Vocational Education and Training through distance learning

Image: Guilherme Petri / Unsplash.com

Now that Vocational Education and Training (VET) schools have also been closed for a number of weeks in Europe, VET teachers and trainers are continuing to adapt their material from classroom to online learning. We take a look at some of the approaches in different countries.

There is an enormous variety of tools available to teachers and trainers to create their own learning material and environments, but the vast majority of them are not VET-specific. Ready-made material with VET-specific content is much less developed. In most cases, the tools provided by public or private stakeholders focus exclusively on theoretical knowledge. There is a risk that VET learners are disadvantaged compared with learners from other educational tracks, as more efforts are put into general school subjects.

Some European countries, however, have developed VET-specific content. As an example, the Croatian Agency for VET and Adult Education set up a portal and invited VET teachers, employers and other stakeholders to share their digital education materials related to vocational subjects. In Ireland, most apprentices are supported by a Moodle learning platform, and national authorities are thinking of expanding the availability of these resources.

This extraordinary situation is an opportunity for VET providers and learners alike to develop their digital competence. A majority of respondents to the recent European Commission survey call for support to develop simulation environments / virtual reality for VET-specific learning content.

In addition, the present situation strongly affects the Work-Based Learning (WBL) component of VET programmes. WBL is maintained in very few European countries (i.e. Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Finland) and only in sectors where companies’ activities are still going on.

However, in countries where WBL is a compulsory part of curriculum, education systems have taken measures to mitigate this problem until the situation stabilises. Spain, for example, has extended the calendar for work placements: the WBL component will be shortened and integrated into a tutored project module. In Austria, an amendment to the Vocational Training Act will allow short-term work also for apprentices, while Italy promotes the WBL experience through simulated enterprises.

Are you working in a VET school? What have been your experiences?