We’ve all experienced it in the last years: digital working and learning environments are becoming more and more important with great potential for flexibility and for opening up new learning opportunities – but they also bring their own challenges and limits, and we can also fail to teach and learn in digital and hybrid environments, as well as in on-site settings. So how can we assure to make digital learning opportunities good learning opportunities that enhance the learning experience? And how can we use the potential in work-based learning for interlinking theory and practice – one of the core principles in practice-oriented (higher) education? Or, put in other words: what do we as teachers and trainers in practice-oriented higher education need to be able to do in order to provide good digital work-based learning?
This is not only needed for creating great learning opportunities, but also for promoting graduates’ much-needed digital and future skills or competences (Ehlers 2020) – as the digital transformation is reshaping society, the labour market and the future of economy. Vocational education and training (VET) systems are consequently undergoing an unprecedented impact (ILO 2021) that has made it necessary to rethink teaching methodologies based on experiential learning, including: workshop-based teaching activities, work-based learning, apprenticeships and all learning experiences in conditions of direct use of skills in the work environment.
This is what the recently launched DEAL with digital WBL project initiative has set out to discuss. Here, I have the pleasure to work in an international project consortium with partners from Italy, Germany, Spain, Hungary and Lithuania in order to promote good practice in digital work-based learning and in empowering VET teachers and all teachers and trainers in practice-oriented education in providing good quality digital work-based learning experiences. Together, we will develop a framework of innovative pedagogical approaches and an appropriate quality framework to support the digital transformation of work-based learning experiences, extended by a competence framework on emerging digital skills for the VET trainer needed to innovate work-based learning.
By the way, what do we actually mean by digital work-based learning? That’s something we started to discuss and we came up with the definition of “digital support, provision and/or enhancement of practical experiences in a vocational context for knowledge and skills development as well as integration of theory and practice”. What do you think – would that cover your approach to digital work-based learning?
There is a lot to learn, also for my institution, the DHBW: Digital Work-based Learning can also allow for deeper integration of theory and practice experiences in dual studies and thus for students’ competence or Future Skills development (Beaugrand, Latteck, Mertin & Rolf, 2017), as my colleague Nicole Geier has already reported on in this blog. So from my point of view, the question in this exciting project is not only what competences we need in order to provide good digital Work-based Learning, but how we want dual or VET education to look like in the future. We thus need future teaching competences!
In the first part of the initiative, we’ve developed an idea of digital work-based learning and identified good practices and quality requirements. Now, we want to find out what is needed in order to provide such a good digital WBL learning experience – and what competences VET trainers need for it. And we want to take this step together with them, and this is why we’ve created the Digital WBL Ambassador programme! Here, we want to create small institutional communities of motivated teachers and trainers who want to deepen their future teaching skills and co-develop the future teaching competence framework with us. This is very important for us, because how else will we be able to provide a digital training course for them (which is one of the project goals) which is useful for them? The training course to be developed shall be based on actual training needs.
Also, we decided to discuss how much-needed Green Skills, as promoted in the new GreenComp Framework (The European sustainability competence framework), can be integrated into today’s and tomorrow’s teaching – a subject which is really important to me personally and which I look greatly forward to discuss at a later stage of our initiative. For me, this initiative should not only be about teaching and learning, but also about reflecting on how we contribute to a much-needed social and ecological transformation of work, education, society.
Are you interested in becoming a Digital WBL Ambassador yourself as a teacher, trainer or practice supervisor at DHBW? Or do you have experience in digital WBL that you might want to share with others? Please contact me at email@example.com! Or join our Kick-Off session online on October 20 at 4pm! We are happy to expand our digital WBL network here at DHBW and beyond!
Personally, I am excited to see a small network form with participants exchanging and co-developing the competence framework with us. I will also learn a lot myself, which I can incorporate into my and our research group’s teaching experiences, and I am really excited to discuss how we can integrate green and sustainability-related challenges into these experiences. This is also something I work on in my PhD thesis on transformative Future Skills in higher education. As we see, it all comes back to developing ideas and visions – and to starting to create the future of education right now.
There are several ways to get involved!
- Become a Digital WBL Ambassador! Kick-Off Session on October 20 at 4pm, participation via Zoom
- Share your Digital WBL experience or Good Practice in a workshop in the Ambassador Programme!
- Stay updated by signing up to our newsletter!
- Share your experiences, inspiration and questions with us via e-mail or comment under this post!
- Contact me for further information!
- Learn more about the project at digitalwbl.com and watch a video to get a first introduction to it!
- Beaugrand, A., Latteck, Ä.‑, Mertin, M. & Rolf, A. (2017). Lehr- und Lernmethoden im dualen Studium. Wissenstransfer zwischen Theorie und Praxis (1st edition). Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer.
- Ehlers, U.-D. (2020). Future Skills. The Future of Learning and Higher Education. Open Access. Download available at https://nextskills.org/exploratorium/future-skills/.
- International Labour Organization and World Bank (2021). Skills development in the time of COVID-19: Taking stock of the initial responses in technical and vocational education and training. Download available at https://www.ilo.org/skills/areas/skills-training-for-poverty-reduction/WCMS_766557/lang–en/index.htm.