Service related competences
Europe is evolving into a service-based society. Hence professional lives are increasingly determined by concepts like customer orientation, sectoral and international collaboration, and the need for continuous learning to adapt to rapidly changing demands.
Consequently values and competences like external (customer) orientation, team work/ cooperation, and social competences necessary for effective management in the service sector are becoming competitive factors at the job level and as such aspired competences both for employment and societal reasons.
Validation of service related competences
These rather cross-cutting competences are only to some parts subject of formalised trainings (non-formal VET trainings) but often learnt in informal contexts, be it in extracurricular activities connected with school education, societal learning (active citizenship) or organisational learning in higher education beyond formalised curricula.
Thus the mentioned competences are being developed in an educational sphere that overlaps all sectors tackled by the LLP: VET (LdV), AE (Grundtvig), School Education (Comenius) and also HE (Erasmus).
As far as the validation of these competences is concerned an “off the shelf”-assessment against standardised systems (e.g. entirely developed on basis of EQF, ECVET and ECTS) is barely conceivable because in most of the cases they are not suitable to display non-cognitive learning outcomes that determine service orientation, such as interaction, tolerance, commitment, motivation etc.
Furthermore, at present stage there are hardly any feasible IT-based systems for assessing, evidencing and visualisation of learning outcomes and competence developments in connection with the formal validation systems ECTS, EQF and the EUROPASS certification.
IT-based system to evaluate learning outcomes (LEVEL5)
The project on hand will take up the challenge to bridge this gap with an innovative, IT-based assessment and evidencing system. VITA will blend formal validation approaches based on EQF with the ICT-based LEVEL5-system that was specifically designed to assess and evidence also non-cognitive learning outcomes in informal learning settings.
Since 2005 LEVEL5 has been developed and tested in four LLP-funded projects – ACT, ACT-NET, VIP and VILMA as comprehensive methodology for assessing and validating competences acquired in informal and non-formal learning settings predominantly in Adult Education (AE).
It describes competence developments on the basis of learning outcomes and classifies them on three dimensions (cognitive, active and affective) and five levels. In contrast to EQF also the affective dimension of competence development is taken into account and learning outcomes are being displayed in a process oriented way.
Thus, informal competence development can be precisely assessed, also in the course of a non-formal and informal learning setting.
A standard assessment procedure and a software for 3-D visualisation with a built in certification instrument are parts of the LEVEL5 assessment and evidencing system.
By 2011 the system has been successfully applied in more than 50 informal learning projects, ranging from self-organised grass-root learning activities to EU-funded education projects. LEVEL5 was scientifically evaluated in the framework of two international PhD theses.
Validation of service-related learning outcomes with an IT-based Assessment and Evidencing system
Now this successful system originating from informal general adult learning is to be transferred to
- rather formalised vocational education (learning at the workplace),
- higher education, and also
- extracurricular school education
and interconnected via innovative ICT enhanced technologies with EQF, ECVET and EUROPASS validation and certification systems also taking into account other certification systems like the Swiss “Bildungspass”.
VITA will focus on assessing and evidencing service related learning outcomes that are rather difficult to validate with other validation systems. This relates for instance to those transversal competences that are of increasing importance in a mobile society like customer relation, learning to learn, intercultural understanding and teamwork/collaboration.
Documentation and evidences will be provided in a specific VITA-ePortfolio. Here individuals may compile their own competence profile based on learning outcomes gained in informal, non-formal but also formalised learning offers that are evidenced with the help of the LEVEL5 system.
The learning outcomes shall be assessed, evidenced and validated in a comparable and transferable way in order to enhance the diffusion of learners between the learning systems (from school, vocational, adult education and higher education) hence to support a personalisation of learning pathways.
Via a powerful IT-based system to evaluate service-related learning outcomes gained in informal and inter-sectoral learning VITA will create opportunities for learners of all ages and in various learning contexts to evidence these competences and to enrich their personal, EUROPASS based CVs with sound and appealing proofs and certificates. Thus LEVEL5 will be used to validate specifically the informal and non-cognitive elements to offer an instrument to enrich the European reference, certification and validation systems.
VITA stands for “Validation of Service related Learning Outcomes with an IT based Assessment and Evidencing System. It is aiming at validating personal, social and or-ganisational competences in different informal learning contexts; e.g. in and around schools, higher education institutes, the workplace and in adult learning contexts.
With its cross-cutting approach which applies across different educational sectors VITA will contribute to a higher variability of learning pathways and eventually to a better matching of learning contents and individual learning styles. Documentation and evidences will be provided in the LEVEL5 software and the VITA-e-portfolio.
VITA seeks to fills a gap by providing a system to validate personal and social competences that are mostly neglected by formal validation systems. Interfaces to formal validation and certification systems will be developed, in order to improve the recognition of these, mostly informally acquired, competences.
Why does the consortium wish to undertake this project?
Since the agreement by the European institutions in 2008, the EQF is being put into practice across Europe. It encourages countries to relate their national qualifications systems to the EQF so that all new qualifications issued from 2012 carry a reference to an appropriate EQF level. By connecting LEVEL5 and EQF, VITA delivers its outcomes and approaches directly on the European level by feeding its deliverables directly into this Europe-wide system, thus responding to the need to develop and test suitable tools for putting these systems into practice.
The EQF is a descriptive device for translating common qualifications in various countries. However, what the EQF does not provide, is a set of core criteria upon which its eight levels of learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) are built. It is an open system based on sets of content related reference systems that have to be set by the providers of educational programmes themselves (a quasi holistic or “gestalt” appreciation of learning outcomes) (Zarifis, 2010). VITA contributes to the European Qualification Framework by establishing concrete sets of reference systems for service related competences that can be transferred across other European member states and vocational sectors.
The main driver behind the EQF is the promotion of European mobility by comparable qualification frames. However EQF validation only considers cognitive and behaviouristic performances. It neglects the affective component which is key to major factors influencing not only service related competences but eventually also the mobility of an individual, be it customer orientation, intercultural competences, learning to learn, willingness to change etc. VITA will also deliver an important contribution to European mobility by introducing this affective dimension which is normally not subject to assessment and evaluation.
VITA will further enrich European certification systems (e.g. EUROPASS), since it will for the first time visualise and document social and personal skills and competences and the competence developments in an evidenced based way.
The connection of both approaches (EQF and LEVEL5) also contributes to the bridging of gaps between the educational sectors in Europe (represented by Comenius, LdV, GRU and Erasmus) by blending formal and informal learning. Furthermore, a strong European value is added by taking into account the needs of the stakeholders in the field in different European countries and testing the adapted system on local, regional, national and transnational levels. Thus, diverse working and learning cultures in Europe – Central, North, South, East – will be reflected and a truly European product will emerge.
Finally European learners will benefit most from VITA, since they receive a personalised web-based system that offers the opportunity to collect and to compile comparable proofs and documentation of skills and competences that could not (or only partially) be evidenced before.
BUPNET GmbH (Göttingen, Germany)
VIA University College (Aarhus, Denmark)
SVEB (Zurich, Switzerland)
Aontas – National Adult Learning Organisation (Dublin, Ireland)
Vytautas Magnus University (Kaunas, Lithuania)
INSUP FORMATION (Bordeaux, France)
die Berater® (Vienna, Austria)
METU – Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey)
Aristotle University (Thessaloniki, Greece)
blinc eG (Göttingen, Germany)
For more information, please visit VITA Project Webpage.