What is the European Inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning?

The European inventory is a ongoing project in EU created in 2001 coordinated by European Commision in cooperation with Cedefop. The European Inventory is practical tool providing all working in the informal learning field with updated, easy accesible practical information on curent practicies and case studies in all countries. The European Inventory is closely connected to the European Guidelines on validation. That it is why it is one of key tool for realizing the lifelong learning in Europe.

European Inventory 2010: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/about-cedefop/projects/validation-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning/european-inventory-scope.aspx

European guidelines for validation non-formal and informal learning

People are acquiring knowledge anytime, everywhere and in different context: education, work and leisure activities. It is becoming more common to learn outside the formal education in informal way. This new learning processes require the learning outcomes to be recognized so identified and then validated. Validating is seen as the crucial element influencing on the improving the lifelong and lifewide learning. That is why EU is putting such huge value on making the learning visible and value. The process of validating is interdependent requires involvement of different kind of stakeholders than in traditional certification. To strengthen the comparability and transparency of the European validation process, its framework and methodology  at the national, regional and local level EU the principles for validating the informal and non-formal learning were created. The guidelines aim to support the countries, regions and sectors in conducting successful validation by providing practical set of instruments.

Full version of publication: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/publications/5059.aspx

Benefits for the organization engaging in validation processes

Organizations who are perceiving  the informal learning as the valuable asset of the company as well as are engaged in validation processes can get significant profits out of this approach. According to the 2010 European Inventory those are as following:

  • increase motivation and interest in workplace practice on the part of the employee/learner;
  • reduce the amount of time needed to complete a qualification and therefore require less time away from the workplace;
  • generate new ideas and developments in the workplace as a result of a process of reflection on practice by the employee/learner;
  • improve employee retention and reduce recruitment and training costs.

In some cases the company needs to demonstrate that its workforce is highly qualified, for example when competing for contracts or seeking insurance for safe working on an assignment.

Source European Inventory 2010: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/about-cedefop/projects/validation-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning/european-inventory-scope.aspx

Benefits of recognizing and validating informal learning for individuals

Recognizing and validating the informal learning process outcomes is significantly beneficial for individuals. The example of tangible advantages are as following:

  1. Improvement confidence and self‑esteem of learners; The process of reflection that recognition of prior informal learning involves, and promoting the value of learning by self and others, often leads to increased self‑confidence as a learner.
  2. Increase the motivation to continue learning. Planning for further learning: the process of validation helps learners to think about what they have achieved so far and identify their strengths and skills. This helps to identify longer-term goals and what they need to do to achieve them.
  3. Gain access to formal education. Gaining credit for learning from experience for purposes of further formal learning: this may lead to entry to a program of study at a college or university or allow joining at a more advanced level, thus shortening the study period.
  4. Gain access to employment. Recognizing the competences based on informal learning can help people to get new job, get more professional duties, get promotion.


Why recognition and validation of informal learning outcomes is so important?

In the era where the people and their know-how has become the most valuable asset in the labor market as well as within companies and institutions, informal learning has often become much more valued by the educational and business environment than outcomes of traditional education.

In the European Union there is increasing value put on recognizing learners’ knowledge, skills, competences gained in the informal learning context outside the traditional educational systems. Acquiring the knowledge and competences in an informal way emphasizes the necessity to validate those learning experiences and to make them visible and recognized in all of Europe, and makes them usable for further personal development.

That is why recognizing, organizing, monitoring and validating the informal learning process is such an important issue for employees and employers, students and teachers. Informal learning experiences, outcomes recognition and validation are crucial factor for creating a learning society and knowledge-based European economy.

It is very difficult to identify, collect, track, categorize, recognize, validate and make visible to others the informal learning outcomes which otherwise can be forgotten and lost. The TRAILER project is addressing this problem by providing the solution for keeping the informal learning outcomes alive, available, easy to update for learners and visible for institution.

More information about the recognition and validation practice in EU: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/publications/5059.aspx
More about the TRAILER project: www.trailerproject.eu

Why it is worthy to use TRAILER?- service functionalities and components

The TRAILER software is an innovative ICT-based service working in two (complementary) environments: learners and employers (in a professional context) or teachers (in an academic context). It allows learners to identify evidences of informal learning and link them with competences under development.

Learners are able to decide what they would like to share with their employer/teacher. Employers and teachers can use this information in order to support knowledge management, curricula management and finding the best person suited for a certain task. Another advantage is that it makes rediscovering competences within the company/team possible.

The first stage task for learner when working within the TRAILER service is to identify, collect the evidences of Informal Learning Activity (ILA). The next stage is taking the learner to another component of the toolset which is called Portfolio where learner need to describe, tag and associate the evidence with the required competences. The learner can choose the competences from the general list which has already defined by the institution or create own competency in order to match better to the kind of chosen informal learning activity ( if the competency is not already provided in the competency catalogue).

The second essential function of the TRAILER ICT based service is the “peer recommender” option which gives the tool the collaborative and social scope. Peer recommender option is promoting social learning by enables learners to find and select the people with similar competences to the ones defined by the learner. This feature is most useful to find people with whom the learner can somehow collaborate with. This can be used for creating teams dedicated to project-based work. Additionally, by using the TRAILER tool, the learner can benefit from organizing and registering informal learning in a way he sees as most convenient.

Showcase manager is the component which is useful for learners and can be helpful from an institutional point of view as well. This option enables the learner to organize the informal learning experiences/evidences/ competences in the showcase form by creating the online individual informal learning portfolio – ePortfolio.

Using the TRAILER toolset within the institution and company will facilitate with a range of decision making. Inbuilt in institutional environment the Decision Support System with search option make possible to look for the learners/employees with concrete required competences is supporting the decision making process within the company in the knowledge and HR management context. The system allows institution to have better, wider and up to date insight about the competences that learners/employees posses ( support the knowledge management processes), facilitate the internal and external recruitment processes as well as the promotion possibilities of the employees, support the decision making processes within the institutions about the training gaps and demands, give better insight about employees skills to be able to make sustained decisions on embracing a new challenge or project/ have a view of the company/institution/team know-how.

Read more about project: www.trailerproject.eu
Download the demo version of the TRAILER software: HERE
See the tutorial video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=I-QSpdjKjAk

TRAILER software as ePortfolio tool for managing the competences

TRAILER toolset creates a communication channels between informal learning activity and institutional environments, which the learner will use to make the informal learning visible to the organization (employer or university) in order to enter into a dialogue about the competences developed through these informal learning processes. TRAILER as the ePortfolio tool is supporting the processes of identifying and validating the informal learning experiences. This is done by facilitating the identification of its outcomes by the learner on the one hand and then its recognition by the institution on the other. All he process can be done due to the following components: ILC (Informal Learning Collector), Portfolio Component, Showcase Manager, Peer Recommender, DSS (Decision Support System)

Generally speaking the TRAILER toolset is a set of ICT tools dedicated to the learner as well as the institutional environment. TRAILER as the ePortfolio tool is characterized by the following features:

  • ILC- Informal Learning Collector where learner can identify, collect, categorize and describe informal learning evidences
  • Portfolio Component where learners can recognize, organize, categorize and keep track of informal learning evidences, activities and associate them with the competences, build own informal learning ePortfolio in the Showcase Manager section, publish to allow institutions to collect the data about this concrete competency, look for the learners with the same informal learning experience profile in peer recommender component.
  • Institutional Environment with Decision Support System collecting the data about all learners/employees informal learning profile and construct the different kind of presentation of available data which can be supportive in the decision making process in the company especially in the frame of human recourses and knowledge management.

Read more about project: www.trailerproject.eu
Download the demo version of the TRAILER software: HERE
See the video about the TRAILER from institutional perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nr6UL2-b3PE

TRAILER – e-Portfolio for collecting and recognizing informal learning process and outcomes

Maria C. Viegas, Maria A. Marques, Gustavo R. Alves, Valentina Zangrando, Nikolas Galanis, Francis Brouns, José Janssen, Elwira Waszkiewicz, Aleksandra Mykowska, Miguel A. Conde González, Alicia García Holgado and Francisco J. García Peñalvo

Nowadays in the era of evolution of new technologies, Internet, social media, online communities the way how people are learning is changing. Additionally the widely increasing application of IT determines peoples’ life’s by assisting them in all sphere of every day based activity. This changed the way how the learning processes are proceeding. People are learning all the time, in every situation, at every place and are acquiring knowledge in several ways: formal and informal. However from some years informal learning has become more transparent way of acquiring knowledge both in educational and workplace contexts.

This work presents functionality and benefits of TRAILER innovative service based on Information & Communication Technologies created within the European Commission funded project. TRAILER is aiming at aid the collection and visibility of informal learning in the educational and business context. From the functionality point of view the TRAILER project is providing an ICT based online toolset for the management of competences and skills acquired through informal learning experiences, both from the perspective of the user and the institutional perspective for both the educational and business environment.

Paper presented at ICERI 2013
Sevilla (Spain), 18 – 19 November 2013

Recognition of Prior Learning at EU projects

Importance of achieving LLL objectives in Europe is highlighted in many policy papers. This has been reflected in national efforts across EU to adapt or to create their national qualification frameworks (NQF) and prepare its practical use and implementation. However, use of new opportunities linked to NQF, in particular it’s potential linked to formal recognition of non-and informal learning requires cultural change, practical tools and knowledge.

The project called “University Recognition of Prior Learning Centres- Bridging Higher Education with Vocational Education and Training” provides unique opportunity for transfer of knowledge from partners coming from higher education systems with an established process of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) –Scotland and France – to countries currently developing or at an early stage of implementing their NQFs – Croatian and Poland.

More information about project: http://www.u-rpl.eu/

10 facts about informal learning

Informal learning is ongoing lifelong and life wide process which is not organized, structured, spontaneous, the learners and teachers are highly motivated. It is said that informal learning is less valued because its outcomes are not quantifiable. informal learning is not tangible process and there are no exams, certification etc. it  is difficult to measure it outcomes. That is the biggest challenge nowadays to recognize and validate the knowledge acquired informally in order to make it valuable, valid and visible to others so it can be utilized in formal environment.

1. Informal learning is never organized.

Informal learning is not having any formulas or guidelines. Informal learning is taking place anytime, anywhere, in different contexts including work, surfing on internet or leisure activities etc.

2. People learning informally are higly self-motivated

Unlike the formal learning environment of school, informal learners are often eager and attentive. The learners are interested in getting deeper knowledge in interested subject.

3. Informal learning is often spontaneous.

Learning happens anywhere, any time. The learner is motivated to get some knowledge about particular topic or get impulse to understand some topic.  On the other hand the informal learning “teacher” is conscious about the necessity to share their knowledge or skills with other party in the particular situation. For example, at work new worker did not know how to operate the copy machine. The colleague noticed that and demonstrated in practice how to copy and make scan. This informal knowledge sharing helped new worker and was a great example of spontaneous informal learning situation.

4. There is no formal curriculum.

There is no program of study or prescriptive methods.

5. The “teacher” is someone who cares – and who has more experience than the learner.

In the informal learning the word “teacher” is here is a bit of a misnomer because professional teachers all have credentials, certificates or a teaching license. In the informal learning context “teacher” can be anybody who noticed the opportunity to share the knowledge/experience/skills with someone else.

6. The world is your classroom

Nowadays learning is not only happening in a school or in a classroom. Informal learning is ongoing process taking place everywhere: home, the neighborhood park, work, train, bus etc.

7. Informal learning is difficult to quantify.

Due to the fact that informal learning is not tangible process and there are no exams, certification etc. it  is difficult to measure it outcomes. That is the biggest challenge nowadays to recognize and validate the knowledge acquired informally in order to make it valuable, valid and visible to others so it can be utilized.

8. Informal learning outcomes are underestimated. Often percived by academics and skeptics as being not worthwile.

Informal learning is often underestimated, perceived as the less valuable due to the fact that it is not quantified, not certified, not visible.

9. Informal learning is programmed in our life from early stage.

Everything that kids are learning happening informally: speaking, walking, good manners, eating etc. They are learning by observing and coping parents and the environment around them. Without informal learning, we would never be able to cope in a formal learning environment.

10. Informal learning is lifelong learning process.

Informal learning is a ongoing lifelong process. We are learning as the kids from the parents. As we get older, we learn from our friends. As we get job, we learn from our co-workers. As we retire, we still learn from friends and also from those younger than us for example you to deal with new technology: operate the computer, surfing on internet etc.  It is said that informal learning is the process which keep people vibrant, mentally active and interested in the world around as well as it is essential for the intellectual self-development.