Technology for Employability and Work-Related Learningpaul | June 15, 2011
The University of Central Lancashire hosted a workshop on 10 June 2011 to share experiences of using technology to support employability and work based learning. Over 25 participants attended from higher and further education institutions.
Kath Houston (University of Central Lancashire) presented on the use of webinars to provide careers advice. They had issues about getting people to attend careers workshops and how do you engage more people, including a growing international student market.
They explored using webinars to engage people better as attendance at face to face events very low. A review of the profile of those attending compared with face to face workshops showed that they still got some of the same people attending; they were able to attract more graduates and international students and engage more males.
The webinars were delivered using desktop video technology, Adobe Connect and are recorded so graduates can access anytime. They are getting 20-25 attendance (compared with 5-6 for workshops) and there is some indication that they are able to engage more students/unemployed graduates. One benefit is that they get more contribution and discussion in online sessions, through the use of chat and polling. They have found that sessions of 30mins, at 5.30pm and scheduling during the week is also important, with Monday getting better attendance.
A list of futures webinars is available at http://www.uclan.ac.uk/information/services/futures/graduates/gradwebinarportal.php and they are now looking to find a way to assess the learning take-up, attract more students, and see if this will make their graduates more future fit.
Emma Purnell (University of Wolverhampton) presented a range of approaches using Pebble to engage employability skills with students, using webfolio templates within the e-Portfolio. These included short questionnaires and tools to help learners assess and address skills such as developing employability skills for level 5 students, using questionnaires in Pebble to build a profile for learners to support skills development. See work of the Institute for Learning Enhancement http://www.wlv.ac.uk/Default.aspx?page=6939 for further details, and reports from other BR Assemblies for more detail on the work of this team, hence I have not expanded on this presentation.
Beverley Leeds (University of Central Lancashire) provided an overview of the TELSTAR Project (see http://www.uclan.ac.uk/lbs/about/facilities_resources/telstar.php). The project looked at matching learners skills and employers requirements with courses. It also made available a set of resources on employability skills and using e-portfolio system to deliver the WBL pedagogy using PebblePad. They tried a Ning network as well (to engage WBL) but the didn’t have a large enough community.
They looked at how work based learners who had professional qualifications could gain some credit. It was difficult to identify level and credits or students may have only completed part of the qualification. They created an “options database” which allows students to input qualifications, and then matched against existing qualifications data to allow staff and students to see what could be matched and allow for accreditation of prior certificated learning.
In terms of employability skills, they looked at personalising programmes to individuals and providing flexible programmes, developing skills and recognising and individual needs. Students can negotiate or APEL a max of 4 modules per award. Modules start when they have sufficient numbers to run. This has been a challenge to institutional systems and processes, students have ended up having to register for each module rather than the whole courses, but working with the student record team on a solution.
They are using a range of technologies, Adobe Presenter for induction, PebblePad for APEL and negotiated learning support and a combination including PebblePad, Adobe Connect and Wimba for taught modules. Students can use an iPhone to access Adobe Connect sessions, this has been useful as employers’ can have restricted access because of firewalls, a lack internet access or policy restrictions for employees using the internet.
Alex Greenwood, Barrie Roberts and Beverly Leeds (University of Central Lancashire) presented in the use of open educational resources to support employability skills, called Working Creatively. The resources needed to be reusable, shareable, customisable, durable, applicable, interoperable, stand-alone and accessible. Importantly the needed to be independent of any system or device
The resources have also been converted to work on mobile phones as well, to enable learners to take away the learning and complete it in a “third space”. The institution sees this type of resource as offering something extra for new student fees. Mobiles are familiar tools for many users (currently 4 billion phone subscriptions) making mobile materials on study skills and employability skills an attractive resource.
Adobe Presenter creates a .swf file that can be played on Android and Windows mobile but not the iPhone, and there are still some issues with the Blackberry. To get around this they are moving to using Camtasia to create a video recording of the resources that will work on the iPhone. They are also using “dropbox” to provide access to videos via mobile phone. They are using googledocs as a way of delivering learning activity with embedded links to the swf files and video files (via YouTube), and other resources which worked. See http://goo.gl/hKZM8 for an example.
Paul-Alan Armstrong (University of Sunderland) has been supporting students on work placements, on Human Resources, using Mahara. He used “Poetics”, a process of reflexivity to know who you are and what you know. He finds that graduates can’t tell their story when applying for jobs and poetics is used to help them think about who they are. Students create a “view” in Mahara that illustrates their skills and students remember this better than writing an essay.
See http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/bmaf/documents/BMAF_Conference_2011/presentations/Paul-Alan-Armstrong-University-of-Sunderland-Where-is-the-Love-The-Re-imagination-of-Professional-Voice.pptx and http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/bmaf/documents/BMAF_Conference_2011/presentations/Paul-Alan-Armstrong-University-of-Sunderland-Multiplicity-of-vocie-prism-guide.docx for examples of the work he has been doing.
There is some initial resistance from students who felt they were not “creative” but they come to see the value of using the approach. Mahara also allows the tutor to provide feedback on what students doing. A free (unstructured) approach was tried at first, but it was found that they needed some structure, i.e. three columns past, present and structure, to get them started. They use a range of approaches for example collages, montages and patchwork as ways of building up views in Mahara.
Andrew Haldane (University of Wales, Institute Cardiff) looked at workforce development and breaking the barriers to scalability of provision. There were several barriers to meeting the needs of learners in the work place.
Staff in “innovations (in WBL area)” was reluctant to adopt new practices and in particular use of technology. The current rise in learner demographics has just peaked, so spare capacity may persuade institutions to look at new markets., but staff are not taking the risk and don’t want to make decisions and rely on those who have the expertise, situation specific expertise.
Delivery to the workplace is also an issue if remote access is required. Better learning resources are requited and this costs and takes more time. These courses often have very small cohorts so it is hard to justify the cost and staff often doesn’t have the expertise to develop the resources. There are also support issues and blended learning has geographical issues (i.e. a need to travel to the institution). One solution has been using F2F at a distance using web-conferencing or similar.
Integration of Learning and Work. APEL has been around for while but has not been encouraged, a move towards developing experiential learning means institutions need to manage the APEL process better and support the facilitator role. Staff need to have domain knowledge as well as practitioner expertise to be able engage with employers.
Wales is looking at “Learning for Work” (Employability Skills) and “Learning through Work” (Placements), also Learning in Work (Work based Learning). There are conflicts between what the employer, employee and institution are looking for in each of these situations. The employee can be happy with domain top up but there is a need to embed this into practice and the employer looking for enhancement in practice as an outcome of learning.
Possible solutions are however starting to emerge.
- On the supply and delivery side, institutions are using web conferencing, learning objects and e-portfolio pedagogy to successfully deliver learning.
- There is a need to correct perceptions, demonstrate it can be done, solutions do exist, the perceptions of colleagues and institutions are that there are issues
- Demand side issue: employer expectation learner expectations are that they don’t know Universities deliver WBL successfully.
Andrew suggested that we now have several successful approaches using technology that address these issues and there is a need to change perceptions about Universities abilities to deliver effective work based learning and engage with employers.
Ajaz Hussain, University of Bedfordshire presented a set of online tools to support employability skills in a master’s programme. The institution have an Employability strategy 2009 -2012 that engages with Faculties and asked them to change approaches, refocus resources in tools to support academic staff rather than go careers support staff being brought in to deliver skills training all the time. As part of this, Ajaz was invited into the Business School as part of a review of the MBA curriculum. The school have an MBA with international student and are developing a Global MBA (i.e. a distance learning module across world). They also have an existing successful initiative “SOARing to Success” – a framework (SOAR – Self Opportunities Aspirations and Results) to help students develop skills.
They introduced a self assessment questionnaire that was undertaken by students, comparative on two separate dates, to support student development and linked to a portfolio (paper with some online elements) of evidence and using Linked-In.
A new tool called JOBSAVVIGRAD has been developed to increase the quality of online applications, moving away from a CV structure (by developing more a skills and experience profile) and providing access to graduate level vacancies. Students can apply for jobs through the tool (without registering with an employer or e-recruitment agency). Students have an account for life. Agencies are already filtering applications using technology due to the poor quality of many applications; some of these filters have been integrated into the tool. The tool manages and tracks applications, so it can support students to develop a better application process and also get feedback from the employers.
An online demo is available at http://home.jobsavvigrad.com, it is built using the “tucows” free software approach and customised versions can be developed. It works best on Mozilla Firefox.
The workshop provided an interesting collection of approaches that are being used successfully by institutions to develop employability skills and engage work based learners. The examples drew on several examples that are outside the JISC funded programmes and illustrated the breadth of activity that is being undertaken by HEIs. It is hoped that lessons and approaches will be adopted by other institutions as a result of this event.