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.

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