Impressive Learning Toolbox Showcase presents the success of ePosters

September 25th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I had reported of the achievements of our former partners from the Learning Layers (LL) project  with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in different online conferences. As regular readers of this blog know, the LTB was developed as a digital toolset to support workplace-based and vocational learning in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developers have developed a spin-off innovation with ePosters that use the functionality of the LTB. The further development and commercialisation is carried out by the start-up company Kubify BV and up-to-date information is delivered via their Twitter feed Kubify – LTB for ePosters. After I had written my latest post I discovered that the LTB-developers had released a new Learning Toolbox Showcase that presents a gallery of ‘all stars’ of ePosters in recent conferences. Below I will give some insights into this interesting resource environment.

ePosters conquer new grounds

So far I have been able to observe the progress with the LTB-powered ePosters from the conferences of the Association of Medical Educators in Europe (AMEE) in the years 2017 and 2018. I have also become aware that they have been able to mainstream the use of ePosters in several conferences – mainly in the healthcare sector. In my recent blog I referred to the new interest of several conference organisers who have had to transform the conferences into online event. Yet, my picture of the progress has been fragmentary and my awareness of the range of LTB-users has been narrow.

Now, when looking at the selected ePosters of the LTB Showcase I realise, how widely the innovation has spread – both in geographic and in domain-related terms. What is of particular interest, is the fact that some of the early users have incorporated the ePosters into their regular conference culture – no longer as an optional space but as a mainstream approach. Moreover, some of the new users have directly stepped into a broad-based introduction of ePosters. And last but not least – whilst the main activity around the ePosters will take place during the conference dates, the ePosters are visited in great numbers also after the conferences (as the statistics of the LTB-developers show it).

Concerning the spread of the  ePosters, this new showcase makes it transparent that they are really widely used in several conferences and online events. In fact, the sample that is presented is merely the top of an iceberg. Behind the chosen ones there is a critical mass of other ones. So, when clicking the names of the events (attached to the ePosters) you will get a link to the respective showcase with many more to explore. Below I try to give a brief group picture.

The ePosters made their breakthrough in conferences of the healthcare sector, in particular addressing educators of healthcare professionals. Already this field brings into picture quite a variety  thematic areas:

  • AMEE – the annual conference of medical educators in Europe
  • ADEE – the annual conference of dentist educators in Europe
  • Clinical Education Network Symposium
  • SESAM – the conference on simulations in healthcare education
  • Future Physiology – the conference of early career researchers of the Physiological Society

In addition to the above-listed regular conferences, ePosters have been used widely in special events focusing on other themes that are related to the healthcare issues, such as:

  • Mirots – the multiplier event of the project for internationalisation of occupational therapy
  • APS – the conference for plant health

Furthermore, ePosters have been used in other kinds of contexts, such as

  • Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival – a regional R&D festival with a broad variety of topics
  • EC-TEL and DELFI Poster and Demo Track – a section in the online conference on technology-enhanced learning
  • IMEX Association Day – a discussion group in a conference of event organisers.

ePosters bring richness to knowledge sharing

When looking at the topics covered in the various showcases it is interesting to see different aspects of expertise and professional development being covered by different ePosters. Then, having them arranged as a conceptual neighbourhood in the common showcase, they give a group picture of current progress in the respective online community. And finally, the fact that the ePosters remain accessible in the showcase after the conference, they remain as sustainable knowledge resources that can be reused as support for domain-specific learning.

I think that this is enough of the new Learning Toolbox Showcase and of the thematic showcases that provide the background for this ‘all stars’ formation. Altogether I am impressed. And I am eager to learn more, how such ePosters and showcases can be used to support the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers.

More blogs to come …

Notes on the Blogchat of February – ePosters powered by Learning Toolbox are not merely e-posters

February 5th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago I had a chat with my colleague Gilbert Peffer on the recent progress with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in our common project. I was so impressed that I wrote a blog post on our discussion.  Moreover, we agreed to continue these discussions and to introduce a new format of communication – Blogchat. This means that we agree on regular online sessions on agreed themes and that I will publish notes on our talks. So, here we go.

ePosters as a major spin-off of the Learning Toolbox (LTB)

Ever since our EU-funded Learning Layers project came to an end in the beginning of the year 2017 I have engaged myself in the follow-up activities with focus on the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In particular I have been interested in the success story of the ePosters (powered by LTB) that have become popular in many conferences. I have been writing blogs on the first pilots in conferences of medical educators and educational technologists. And I was heavily engaged in the pilot that we organised (together with the LTB-developers) at the ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy. That pilot could not be continued since the organising body – European Educational Research Association (EERA) was at that point tied up with other change agendas. So, afterwards my knowledge on the use of ePosters was rather sporadic. Indeed, I have become aware of many awards that the LTB-developers have received and congratulated them via my blog posts. Yet, I have not got an overview, how strongly our colleagues are making progress. So, it was high time to get a proper update.

Firstly, I was impressed when Gilbert told me about the conferences with which they are working. In the year 2019 the LTB-developers supported fourteen (14) conferences that used ePosters (powered by LTB) in their program. Most of these took place in Europe. For the year 2020 they have already fifteen (15) agreements, half of them taking place in Europe and the rest outside Europe. Moreover, they have agreements with biennial conferences that take place every two years. And, what is most interesting, is the fact that almost all conferences that have piloted with ePosters are now regular users. They have found their ways to integrate the ePosters to their conference cultures.

ePosters are more than mere e-posters

As I have seen it – from afar and from our joint experience – the ePosters made their breakthrough as alternatives to traditional paper posters. For many conferences that had struggled with the space needed for poster sessions and for accommodating the desired number of presentations on a limited number of poster sessions this was a relief. Moreover, some conferences had been frustrated with commercial e-poster software (that didn’t bring much added value). From that perspective the functionality of LTB-powered ePosters was a great step forward:

  • All ePosters could be presented as mini-posters on a poster wall or poster cubicle throughout the conference.
  • With the help of QR-codes all conference participants could download the ePosters they were interested in and access them whenever they had time.
  • It was possible to arrange informal meetings between presenters and participants in the vicinity of the poster walls in a flexible way.
  • The presenters didn’t need to use much time in poster discussion sessions – they could be shaped as actively interactive events (such as barcamps or ePoster arenas).

However, this is not the whole story of ePosters as an innovation in conference culture. Some conferences have become concerned about travel expenses, carbon footprints and travelling times due to presence sessions in conferences. In this respect  one of the forthcoming conferences is organising a pre-conference week that is based on the availability of ePosters on the web already one week before the presence conference. The organisers invite presenters and online participants to a Zoom meeting on the respective ePosters. Then, the recording of the discussion session will be added to the respective LTB stack. From this perspective the emphasis is gradually shifting from ePosters (to be viewed) to ePresentations (that can be discussed with the help of digital media).

Finally, a major asset with the ePosters is that they provide for conference organisers a domain, on which they can keep the legacy of ePosters in successive conferences. This is already the case with the pioneering conferences of healthcare educators. They can now give access to ePosters of their conferences during the last few years.

I guess this is enough of this Blogchat session. I got a much more comprehensive overview of what kind of enrichment the ePosters can provide for conferences. I think that there are some lessons to be learned.

More blogs to come …

Productive project meeting in Athens – Part One: Impressions on the work of the TACCLE VET

September 29th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I had the chance to participate as a special guest in the project meeting of the TACCLE VET project. This neighbouring project focuses on the prospects for promoting digital competences in different domains of vocational education and training (VET). I am working in the parallel project TACCLE 4 CPD with the task to develop models of continuing professional development (CPD) for the field of VET. At this phase of work we found it important to share knowledge with each other and find ways to work together (instead of duplicating each others’ work). So, I attended the two-day meeting in Athens to learn more of the work of the colleagues and to report of my interim results. We had a very productive meeting that merits to be covered with several blog posts. In this first post I give an overall impression on the work in the TACCLE VET meeting. Below, I give – from a guest perspective – a nutshell description of some of the themes that were discussed in the productive and creative meeting. (See below the picture that was taken at the end of the meeting.)

Project team in Athens

Interviews with practitioners in different VET domains

The project partners had already completed their interviews with VET practitioners in different domains. Jorge Lizandra presented the general picture in the light of the interview results. In this context it was important that the project focused on enhancing the digital competences in different aspects of teachers’ work – contexts, resources, pedagogy and assessment. Here, the partners paid attention to their common approach to visualising the results in such a way that different domains and country-specific VET cultures can be compared. Also, the partners paid attention to the fact that the use of digital tools in assessment was underdeveloped. In this context there was some discussion, how the proficiency statements of the DigCompEdu framework can be used as a basis for assessment tools. (This issue will be discussed also in the next post.)

My report on interim results in the TACCLE 4 CPD project

In my report on the neighbouring project TACCLE 4 CPD I informed of the policy analyses, on the research paper for the ECER 2019 project, on the emerging ‘Theme Room training” handbook and on the Routemap for planning the training of teachers and trainers. Concerning the policy analyses, we had some discussion on the DigCompEdu framework and its limits vis-à-vis the field of VET. Here, the concepts ‘digital transformation’ (in working life) and ‘digitization’ (in working and learning tasks) played a role. My report on the ECER 2019 conference contributions brought into picture a set of parallel innovation paths in promoting digital competences in VET. Concerning training of trainers, I reported on the piloting with the ‘Theme Room’ training model in the Learning Layers project (in the year 2015) and how this approach is being updated. Concerning the Routemap, I took up the sections for institutional planning of updating/upgrading digital competences and for shaping the corresponding training measures. These aspects were taken up several times when discussing the subsequent points of the agenda. (I will get back to some of these discussions in my next post.)

Plans to shape Learning scenarios, Open Educational Resources and Exemplars of Best Practice

When discussing the subsequent themes,the partners noticed that they can be linked to each other more closely that they had thought originally. The learning scenarios had firstly been thought as more generic and transversal themes. In the light of my presentation the partners concluded that the innovation paths should also provide a basis for scenarios.

In the next phase, the partners concluded that the scenarios can be used as anchor points for presenting a collection of Open Educational Resources (OER) and as Exemplars of good practice. From this point of view the partners drafted a list of potential scenarios – taking into account the interviews in different domains, the propsed transversal themes and the innovation paths that I had presented. (I will get back to some of these discussions in my next post.)

Training of teachers and trainers

Concerning the theme ‘training of teachers and trainers’ we concluded that the TACCLE VET partners have access to different patterns of teacher education, training of trainers and continuing professional development – including online training. From this perspective the partners can provide evaluative feedback. Concerning the TACCLE 4 CPD project, it will provide a ‘handbook’ for training with Theme Rooms and take into account the patterns studied by the TACCLE VET partners.

I guess this is enough on the key points and on my impressions on the meeting. The partners have produced more detailed minutes for their internal use. In my next post I will have a closer look at some of the themes and on the collaboration between the two projects in the next phase.

More blogs to come …

 

Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues

May 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again I am taking a look at some of the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the construction sector. As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs, my ITB-colleagues and the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) have started cooperation with some German construction companies to launch company-specific pilot activities. In the first phase they agreed to start with feasibility studies. Last week the LTB developers were in Bremen and made some field visits to different sites of our partner organisations with ITB colleagues. At the end of the week we had a wrap-up meeting with one of the companies in ITB (and thus I could attend as an observer).

The approach

In the “Exploitation report” of the LL project we (in ITB) had already outlined our approach to such feasibility studies in the following way:

“Development of a framework for ‘Betriebsbezogene Analysetage’ for identifying company-specific points of intervention (for introducing tools and web resources), working interfaces (for identifying staff involved) and feedback processes (for specifying the benefits of tools etc.) to be supported with Learning Toolbox and affiliated tools and web resources.”

For me the point of interest was to learn, what kind of insights these field visits would bring into discussion regarding

  1. the use of digital media and web tools (in general) in the companies and in their trades, in particular
  2. as support for organisational and cross-organisational cooperation (specific to their trade) and
  3. as means to enhance process optimisation, learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation.

Getting an overview

Our counterpart in this discussion was the medium-sized company H. that is a major regional player in pipeline-building (Rohrleitungsbau) especially supply circuits (Versorgungsleitungen) and service pipes (Hausanschlüsse). It works together with the major electricity providers, water and gas suppliers and telephone and cable providers. Given the wide regional range of activities the company has in addition to its main office several branch offices and installation teams allocated to these offices. The company has framework contracts with its clients that include ordinary orders as well as procedures for emergency repairs. As a result, the company had adopted a ‘federative’ lean organisation that gives a lot of autonomy to the branch offices and to the teams that are working in the region. However, a major constrain for the organisation was to get the reporting of the work of the installation teams (and the clearance of ‘mission completed’) arranged in a smart way.

Given this complexity the LTB developers and my ITB colleagues carried out a series of interviews with the manager and the central IT specialist (in the central office) and with representatives of branch offices and skilled workers at different sites. With reference to the interview grid they then prepared a flow diagram that made transparent the work processes (including working interfaces), information flows (including interfaces with different forms for work orders and reporting) and points of intervention (where use of digital tools and web resources can contribute to process optimisation)

Insights and working issues

In the wrap-up meeting the representatives of the company H. discussed the preliminary findings with the LTB developers and my ITB-colleagues. Here I do not want to get into very specific details but highlight some of the main results:

a) Readiness to use digital media and web technologies: Firstly, already regarding the interaction with client organisations, there is a considerable variety between the ones that use up-to-date digital media (and web technologies) and others that rely on paper-based orders and printed reports. Inside the company the use of digital media and web technologies is generally accepted. Yet, in reporting from the field (with smartphones) there are still some teams that prefer using paper-based reporting.

 b) Multiple dependencies and a variety of digital documents: In this trade (Rohrleitungsbau) it is typical that for one installation job the company has parallel orders from an energy provider, gas provider, water supplier etc.  Typically these organisations use different software solutions, templates and forms. Also, the framework contracts include emergency repairs that need to be started without a separate order – but to be reported with yet another form. As a result the company H. has to deal with several types of digital and analogue documents that are not compatible with each other.

c) Engagement of different parts of the organisation in reporting: The installation works of the company are rather short-cycled ‘projects’ with one or two days’ duration. Yet, given the above mentioned diversity of software solutions and documents (and the varying readiness to use digital tools) there is a tendency towards duplication of reporting work at the construction site and in the office.

d) Autonomy of units/teams and knowledge sharing across the organisation: As has been mentioned, the organisational units at different branch offices – and the teams working in the field – have a great deal of autonomy. Also, their capability to find their own solutions is appreciated. The same is also the case with their way to handle the administrative reporting. However, the management is interested in encouraging knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences across the organisation. Yet, it appears that it is easier to arrange traditional training events (with frontal presentations by external experts) rather than events for shared learning within the organisation. The manager was looking for arrangements to support knowledge sharing among the skilled workers and with focus on improvements in work processes.

Working perspectives and lessons learned

The team of LTB-developers and ITB-colleagues will produce in a short while a brief report with further working perspectives and recommendations. However, already at this stage the flow diagram and the opportunity for joint reflections was appreciated – in the final meeting and during the field visits. Below I make some brief remarks, how (on the basis of the experience with the Learning Layers) the problems can be dealt with and how the organisation needs to engage itself in the next phase:

Concerning the multiple dependencies, different software solutions and document templates there is a possibility to introduce technical solutions – by introducing a company-specific database that communicates with the other kinds of documents (and manages the conversions). This requires some coordination in the central office, whilst the branches and the working teams should get their own documents, which they can at best handle. Furthermore, for the workers in the field it is possible to provide optional choices for reporting via typed documents or scanned documents (that can be converted in the central office). Such solutions would offload the administrative work from the teams and speed up the reporting for the clients. Here the manager emphasised the need to offload skilled workers from unnecessary administrative tasks. To him this would increase the attractiveness of craftsman careers.

Concerning the enhancement of learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation the experience of Learning Layers opens interesting prospects. Firstly, work process-oriented and technology-supported multimedia training can increase the readiness for knowledge sharing. Moreover, linking such training to shaping new stacks for Learning Toolbox can bring into picture practical solutions for such sharing. Here it is important to start from such tools and technologies that offload the participants from unnecessary burdens and make it possible to improve one’s contribution. Here the “Theme Room training” and the co-development of Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC can serve as examples.

– – –

I think this is enough of our discussion in the wrap-up meeting. The LTB-developers and my ITB-colleagues will finalise their conclusions and recommendations in a short while. What strikes me in this discussion was the fact that we looked far deeper into learning in organisational contexts (and into process-optimisation in cross-organisational cooperation) than during the LL project. Moreover, it is difficult to find similar cases in the literature that we have been using. So, we have been dealing with an inspiring and challenging case. We hope that we can continue working together.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

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