Feature Story | 2-Dec-2022

International consortium to rethink digital vocational education and training

The UOC is taking part in a new international project to improve work-based learning experiences using digital tools The project will produce a guide with best practices and design an innovative online course based on immersive experiences for vocational

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

The digital transformation is reshaping society, the job market and the future of the economy. As a result, vocational education and training (VET) systems are facing the challenge of rethinking and adapting teaching methodologies to the needs of companies in the digital environment. Against this backdrop, the UOC is taking part in the Erasmus+ Deal with Digital Work-Based Learning (D-WBL) project, a new international consortium that brings together eight partners from five European countries, including universities, companies and vocational training centres, with the aim of improving work-based learning experiences and making them more accessible through digital tools. The three-year initiative will develop a guide with best practices and design an innovative online course to help VET instructors use more effective teaching approaches and produce work-based learning experiences.

"All projects that focus on digitalization are strategic and relevant. The digitalization process that is being promoted more than ever by European institutions, added to the complex and changing dynamics of the working world, means that a project that combines both aspects is essential when looking to improve VET in an increasingly digital professional world," explained Albert Sangrà, Professor of Education at the UOC, and Teresa Romeu, associate professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, both of whom are researchers in the Edul@b research group and involved in the project. The UOC team also includes Montse Guitert, associate professor and the Edul@b PI, and research technician Pablo Baztán

The consortium also includes Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) (Germany), Panevėžys University of Applied Sciences (Lithuania), Hanse-Parlament (Germany), IPOSZ (Hungary), CIS (Italy) and SFC – Sistemi Formativi Confindustria (Italy), which is leading the project.


Generating a new digital culture

The new project focuses on digital work-based learning, which is defined as digital support, the provision and enhancement of practical experiences in a professional context for the development of knowledge and skills, as well as the integration of theory and practice. "This integration of theory and practice is a way of approaching work-based learning where we can bring in different methodologies," explained Romeu.

"So," she continued, "for each type of context, depending, for example, on the type of training or the characteristics of the learners, we can work with project-based learningchallenge-based learning and other methodologies that have proven to be very efficient in helping to meet the challenges of today's working world."

Based on these types of methodologies, the project aims to help instructors acquire specific competencies for the digital environment. In this regard, the researchers identify challenges such as "generating a digital culture that can break down the barriers of analogue habits, for example, with the great advantages of asynchronous collaborative work" and overcoming the barriers of those disciplines in which "manual skills are fundamental, where the field of simulation and augmented reality have a long way to go".

With these goals in mind, a list of competencies and soft skills will be created and a plan will also be defined to improve the ability of VET trainers to design, deliver, assess and certify blended learning courses.


Guide with best practices from international experiences 

The first step of the project is the development of a best practices guide, which is being led by the UOC team. "To create the guide, we have collected examples of best practices from the various participating countries and the criteria for their consideration as such. The analysis of this information, in addition to the review of literature, has helped us to add theoretical and practical content to the guide, which we have completed with the creation of a tool for assessing VET practices," they explained.

To complete the guide, seven focus groups have also been formed in the different countries of origin of the project partners. The groups are made up of teachers, administrative or government staff and students from vocational training centres. "From the outset, student participation has been a key factor in the development of the focus groups, which have been used to gather the opinions and experiences of the different stakeholders involved in VET and which have provided the guide with contextualized content," emphasized the researchers, who also thanked the students and teaching staff from the Centre d'Estudis Stucom and Jesuïtes Educació for their participation in this process.


A course powered by innovative technologies

The results of the guide will be used to design the Deal with Digital Work-Based Learning course within the framework of an innovative cross-media platform, which aims to go beyond current standards by using technologies such as virtual reality. "The project is aimed at instructors and other people who may be interested, such as employers or management and administrative staff," the researchers explained.

As regards the course content, although it is still in a very early stage, according to the researchers it will focus on "promoting the use of simulatorsaugmented reality and the development of what are known as future skills."


Targeting young people who are neither working nor studying

Although the course is not aimed at students, another of the anticipated results is the development of a package of tools to implement the D-WBL course for the training of VET students, with the aim of guaranteeing the transferability and sustainability of the project. This tool will be in the format of an accredited online course and will also target young people in a NEET (not in employment, education or training) situation. "The proposal, therefore, is to also provide a personalized certification of achievement, in order to help NEETs find out about a new way of learning and an opportunity to access the world of work," the researchers concluded.



This research by the UOC promotes Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 (Quality Education).



The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

The UOC's research is conducted by over 500 researchers and 51 research groups distributed between the university's seven faculties, the E-learning Research programme, and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu

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