SELFIE for work-based learning supports VET providers and companies to embrace digital learning and training during pandemic

by the European Commission

‘SELFIE happened at the right moment, at the right time,’ Dragutin Šćekić says. ‘One year ago [before the pandemic] it was a different story. Now no one is talking about the ifs and buts or whens, when it comes to the technology. Today they are just ready to use it.’

Šćekić is the SELFIE for Work Based Learning (WBL) coordinator in Montenegro. But what is SELFIE for WBL? While the name uses the idea of taking a snapshot in time, it isn’t in fact about taking pictures of yourself with your smartphone.

SELFIE is an online self-reflection tool. It asks simple questions to anonymously collect the views of vocational education and training (VET) school learners, teachers and leaders on how digital technology is used for learning and training. It looks at VET school strategies, infrastructure, teaching practices, equipment and the experience of learners.

The tool was developed in 2018 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture. In early 2020, in cooperation with the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, it was adapted to include a module on work-based learning which adds the views of in-company trainers. The aim has been to help improve coordination between VET schools and training companies, and to discuss how they could jointly embed digital technology in their training and apprenticeship programmes. This also means bringing VET teachers and in-company trainers closer together.

By stepping up the use of digital technology for teaching and learning and improving overall digital skills, the quality of education and training provided at vocational schools can be improved across Europe.

Key to that aim is ensuring that VET teachers and in-company trainers have the requisite digital competence. In a recent survey, the OECD reported that only 56 % of teachers across the OECD countries had participated in training in the use of information and communication technologies for teaching as part of their initial education or training, and only 43 % of teachers felt able to teach online.

So in the era of COVID-19, SELFIE for WBL could be vital in helping vocational schools assess strengths and weaknesses of their digital readiness and adapt to the challenges of teaching and learning during the pandemic – especially as lockdowns and social distancing practices have interrupted learning throughout the EU.

Those challenges are something that Ugljesa Marjanovic, SELFIE for WBL’s national coordinator in Serbia, touches on.

‘Right now there is no online training because schools shut down and companies weren’t prepared to go digital,’ he says. Many companies are still working from home, he points out, ‘so it’ll be interesting to see how these schools start to deliver both their own teaching and remote training by companies during the pandemic. Although apprentices will still lose out on the practical aspects of their learning that involves access to tools, materials and equipment.’

The pilot for SELFIE for WBL is currently under way in Germany, France, Poland, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, with Georgia joining recently as the latest newcomer. In Serbia, where the ICT sector is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries, the tool was trialled in 17 schools providing ICT learning.

And something positive can emerge. ‘The latest version of SELFIE focusing on work-based learning brings vocational institutions and companies closer together. Together they can discuss how they could jointly use digital technology in the education and training provided,’ says Cesare Onestini, director of the European Training Foundation, which has been involved in the project since its inception and is responsible for the pilots in the countries beyond the European Union.

The tool is currently available in more than 30 languages, including the 24 EU official languages. It can also be adapted to the needs of each school, as Alicia Miklavčič, part of the qualitative research team at the Association of Slovene Higher Vocational Colleges in Slovenia, explains: ‘Questions can be obligatory, optional or school-specific. So the tool is quite open and gives transparent data to the user.’

In Germany, where a trial has kicked off despite an outbreak of COVID-19 at his school, Wolfgang Stutzmann, who’s also the country’s national coordinator, says that ‘already SELFIE for WBL is helping us identify weak points. We have 100 students participating and the tool helps monitor success and participation rate.’

The first results of the SELFIE for WBL pilot could be ready in time for the fifth European Vocational Skills Week from 9 to 13 November, with a full rollout of the tool in the middle of next year.

‘SELFIE for WBL could be a game-changer if we can exploit digital learning in VET. This is only taking a selfie or a snapshot of yourself, but it helps to further support VET providers in the future,’ says Stefano Tirati, Vice-president of the European Forum of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (EfVET), one of the leading pan-EU VET associations, responsible for the pilots in the four EU Member States.

Game-changer or not, the pandemic has created a sudden awakening in vocational schools. If they are to stay relevant, they need rapid digitalisation. Tools like SELFIE can only be an advantage for them to ensure they stay ahead of the curve.

Original source: European Commission.