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.

Implications of Identity Negotiation Research for the Design of the TRAILER e-Portfolio

This paper focuses on the question how to design an e-portfolio so that it optimally enables learners to gain credit (either literally or figuratively speaking) for competences attained through informal learning starting from the premise that this process can be considered an identity negotiation process. It provides a review of research findings in the area of identity negotiation and online identities in light of the implications they hold for the design of an e-portfolio that is meant to facilitate identity negotiation.

A pre-print is also available from OUNL repository http://hdl.handle.net/1820/4597

Janssen, J., Berlanga, A. J., & Sloep, P. B. (2012). Implications of Identity Negotiation Research for the Design of the TRAILER e-Portfolio. In Proceedings of the ePortfolio and Identity Conference (ePIC) 2012 (pp. 78-82). July, 9-11, 2012, London, UK.

E-portfolios in lifelong learning

The current knowledge society requires its citizens to continuously maintain and update existing knowledge and competences and thus engage in lifelong learning. Acquiring key competences, such as digital, intercultural and communicative competences is crucial to keep up with the fast changing ways of society. As people need to combine their competence development with work and family life, they need flexibility in content and logistics. Consequently, informal learning and social learning in networks play an important role in this. However, it might be difficult to get their informally acquired competences recognized. In this paper we describe how an e-portfolio could assists learners in gathering, maintaining and organizing their informal learning and competences in order to show and share this with others and present how this is implemented in the TRAILER e-portfolio.

A pre-print is also available from OUNL repository http://hdl.handle.net/1820/5130

Brouns, F., Vogten, H., Janssen, J., & Finders, A. (2013). E-portfolios in lifelong learning. In F. J. García-Peñalvo (Ed.). Proceedings of the 2013 Conference on Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality, TEEM2013 (pp. 535-540). November, 14-15, 2013, Salamanca, Spain, http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2536536.2536618.

Academic context: Open university in a small city of the Netherlands

This university located in a small city in the Netherlands counts with more or less 25000 students. The pilot was target for a group of 21 PhD students. From this sample of students (with ages between 26-40 years old) some engaged with the TRAILER tool and only 14 were considered active users, showing 81% of actions performed in the 2 platforms. This participation was developed in the Center for Learning Sciences and Technologies PhD programs in the field of Education and Computer Science.

As for the tool usage, they recorded a value of the average number of competences added per informal learning activity (ILA) below average (comparing with the other educational cases). However they presented the higher number of days of usage and actions per day. As far as publishing their activities the number is also low, following the pattern of the other cases.

They showed a fair prior recognition of IL: participants agreed they learned a lot from diverse natures and they debated about what could really be considered informal learning (IL). Their perception and awareness of IL increased for some but for others did not changed through the pilot activities. However this participation allowed them to reflect on their activities by documenting IL in a more structured way. Even though they considered that they had other means of sharing their competences with their supervisor, and so they do not see much use on having a tool like this.

They also shared deeper concerns about the use the teacher or employer could make of it: it might be useful for a supervisor, but only when clear definitions and agreements were made about competences to develop and use of the tool. Even so they also identified some advantages and possible benefits in working with a tool like this, such as being able to show other team members what learning activities one has done, observing the match between institutions and students or employees’ competences and interests that could be used that to make decisions.

In practice, participants considered that IL activities were considered FORMAL when they contributed to competences needed to their PhD and where specially concerned the validation of these IL learning activities (which was not an issue in TRAILER project). This undermined their perception of the TRAILER idea. Nevertheless these students (perhaps because they were PhD students), were very alert and critic about specific issues in the tool, which allowed to identify important drawbacks and aspects that needed revision. They also suggested a mobile client would have been much easier, as it would allow for learning activities to be recorded at the moment they occurred.

Academic context: Large university in a big city in Poland

This university located in a big city in Poland counts with more or less 40000 students. The pilot was developed with a group of 13 third year students. From this universe, a sample of 15 students (with ages between 18-40 years old) engaged with the TRAILER tool and only 7 were considered active users, showing 61% of actions performed in the 2 platforms. In the educational context, this participation was the one that recorded a higher value of the average number of competences added per informal learning activity (ILA), even though inferior to the generality of professional contexts cases. They also presented a high number of users competences, even though none of them was validated in the second pilot. However in terms of published activities, the number is also low, following the pattern of the other cases.

They presented a fair prior recognition of informal learning (IL), which greatly improved with the work developed in this pilot. They scored the most important activity that potentially develops their IL as being “Conversations”. In general, comparing with other cases, they show the higher level of agreement relatively to the need for IL activities in “being better prepared to find a job” and “developing a deeper knowledge”.

They stressed that one of the advantages of this idea was being able to share their IL with others. As they see it: at the university this tool could be very valuable for students who are studying at different specializations so they could share their own resources with others on Portfolio; in big corporations where people are quite anonymous, for creating the project teams, sharing knowledge and IL resources and managing the competences within company; ultimately it could be used to search for people with similar competences and use their links for enriching our IL resources. Some also point out that this was a nice tool for creating showcases, which may be helpful when looking for the job since nowadays employers are paying more attention to the candidate’ IL competences.

There were several usability issues reported related to operational procedures and they stressed that the tool should be less time consuming and more intuitive. They would also suggest it could work on android and smartphones, in order to expand the usage of the tool more widely.

The person contacted to participate in the second pilot was the head of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Management. He agreed that the educational and business environment was becoming more aware of the importance of IL. Also that this tool represented a good way of keeping IL outcomes alive, available, visible and updated. He also shared that he believed that it could play the role of the bridge between the educational environment and business sector requirements and expectations.