The ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab is designed around the concept of Information and Communication Technologies innovations, applied for the enhancement of learning and teaching processes and practices in environments that have been primarily designed to support learning at work or within a professional and adult learning context. The ultimate boundary of the ELIG Lab is however fluid as Higher Education is providing more and more offers targeted at adult or professionals, including learning at work; while on the opposite end more and more private actors do provide higher an post graduate education offers.
The ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab worked with real users who were assisted in applying a range of project findings in a real context, exploring how their effective adoption could be assured and supported in this context.
In line with the HoTEL project objective, the ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab attempted to explore how learning theories contribute to new ways of using ICT for learning in practice, and with a particular focus on learning at work, or education provided by corporates. Therefore the lab did not limit itself to any given learning paradigm, learning theory, or learning practice, but instead on the criteria ‘innovativeness’.
The types of innovative technology to be implemented and/or tested within the Lab were case dependent. With regards to areas of learning a particular focus had been placed on learning at work; or within a professional and adult learning context.
The purposes of the ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab was to encourage users to interact, collaborate, and contribute with others, so that they could develop competences and achieve valuable knowledge. For this reason the following type of stakeholder groups had been involved in the lab.
- “TEL innovators” of any background including within the ELIG Lab context the case owners. Within the 3 practical cases two distinct groups of TEL innovators had been addressed:
- Micro innovators, such as the ones reached via the practical Lab phase like Comenius or Simpiens, whose innovation has been developed at a micro level and who wanted to test their innovation towards scalability and mainstreaming.
- Early stage innovators, such as the ones reached via the practical Lab phase like Lab4Ed and whose innovation was at an early stage of development and therefore should be tested exploring the options for further development. This group had been in particular involved in the practical case 3 Lab4Ed as part of an idea contest that had been carried out alongside the Lab4Ed piloting activities.
- “HoTEL Lab managers” who were taking active part in the Lab activities.
- “Innovation experts” from the ELIG membership, such as from Pearson Education, Line Education, Towards Maturity, PAU Education, etc., who brought approaches and expertise from outside TEL Labs and that had been involved in a number of ways, such as via the various workshops and seminars.
- The wider international academic and professional community, as involved via the workshops and seminars run within the ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab.
The ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab activities, including assessment and evaluation of cases and approaches, have been supported through regular engagement with local stakeholders from the target group. The geographical proximity of the three practical cases, in the northern Portugal and greater Porto region, allowed for and facilitated engagement with the local target groups, through inter-alia regular weekly physical meet ups and virtual follow up actions during the month February to July 2014.
The ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab consisted of 3 practical and 7 theoretical assessments, plus an additional set of grassroots innovators that were experimenting new forms of learning in their own context. Within the practical cases, products and services from educational institutions were tested and assessed based on the HoTEL ISM, namely Comenius, Simpiens and Lab4Ed. From the 7 theoretical cases, 5 European organisations (Pearson Group, Laureate Online Education/University of Liverpool, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, FLOQQ and Iversity) and 2 American institutions (Apollo Group and edX) were committed with ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab. Additionally, the set of grassroots innovators had been recruited from a Learnovation idea contest that was carried out by Lab4Ed. Following there’s a brief overview of three cases:Comenius
The “Centro de Formação Avançada Comenius” is a VET institution based on Porto who conceptualized a postgraduate course on e-learning conception. Planned to start in April, its first edition was postponed due to the lack of participants. The ambition and objective was to allow participants to design and implement e-learning actions. Additionally, in order to follow new learning trends, Comenius aimed to improve the training quality, to provide a solution for current e-learning autonomy, and to bring a better understanding of useful e-learning tools and platforms so that they can be used adequately.Lab4Ed
With the main objective to support education and technology locals and grassroot innovators, through the capacity building of educational actors and using open learning resources, this non-profit association and early stage innovator had a support from the Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab on the development of an idea contest. In order to empower students to better structure and develop their innovative ideas into projects, through the introduction and use of an analytical tool (the Pearson Efficacy Framework), the contest allowed those students to apply with their ideas or academic projects related to ICT and learning practices. Lab4Ed was then creating the opportunity to improve students’ transversal skills and capacities.Pearson Group
Throughout the ELIG Learning@Work Exploratorium Lab, the Pearson Group was always an active stakeholder, whether collaborating as external experts on the cases analyses and sessions, or providing support through the introduction and use of an analytical tool. Hence, the Pearson Efficacy Framework (PEF) was not only a useful resource for the innovation support but also a tested product on the Lab itself. In a nutshell, PEF is an interactive tool that allows users to self-assess their products or services in a structured way, obtaining recommendations on what to change so to achieve the product’s or service’s efficacy. It can help to identify gaps and risks on the path to efficacy, allowing users to decide how to progress. The aim of this tool is to be a primary and essential intervention process where users can solve the randomness of initial thoughts, and be able to structure their ideas in the most effective way.
Results and lessons learned
In line with the methodology and objectives of the HoTEL exploratory labs, the following general lessons could be obtained from the cases:
(1) Vast varying definition of what is success: one of the major difficulties towards innovation development within an educational setting was to properly define “success” (particularly while using the HoTEL lab protocols).
(2) Difficulty on understanding and assessing impact: the set of dimensions that can be considerable to analyse the innovative impact to the target-group, whether individually or in general, and/or to the working and learning environment makes it difficult to strictly assess the real impact.
(3) Comparison between theoretical and practical cases: several differences were found while comparing the outcomes of the theoretical and practical case approaches, regarding some dimensions as communication, interaction, assessment and involvement of the stakeholders throughout the process.
(4) Observed efficacy of the physical support complemented with virtual follow-ups: the physical support on face-to-face meetings, appeared to be the best approach for a good understanding of the problematic and the recommendations developed through the process.
(5) The HoTEL Lab methodology as a barrier: the HoTEL Lab methodology turned out to be a barrier, notably with regards to two inter-related points, (1) perceived benefits and gains, and the (2) collection of information focus of the support process.
(6) Basic practical hands on support and guidance in analytics as an enabler: basic practical hands on support and guidance in analytics as provided within the practical cases, including via tools such the Pearson analytical framework, appeared to work as an enabler.