Academic context: Large higher school institution in a big city of Portugal

This higher school located in a big city of Portugal represents one of the public schools of engineering in Portugal and counts with more than 6000 students. The pilot focused on a course at Automobile Mechanics degree, involving 30 first year students. From this universe, a sample of 14 students (with ages between 18-25 years old) engaged with the TRAILER tool and was considered active user, showing 52% of actions performed in the 2 platforms.  However the students’ participation was very low. The had a low average of competences added per informal learning activity (ILA), as in defining users competences: no one defined new competences, because as they stated, the general list of competences was so rich that they did not saw the need to add new ones. In terms of published activities, merely half of them were made public. This low usage issues might be related with the fact that the majority of students were freshman and therefore were not familiar with this kind of extra activities, not giving them great value. In fact the students who ended participating the most were some second year students, who were also enrolled in that course.

Initially they presented a fair recognition of informal learning (IL), which improved with the work developed in this pilot. The most important activities mentioned were: “Reading” and “Trial and error”. In general, comparing with other cases, they show the higher level of agreement relatively to the need for IL activities in “developing deeper knowledge”.

They stressed that one of the advantages of this idea was being able to make their IL visible to others, which would become useful to present along with their CV. They also identified some benefits in their academic life: in classes (in helping the teacher make more informed choices – namely defining students groups or managing course content), to course directors in managing and redirect job offers or to choose students to specific traineeships.

However the teacher in charge of this course, even though agreeing with these advantages, was much more reserved concerning their actual feasibility in traditional higher teaching in general. He argued that teachers cannot change the teaching model and it is not easy to perform different curricula for their students. However he considers that the tool might be worthwhile for students, yet they must first realize their IL as valid and useful.

Even though some usability issues were identified, some students considered the tool to be very useful and would like it to be available so they could use it on a regularly basis.

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