The Learn@Work Socrates-Minerva Research Project 2005–2007
What did it do and what happened with it since?
The Learn@Work Project
Learn@Work was an European Union (EU) research project funded under the Socrates Programme for Education and Culture Minerva strand for open and distance learning (ODL) and for information communications technologies (ICT) in education (see Socrates Programme 2005). The project started in October 2005 and finished in September 2007. The partners in the project were: Glasgow-Caledonian University, Scotland (lead); Alborg University, Denmark; Audio Visual Technologies, Informatics and Telecommunications (ATiT), Belgium; Institute for Future Studies, University of Innsbruck, Austria; Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.
The aim of the research project, as outlined in the final proposal document, was as follows:
To enhance the induction and support for learners in the workplace by building on ICT models developed and tested in distance learning and e-learning ... adapted and enhanced for a work-based organisation and learning environment ... models we will explore include the use of online communities and workgroups to reduce the isolation of the individual learner, the development of richer support and ‘scaffolding’ models and techniques to enable on-going interaction after the learning event through the creation of sustainable communities of learners. Learn@Work will establish an expert group to develop a ‘state of the art’ report on current theory and practice. This will inform the design of a common induction resource which will be piloted in partners’ work-based learning programmes. Induction is particularly important, equipping the learner with the social and intellectual capital to successfully integrate and participate in knowledge construction independently and collaboratively. From these evaluated pilots a guide for learners and a guide to good practice for developers will be produced for the wider community. These will be disseminated and discussed via the Learn@Work online community and a range of workshops culminating in a high-profile Learn@Work conference event.
This text was informed by the assessment comments of the independent experts nominated by the Socrates Technical Assistance Office which identified weaknesses in the pre-proposal document in relation to building on other similar research projects in Europe generally, and in relation to the vagueness of the target groups of worker-learners for the pilots and the eventual, sustainable users of the products of the project in light of the small numbers of industry partners involved. These comments resulted in the inclusion of a state-of-the-art report prefacing the design of the generic resource to be tested in the partner countries.
The independent expert assessment of the final aims quoted above likewise identified the dearth of non-contractual partners as a weakness for sustainability and further development of collaborative relationships. The assessors additionally identified the ‘generic’ nature of the eventual ‘common induction resource’ as possibly problematic when the design of specific scaffolding models would be required for each workplace context. An additional weakness identified was the western-European orientation of the project and the lack of involvement of new EU member states at least as pilot sites for testing the initial resources. While the last point above was not particularly significant as the project unfolded, the previous points in relation to the difficulty of designing an appropriate generic resource for multiple contexts, and the lack of coherence among pilot partners which could inform such a sustainable, generic model, did prove to be real weaknesses in both the process and products of the project. These aspects are dealt with later in relation to the resources and pilot groups used by the different partners, and in relation to the challenge of developing theoretical and conceptual frameworks which would be the basis for the good practice guide for developers after the project ended.