Encouraging Competence Leaps CompLeap – designing user-centred digital services for life-long learners

Apr 17, 2019

Learning to learn is our most important skill – in the future perhaps more than ever. Digitalisation is changing the job market, and new competence needs are popping up rapidly. What if people’s current competencies and future competence needs could be interactively mapped out for them in a digital service? This is ultimately what we are aiming at in the EU funded CompLeap project.

Today, lifelong learning is as relevant a topic as ever. We learn new skills and gain new competences throughout our lives. Yet, people and policy makers are concerned about people’s future employability in a rapidly changing and inter-dependent world. Routine processes will drastically decline while people-skills flourish in the era of digitalization. We already today have an acute challenge with the mismatch of skills and competences in the labour market.
The CompLeap project tries to create solutions for strengthening people’s self-awareness of both their current competencies and the paths they can follow to gain further know-how. This is done through building a unique competence profile of formal and non-formal competencies.

We want to build a service where the learner can visualize and gain valuable feedback on previous education, strengths, skills and competences, work experience and future ambitions. Through providing valuable competence development prospects, we want to contribute to better matched competence supply and demand – serving individual citizens, employers as well as decision-makers.
Moreover, CompLeap aims at building new digital services, which can be adopted for use in any EU country. To find an optimal solution for competence development, we focus on the needs of diverse groups, such as NEETs, migrants and those who change jobs.

Soft Skills vs. Formal Education

The European Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning singled out eight key competence areas for the European Union in 2018. Personal, social and learning to learn competencies were among them. While formal competencies may be easier to prove through educational records and registers, soft skills and people skills are harder as they are measured in human interaction. However, for example soft skills gained within extra-curricular activities can now be packaged into Open Badges, which are an interesting tool for making informal competencies more visible.

A key element being developed in the CompLeap project is a modular competence profile. The Comptence profile can be built
throughout one’s life, including also future ambitions in education and working life. With an up-to-date competence profile, users can see and compare educational opportunities matching with their competence needs and interests. The idea is that learners can gain access to pre-existing national and Europe-wide registries and services with an up-to-date selection of educational opportunities fitting their personal competence profile. Using the services ends up in drawing a unique learner map, making use of “my data”, data from official registries, as well as data analytics.

CompLeap’s vision is to develop a useful tool for both citizens, but also institutions and guidance counsellors. Depicting the lifelong learner path and collecting feedback and data on usage would allow the educators to know more about learner needs – including what their students or learners might have planned for their future. The map of the learner’s competence prospects could prepare the student and counsellor better for joint situations of counselling. In sum, the digital services being built
within the CompLeap project aim at helping individuals in competence development and most importantly in anticipating future skills needed. The learner can see a personal competence development plan, mapping out potential next steps and competence development needs – i.e. find a direction. After all, people tend to have a fundamental need to have a sense of direction in this world filled with opportunities.

The Adaptable Learning Paths project

is nearing its end. We are collecting lessons learned, thoughts and even misses from our trail. The sense of community, trust and sharing in this inspiring and inspired team have, in many areas, opened the opportunity to reach something that was, initially, totally unexpected.

The objective of the project was to support upper secondary students as they clarified their study paths, progressed in their studies and grew and developed professionally. The project made use of digital footprints, the many opportunities brought by learning analytics and visual, personal study plans as well as methods of peer mentoring and peer coaching. The objective was to help those students who were in the danger of dropping out or had recently dropped out so that they could move forward on their study paths and fluently complete the transition to another school, another level of school or to working life.

The project was partly funded by the European Social Fund. As we compiled the project’s outcomes and outputs, our discussion brought up how greatly the world around educational institutions has changed. The road from the planning to the final report is a long one. The planning of the Adaptable Learning Paths project started in 2014.

It is impossible to foresee the extents and impacts of all different changes on the original project plan. Science, research, legislation and statutes change and develop. They have done so during the Adaptable Learning Paths project to even a greater extent than before. Digitalisation and the changes in the world are also seen in the reforms of the educational sector. All curricula have been renewed; the reform of Finland’s vocational upper secondary education with its qualifications reform has proceeded into its implementation phase; funding models have been changed; and the entrance examination changes and student selection criteria reforms for higher education institutions will be implemented phase by phase starting in 2019. The national Study Credit, Degree and Qualification Disclosure Service Koski and the General Data Protection Regulation GDPR ensure plentiful work for IT departments while mould-ridden school buildings and other problems weigh on all involved parties. The educational sector has been busy indeed.