Author(s): Liisa Ilomäki (1) and Ulriikka Savela-Huovinen (2)
Affiliation(s): (1) University of Helsinki, (2) Varia Vantaan Ammattiopisto (Vantaa Vocational Institute)
Date of publication: January 6, 2016
The Educational Problem
Work-based learning is an important part of any vocational training. Realization requires commitment and resources from the employer, the organizer of education as well as from the student. On-the-job-learning period ensures that students' skills meet the requirements of the labor market. Practical work encourages students to learn and carry out studies till the end. During the-job-learning period student can make not only professional studies, but also general studies such as chemistry and mathematics.
There are a few problems related to the training period:
- In vocational education, it is difficult to keep a contact with students while they are practicing. For students, practicing period is a good possibility to apply what they have learnt in school, but it easily remains somewhat separated from the school learning.
- Because students work in different places, they cannot share their experiences and learn from each other. Students usually keep various types of diaries during their practicing period, but these are mainly shared afterwards, often only to the teacher, and the issues and ideas during the practicing period have already become outdated.
- Many workplaces do not give permission to use mobile phones or tablets at the workplace, and this creates problems in keeping contact with the students or to ask students to report their learning experiences. A good example is that college students work in customer service or as practical nurses, and mobiles are not allowed in restaurants or hospitals. In some workplaces, it is possible to write about your job during the day but even then, pictures and videos might not be allowed. In addition, all students do not want to write in public, or the workplaces do not want that students publish their daily routines in the Internet. It is a problem if students cannot share what they have learnt while on the-job-learning period.
- One more problem is how students can/will do collaborative work if they do not know each other well. They have to have something in common before the collaboration period.
Therefore, in Varia Vocational Institute teachers created virtual courses for students for their practical training. The courses of several professional fields (e.g. in hairdressing, tourism, electricity, cars) consist of various individual and collaborative activities. For the virtual courses, teachers used solutions in which they connected the professional practices to be developed into the use of digital technology; e.g., professional web sites were used for searching information, cameras and videos of mobile tools were used to collect and share outcomes of activities, collaborative environments like blogs were used to collaboratively reflect the outcomes; this helped to create collaboration between students.
The learning activities were directly linked to the situations (e.g., in practical nursery ) in the workplace. Closed digital environments (e.g. Fronter, Moodle) were used to share pictures or videos only for the defined group of students and teachers.
Concrete solution for using technology was that all students have a tablet or a mobile phone. Students were guided to share such materials from the workplace which they are allowed to share. In addition, students were also guided to ask for permission to take pictures or videos from defined situations in the workplaces.
Students use mobile phones or tablets for completing the tasks either at the workplace (if it is allowed) or at home. For example, in hairdressing or hair colouring the activities consist of taking and sharing a photo of how to protect the customer when doing the hair colouring, taking and sharing a photo of the tools to use for the protection, talking with the workplace tutor or colleagues in the workplace about allergies and sharing their experiences. Students share their learning experience immediately, not late afterwards.
The solution works in very different types of vocational training, and also for students who have difficult to write or who are not been on writing: many of the activities emphasize visual outcomes.
Virtual courses developed in Varia Vocational Institute (in Finnish) are available in the following address: www.verkkovaria.fi.