Published on 2013/02/13

Implementing and Improving Lifelong Learning in European Universities

Implementing and Improving Lifelong Learning in European Universities
The European Union has supported the development of a number of open courses that training and development practitioners can take to learn best practices in the development and delivery of continuing education.

When it comes to creating a new training and development program, the best way to get it off the ground is often through the sharing of best practices and experiences from those who have developed similar programs. However, this sharing and collaboration can often be difficult to come by.

In response, the European Union supported the IMPLEMENT project, “Implementing Lifelong Learning Universities (ULL) through staff training and development,” which was contracted, promoted and coordinated by the European Association for Lifelong Learning (EUCEN). The project lasted for two years, during which 12 partners, mostly European universities, created five open e-learning courses. The main task of the partnership was to adapt printed training materials produced in a previous project, and develop, enhance and test them as online courses targeted at staff working in ULL, either as newcomers or as experienced practitioners and managers seeking to reflect on their experience and improve ULL in their institutions.

The technical team at TecMinho (University of Minho, Portugal) along with IL3 (University of Barcelona, Spain) were responsible for the learning design of the e-courses. They developed an e-learning guide for the content experts and provided online tutoring to help the topic experts develop the courses over an e-learning platform (Moodle). Bibby Rumbelow Ltd (UK) provided support and advice in the adaptation process; EUCEN provided academic supervision and overall coordination.

As a result, lifelong learning practitioners can today openly access five e-learning courses, each containing learning activities, videos, case studies, discussion forums and Web 2.0 tools on:

  • Exploring Diversity in ULL (University of Graz, AT and University of Clermont-Ferrand, FR)
  • Curriculum in Partnership (University College of London, UK)
  • Implementing Institutional Change in ULL (University of Mainz, DE)
  • Recognition of Prior Learning (National Knowledge Centre for Validation of Prior Learning, DK)
  • Regional Collaboration and Partnership in ULL (EE)

The open online courses (http://moodle.eucen.eu/) were tested by professionals working in the ULL field all over Europe and were continuously refined until they were launched in November 2012 at the University of Malta.

In order to assist trainers and those engaged in ULL staff development activities on the use of the open online courses, the project team developed a “Trainers Guide” to use the IMPLEMENT online materials to their best effect. This guide is online and contains sections including information on the target groups, advice on adapting the materials for use in different contexts and in different delivery modes, advice on using Moodle, case studies and a summary of the case studies used in the online courses.

In addition, the project members created two social media groups to amplify the use of the open online courses and promote debate on professional issues addressed in the courses:

A LinkedIn group, “Implementing Lifelong Learning through Training and Development”, was created in 2011 with the aim to disseminate information on and extend project members’ activities on social networks. The group is closed and related to the IMPLEMENT project. It has 66 members that share IMPLEMENT project results, events and activities.

The Facebook group “University Lifelong Learning” has wider reach and was created to share and explore different projects and activities related to ULL and online learning. It is aimed at a worldwide audience interested in sharing news and events around online Lifelong Learning. At the moment, this group has 59 members, and we welcome all interested EvoLLLution readers to come and join this group, sharing your projects and experiences with Lifelong Learning and online learning.

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Readers Comments

Patricia Bowman 2013/02/13 at 7:56 am

This article demonstrates the importance of having a coordinating body, such as EUCEN, to pull experts together. Information sharing is incredibly useful but also difficult to engage in for some smaller institutions, which may not have the resources (and, here, I mean finances as well as time and manpower) to do so. By having a separate body like EUCEN be in charge of promoting and coordinating the project, smaller institutions are able to participate and benefit.

Peter Laramie 2013/02/13 at 11:09 am

It’s a neat idea to engage ULL staff on social media. This gives participating members the opportunity to develop professional relationships for projects beyond IMPLEMENT. We have to see these social media groups as more than just an add-on for the open online courses; I believe they can stand on their own as professional networks/communities. For example, I notice that the LinkedIn group was created in 2011, well before the November 2012 launch of the open online courses. That, to me, suggests there is an appetite among ULL staff for ongoing discussion and information sharing that can be well facilitated by social media.

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