inflexible and slow to meet real needs on the ground. I am also unconvinced that merely exempting SMEs from employment legislation is the right answer. Germany has some of the toughest employment legislation in Europe, yet has a record of thriving SMEs.

One of the issues may be the level of decision making and the forms that decision making takes. More transparency and social involvement in decision making processes could improve the quality of support for SMEs. equally there is a need for more localised economic planning. This, in turn, means better access to data and ideas for those responsible for such planning.

I am not arguing against private sector initiatives to support SMEs and job creation. But I would argue that the public sector has a key role to play and that we need more democratic and open processes if that support is to be effective.

Similarly, we need to re-look at social systems to see how they can be adapted to changing patterns fo work including access to food and recreation systems, transport, nursery provision and education and training.

 

 

Policy, practice, economies and SMEs

October 24th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I spent the morning looking at EU policy on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It was pretty hard going – after list of different measures together with endless reviews (mainly asserting how successful the policies had been followed by announcements of new measures to deal with the things that had not worked).

But policies are important – especially in education and training and in areas of economic and social policy where markets alone are clearly failing – although it is difficult to think of any area where markets are succeeding! One of our first tasks under the Learning Layers project which starts on the 1st of November will be to undertake a macro level review of the environment in which SMEs in Europe operate. This will be background research to help us develop a User Engagement Model and Guidelines for best practice to inform the work in developing technologies to support informal learning in the medical and building and construction sectors.

Here are a few things I found out.

SMEs are important

Ninety nine percent of all European businesses are SMEs. They provide two out of three of the private sector jobs, contribute to more than half of the total value-added created by businesses in the EU and account for 99.8 per cent of non-financial enterprises in 2012, which equates to 20.7 million businesses.

The definition of an SME is policy driven

The EU definition of an SME has changed three times in the last twenty or so years. The European Commission currently  classifies medium sized enterprises as having less than 250 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 50 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 42 million. Small enterprises have less than 50 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 10 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 10 million, whilst micro SMEs have less than 10 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 2 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 2 million.

In reality the definition is designed to allow or block access to funding and other support to different sized organisations. It does not have any particular research significance.

There is limited academic research into SMEs

Despite the obvious economic importance of SMEs there is surprisingly little economic research. And much of what research there is seems to be based on unproven assumptions about for instance employment generation potential or intrinsic innovation.

SMEs and regulation

EU policy has focused on vertical measures designed to address a particular market failure and horizontal measures to improve the business environment. In recent years there has been a major push to exempt micro-enterprises from EU legislation or introduce special regimes so as to minimise the regulatory burden on them. Yet it is in the German speaking countries – those with higher levels of labour market regulation – that SMEs have been most successful during the economic crisis. And conversely in countries like Latvia which have highly deregulated economies SMEs have done very badly in the recession.

Work based learning and apprenticeship

At an overall policy level the EU has stressed the need for higher levels of qualifications and education and training as important tot he growth and competitiveness of SMEs, whilst introducing a common qualification framework to promote mobility. Until recently it has paid little attention to work based learning or apprenticeship. But once more – and of course there is no proven causal link – it is in those countries with strong apprenticeship systems that SMEs have been most successful.

More to follow ….

 

 

Work based Personal Learning Environments

July 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell
View more presentations from GrahamAttwell
The Personal Learning Envrinments conference is a flipped conference. Traditional paper sessions are frowned on and presenters are invited to put forward their idea of how to engage participants in teh different sessions. Sessionc hairs are asked to negotiate with presenters. Thus it was that this afternoon I received an email from Linda Castenda who is chairing the session with my paper about Developing work Based Personal Learning Environments.
“Dear authors”, she said, “As you may already now, I’ll be the chair of your session in the PLE Conference in Aveiro. …
We will be together in the A3 session, on the Thursday 11th at 011 O’clock in the room Number 2.

I’m really happy of sharing with you this moment and I hope to have the possibility of trying a different kind of session that help us to find new ways for enriching or work and for find new ways of collaborating together.

I’ve thought on the possibility of organizing a different session, I’m absolutely open to all of your suggestions, but I would like to propose you the following organizing, if you like it:

11:10 to 11:15 Presentation and explanation of the session dynamic  (me).
For it I would love to have a picture of you for including on the presentation.

from 11:15 to 11:45 an “Speed dating” session:
Each paper will be localized in three different “spaces” in the same classroom. The audience will be divided into three groups that will be passing by each paper and  each one of you will have to explain your work in 9 minutes to three different groups of people. After 9 minutes I’ll ring an alarm to change the group.
I know you have to repeat the explanation 3 times, but It would help them to be more close to you and to be more “active” during the explanations. You could use for your presentation a slideshow (in your computer or tablet, a pamphlet, a paper, a trip tic, or whatever you want… BUT taking into account that you are presenting for few people only.
Attendees will have some papers to include questions and comments of the presentations that we will recover after the round of presenting.
If you don’t mind (if you do, please, let it me know)  I will love to record each presentation in video for uploading to the web after the session.

11:50 to 12:05 Panel for answering:
We will try to make a panel with you three and try to answer to questions. I will have also some question for you, only in case you have not any Q from the public

12:05 to 12:30 Conclusions and PLN
After the questions I will ask you for doing a deliverable by paper WITH the attendees… maybe you can think in something to do around your paper (questions, short activity, or whatever) , or maybe we can do something generic… what about a kind of map of relationships between the research presented by you and the attendees research area (including contact details)?

I’m sure it seems a bit complicated, but it would be very active and challenging in order to take advantage of the papers and the groups that are going to be there…”

I am very happy with the idea. But then the problem – I had brought no slides for this session. So in record time I have hacked together a quick presentation and thanks to the speed of teh network here in Aveiro, have got it up on slideshare already.
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    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the Online EDUCA Berlin 2013

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 5th and the 6th of December. Both times it will start at 11.00 CET and will go on for about 40 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 LIVE Radio.

    The podcast of the first show on the 5th is here: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 Podcast 5th Dec.

    Here is the second show as a podcast: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 Podcast 6th Dec.

    News Bites

    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


    Open Badges

    A new nationwide Open Badges initiative has been launched by DigitalMe in the UK. Badge the UK has been developed to help organisations and businesses recognise young people’s skills and achievements online.

    Supported by the Nominet Trust, the Badge the UK initiative is designed to support young people in successfully making the transition between schools and employment using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to capture and share skills across the web.

    At the recent launch event at Mozilla’s London HQ Lord Knight emphasised the “disruptive potential” of Open Badges within the current Education system. At a time of record levels of skills shortages and unemployment amongst young people all speakers stressed need for a new way to encourage and recognise learning which lead to further training and ultimately employment opportunities. Badge the UK is designed to help organisations and businesses see the value in using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to recognise skills and achievement and and connect them to real world training and employment opportunities.

    You can find more information on the DigitalMe web site.


    Twitter feed

    Apologies for the broken Twitter feeds on this page. It seems Twitter have once more changed their APi, breaking our WordPress plug-in. It isn’t the first time and we will have to find another work around. Super tech, Dirk is on the case and we hope normal service will be resumed soon.


    MOOCs and beyond

    A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

    They continue: “Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.

    This issue aims to shed light on the way MOOCs affect education institutions and learners. Which teaching and learning strategies can be used to improve the MOOC learning experience? How do MOOCs fit into today’s pedagogical landscape; and could they provide a viable model for developing countries?

    We must also look closely at their potential impact on education structures. With the expansion of xMOOC platforms connected to different university networks—like Coursera, Udacity, edX, or the newly launched European Futurelearn—a central question is: what is their role in the education system and especially in higher education?”


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    About 2 hours ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via Twitter for iPad

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