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Vocational education and training will become more widespread, supported by the growth of virtual environments in sound pedagogic reasoning.
A World of Social Networks
Many vocational learners come from so-called Generation Y (or Z). They have grown up and are living in a world of social networks and inhabit many virtual environments. For more than a decade, educators have been considering the degree to which such advances may change teaching and learning. Various researchers have begun to think about precisely how e-learning might be different (1). Just how fundamentally this may change what goes on in vocational education is an open question.
The Virtual Environment is a New Context for Learning
But certainly, in terms of pedagogy, the virtual environment is a new context for learning. You don’t need to remember things in the way you do with pens and books. Searching quickly is the norm. Distinguishing good and bad is essential as the searching goes on, as is approaching the whole endeavour with appropriate scepticism. Through searching, it is far easier to see patterns and connections than ever before. Visual imagery is everywhere, with even what were once 2-dimensional maps now potentially 360° photographs of places.
In an educational context, one innovation beginning to be used in vocational education is flipped teaching. Drawing on work by Eric Mazur, the ‘flip’ here is to assume that, with technology, much of the lecturing and instruction can be done outside the classroom and time at college or school can be focused on higher-order interactions between teacher and learner (2). This kind of approach would seem to be a significant element of a contemporary approach to developing a vocational pedagogy.
A Number of Benefits using Virtual Learning Environments
In a construction industry context, Abdel-Wahab (3) suggests that ‘when integrated with rich pedagogical scenarios’, Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) can be used to enrich classroom activities, to provide virtual spaces for student interaction in 3D, and to simulate the operation of work-related equipment, or project management scenarios. He argues for a number of benefits:
- The task environment is free of danger.
- An authentic task or work environment can be replicated.
- Cost savings can be made.
- Faster throughput of individuals is possible.
- Learners are motivated.
- Learning can be more efficient, and faster.
While recognising that FE colleges, many of which are currently undergoing modernisation, have limited funds with which to invest in such technologies, he proposes that the outlay could be made in tandem with industry investors.
In an analysis of developments in online learning for vocational education and training, Dave Whittington and Alan McLean (4) predict that growth in capabilities in online technologies will impact profoundly upon vocational education and training. They suggest that vocational education and training will become more widespread, supported by this growth, but that if it is driven forward by motives other than sound pedagogic reasoning, ‘this could turn out to be an ironic but minor detail in the history of education’ (4). They argue that the most important feature of the Internet for vocational education is that it is ‘dialogical’; it supports dialogue among learners, and between learners and teachers.
Contero et al.,’s study of engineering students explored the use of sketch-based software applications, concluding that such applications ‘can provide an effective way of improving spatial abilities and capturing students’ attention’ (5).
- Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2007). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning. London: Routledge.
- Abdel-Wahab, M. (2012). Rethinking Apprenticeship Training in the British Construction Industry. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 64(2), 145-154.
- Whittington, D. & McLean, A. (2001). Vocational Learning Outside Institutions: Online pedagogy and deschooling. Studies in Continuing Education, 23(2), 153-167
- Contero, M., Company, P. Saorin, J. L. & Naya, F. (2007). Learning Support Tools for Developing Spatial Abilities in Engineering Design. International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(3), 470-477.
Lucubrate Magazine September 2019
The Picture on the top of the article: HQUALITY at Adobe Stock
The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)