Supportive Systems for Continuous and Online                      Professional Development                                ...
Introduction and backgroundRecently, the forms and prerequisites of competence development have changed. Traditionalcompet...
explicit goal of participating in an online environment. Investigations show examples ofinnovative aspects in the online e...
the opinion that it is a challenge to develop scalable and sustainable models for qualitative andenduring learning in an o...
Figure 1: Development levels in the online environmentThe individual’s development of his/her proficiencies in a community...
Based on reported research findings, our conclusion is that, when developing a supportivesystem, a broad spectrum of the k...
more. Activities arise and subside, irrespective of where we are in the process, which shouldreasonably be regarded as som...
balance between motives for action and community, we also find the community’s permanence.If there is an imbalance or a la...
Creating a supportive system – an outlineOn the basis of the four prerequisites, we are now able to outline some basic fea...
The proposal that through a combination of PLE/PLM-OLC create systems for skillsdevelopment are presented increasingly fre...
Figure 3: Outline of a supportive online system for                         ongoing and continuous professional developmen...
CLOSING WORDSA supportive online system for ongoing and continuous professional development as a methodof qualification de...
Fini, Antonio, et al. (2007) Towards e-learning 2.0, EDENFejes, A. (2004). New wine in old skins. Changing patterns in the...
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal ofInstructional Technology ...
Copyrights                 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject to a              ...
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Supportive systems for continuous and online professional development

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Authors: Nils Ove Lennart Jobring, Ingemar Svensson.
Due to the development of social media and online environments, the content and form of educational systems change. At the same time, demands on the individual professional to ensure that he or she is continually updated and employable are on the rise. In this article, we develop an alternative to established education and forms of training in the shape of a supportive system.

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Supportive systems for continuous and online professional development

  1. 1. Supportive Systems for Continuous and Online Professional Development Ove Jobring Gothenburg University, Alexanderson Institute (Sweden) Ingemar Svensson Upendo Enterprise, Think-tank OmBildning (Sweden) Summary Due to the development of social media and online environments, educational systems’ content and form change. At the same time, demands for the individual professional to keep him- or herself continually updated and employable are on the increase. In this article, we develop an alternative to established education and forms of training in the shape of a Supportive System. Even today, new forms of social media and online environments are constituting such supportive systems for individual learning – but could be developed using institutional input. System development whereby individuals’ qualifications can be developed qualitatively and enduringly can guide and make things easier for people who are consciously aspiring to enhance their competence and proficiency through informal ways of working in online environments. In the article, we show how such an online system differs from previous educational forms, putting forward an outline of a supportive system. The purpose of the article is to outline the fundamental features of an online system that offers a continuous and supportive process for developing occupational groups’ qualifications whereby qualifications stand for a combination of knowledge, proficiency, and competence. The interwoven individual development processes taking place in an online environment have a special characterization which constitutes an essential prerequisite for developing a supportive system. We highlight 4 differences between formal educational systems and Supportive Systems which have to be taken into account in order to design a system rooted in online environments and social media. These differences are; 1) From pre-produced to user-generated content, 2) from individual subject motives to joint qualification interests, 3) from limited duration to continuous and enduring activity, 4) from subject and thematic areas to a broad perspective on the participants’ skills. On the basis of the four prerequisites, some fundamental features of a supportive system are outlined. The system is based on existing forms of online environment but which are further developed and supported methodically and systematically. A Supportive System can consist of a combination of individual PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) which are coordinated via a shared Online Learning Communities (OLC) or PLN (Personal Learning Network). A developed methodology based on circular ways of working supports processes in the various media and works towards progressing the individual’s development. Keywords: Informal learning, Competence, Proficiency; Skills, Design, Supportive systemseLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 1Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  2. 2. Introduction and backgroundRecently, the forms and prerequisites of competence development have changed. Traditionalcompetence development for professionals is primarily structured within established forms oforganisation and education. The same applies to its implementation. The ICT-based e-learningvariant has often been a reproduction of traditional education. Evolution is necessary in order tocorrespond to current demands and prerequisites.An initial departure point is the trend on the national and organisational levels which entails thatthe individual is responsible, to an increasing degree, for his/her competence development,especially in situations where organisations/employers and society previously had theresponsibility for, and created clear guidelines for, the professional’s knowledge andcompetence development.As Ulrich Beck (2002) and several others have shown, individuals’ scope for action has beenbroadened by a raft of significant changes in the family structure, in education, and on thelabour market, which has created, and which contributes towards providing people with, amultiplicity of opportunities and choices. This broadened scope of opportunities contributestowards people feeling a greater responsibility for managing their own life choices. This hasbeen described as the individualization thesis.The consequence is that people are being made responsible, to an ever greater degree, fortheir own development, especially in situations where, previously, organisations, employers,and society were responsible and previously provided guidance and road maps for thedevelopment of professional knowledge and proficiency. The trend is from system responsibilityto individual responsibility. This change entails a need for continuous, constantly existingsupport for the individual’s development, which helps the individual to navigate his/her learning,work, and life environment.Our second departure point is the increased use of social media and online environments suchas blogs, photo/film sites, social media like Twitter and Facebook, web communities, andPersonal Learning Networks (PLNs). The increased level of participation on the net creates aneed for coordination for the users. The technical solution is called the Personal LearningEnvironment (PLE) and is described in the Horizon report as one of the most importantdevelopment trends on the net (New Media Consortium 2010).In parallel with the emergence of online environments, there is active development in fieldssuch as Open Educational Resources - (OER) and Open Course Ware - (OCW) (OECD 2007).The combined development of online environments and OER/OCW provides people with thesupport to control, on their own, their competence development using the resources andcommunication opportunities which they encounter on the Internet, not least by means ofcreating and maintaining a personal page as a PLE. The European Commission points out thatan increasing share of learning occurs at the workplace, in non-formal contexts and in leisuretime - often through new ICT-based learning tools and methods (European Commission2008b). The online environments inspire traditional tuition with new forms of education andreduce the differences between the formal educational systems and informal learning which, byextension, leads to increased demands for innovation within the educational systems.For many individuals, participating in online environments has an actual and provensignificance for the participants’ professional and competence development. Research findingshave been compiled by Ala-Mutka (2009) who has shown that learning is frequently not aneLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 2Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  3. 3. explicit goal of participating in an online environment. Investigations show examples ofinnovative aspects in the online environment with the potential to strengthen endeavours forlifelong learning such as the occurrence of learning and individual development via a range ofdifferent types of activities like stories and self-reflection, and through various forms of mutualexchange between the participants.According to our first departure point, changed working and societal conditions have entailedincreased demands for constantly existing support for the individuals’ development, making iteasier for the professional and providing opportunities to navigate his/her learning, work, andlife environment. The development and the increased use that occur via online environmentssuch as LinkedIn partly offer such support – not least with regard to its participants exchangingexperience and monitoring both the wider world and development. In practice, the evolution ofmodern media partly constitutes a supportive system which continuously supports the individualparticipant’s improvement and wherein individuals’ qualifications can be developed qualitativelyand make it easier for people who are consciously aspiring to enhance their competence andtheir skills by means of informal ways of working in online environments.The purpose of the article is to outline the fundamental features of an online system that offersa continuous and supportive process for occupational groups’ qualification developmentwhereby qualifications stand for a combination of knowledge, proficiency, and competence.In this article, we concentrate on online-based supportive systems. However, similardevelopmental tendencies can been seen in traditional adult education where terms like coach,process supporter, and competence broker are common and are supposed to offer a morecustomer-centric support to co-workers and professionals at companies (Jobring & Svensson2009). The underlying reasons for this trend are probably the same as for the online-basedoperation’s evolution, but manifest themselves differently in the physical world.Departure points for a supportive systemA major part of the change in online-based educational methodology is taking, and has taken,place within the field of e-learning and external studies. The crucial part of method developmenthas naturally concerned formal education focusing on a specific subject and an expectedprogression in learning. Recently, however, a number of researchers have been influenced bythe evolution of the informal learning taking place on the net, pointing to new approaches todeveloping formal learning and education (Fejes 2004, Pea 2004, Wilson et al. 2006, Sclater2007, Fini et al. 2007).One development strategy that occurs is, thus, seeking to make the formal educational formsmore informal. Our crucial focus and departure point, however, is not formal education. Weinstead approach the field from the online environment as our departure point. We are thenable to discern two development strategies regarding how to increase the formal significance ofthe informal learning occurring via online environments. The most frequent strategy is todevelop the forms of validation. The European Commission has conducted, here, a significantendeavour which has resulted in, among other things, the European Qualification Framework(EQF) (European Commission 2008a).A second strategy for creating a supportive system influenced by various forms of informallearning is to develop methods or models that combine online environments with some form ofinstitutional input. Ala-Mutka (2009) hints at this development strategy in her report, being ofeLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 3Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  4. 4. the opinion that it is a challenge to develop scalable and sustainable models for qualitative andenduring learning in an online environment. Recently, other researchers proposed models ofdevelopment through Innovative teaching and supporting models and microlearning(Hernández-Serrano & Jones 2010, Buchem & Hamelmann 2010).There is a given contradiction in attempting to reconcile bottom-up and self-organisedphenomena like online environments with institutional forms and top-down activities. We are ofthe opinion, however, that it is an urgent task to seek to assume such a challenge and, in thisarticle, we emphasize the prerequisites underpinning such a system.Four prerequisites of the supportive systemParticipation in online environments is characterized by a learning process ongoing over time,by which the individual’s knowledge, skills, and competence are developed during aninterwoven process. This interwoven development process of skills and knowledge differsgreatly from the procedure normally described as traditional education (Preston 2008).The interwoven development processes occurring in an online environment have a specialcharacterization and meaning, constituting an essential prerequisite for developing a supportivesystem. In this article, we emphasize four different prerequisites which have to be taken intoaccount when designing a system rooted specifically in an online environment. The descriptionof these prerequisites is based on a number of previous research programmes that we haveconducted with other researchers in the field of Online Learning Communities (OLCs) (Jobringet al. 2005, 2006, 2008, Svensson 2007a, b).1. The participants’ proficiencyOur aim is a development system where individuals collaboratively develop skills within theirprofession by means of, and with the support of, online environments. Being proficient is beingcapable; possessing skills and knowledge within a specific profession, a definite occupation orfield. The first prerequisite is especially important for development and the key departure pointis the individual’s combined capability – not a specific, defined theme.Participants in an online environment develop proficiencies when they are active in anenvironment. Using experience of distance tuition online, we have developed a model for theonline proficiency of participants, in accordance with the figure below (Jobring, Svensson,2009).eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 4Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  5. 5. Figure 1: Development levels in the online environmentThe individual’s development of his/her proficiencies in a community is dependent on a rangeof factors such as subjects, tasks, and the culture of the group. The better the level of theproficiencies in accordance with the figure above, that the individuals have acquired, the betterthey will perceive themselves to be learning. Ala-Mutka (2009) too, like Nilsen (2009),accounts for various qualities and knowledge that participants develop through theirparticipation in online environments. Through their accounts, in combination with those of otherresearchers, it should now be established that the better and more advanced the participants’abilities are in respect of taking part in online environments – the more it can also bedemonstrated that competence development actually takes place for the participants. Thequestion is, however, how to use this knowledge in order to achieve more systematic and long-term competence development – evolution with progress. It is not unproblematic; the fact thatthe participants in an online environment are proficient in their ability to deal with the mediumprobably entails that they have also developed their professionalism in their respective fields.However, it is difficult to know specifically in which respects and in which thematic areas orsubjects.In cases where the intention is to develop methods of e-learning, these are, however, almostexclusively thematically oriented towards special subjects with the focus on students’ andpupils’ acquisition of a specific subject. For example, Salmon’s E-tivities (2002) is a method ofsupporting, using combined activities, the individual’s development in a specific subject. Theaim per se is not to create and underpin informal learning in an online environment.Departing from the online environment – and not a specific subject, theme, or field ofknowledge – means departing from a broad, dynamic spectrum of a lot of individual proficiencyand knowledge. The open, dynamic development environment is the online environment’smajor advantage, but also its problem. In the traditional environment, an individual’s educationis based on a subject or specified field. However, in an open online environment, it is difficult tospecifically steer towards a certain subject. If our aim is to develop new forms of continuouscompetence development, we see the medium’s major opportunities while also seeing itsdifficulties when it comes to developing models for progress-oriented, documented, andenduring personal development.eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 5Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  6. 6. Based on reported research findings, our conclusion is that, when developing a supportivesystem, a broad spectrum of the knowledge, competencies, and proficiencies that theparticipants are developing in an online environment must be encompassed. Maybe it soundssimple, but it has to be borne in mind that our entire educational system is based on thematictuition in subjects and fields of knowledge. When we think and speak about controlled andorganised education and competence development, we almost exclusively mean subject.Departing from the broader field “the participants’ proficiency” when talking about competencedevelopment is a radical perception which requires a mental ability to readjust and probably asignificant development endeavour aimed at achieving broader understanding.2. User-generated inputOnline environments are characterized by user-generated content where the participants,through their activity, account for a large part of the content produced within the environment –irrespective of whether this is messages on Twitter or stories and reports in a community. Thisseparates online-based learning from other, earlier models of knowledge development.The opportunity for the user-generated content is based on the unique function that the Internethas in that an individual with limited resources can post information and material for the many.With time, techniques and forms of posting and communicating this material have dramaticallybeen standardised and simplified, resulting in the increased occurrence of this individualmaterial as in the world of the blog.A qualitatively informal exchange of experience on the net often generates good, concretesolutions for the participants, new angles on problems. Such an exchange of experience canalso highlight weaknesses in the group’s level of qualifications by generating questions notpreviously noticed, by raising problems, or by proposing new thinking which the informalexchange of experience is subsequently not really able to deal with.This can require a theoretical framework and/or a structured and intensified discussion in orderfor fresh knowledge or competence, which can be important for the group, to be able to bereleased, be tested in an exchange of experience, and be implemented in the desiredqualification. In order to create active processes, there is a need for, even if the prerequisite isthe participants’ interest and commitment, a continuous “supply of nutrition” in the form of acontrolled input. How this occurs, and in which order, is one of the key parts of a supportivesystem. A qualification development process thus pre-requires the continuous supply of freshinput, knowledge-wise, proficiency-wise, and competence-wise. When we approach theindividual development and informal learning that occurs in online environments, and provide itwith a greater formal meaning via a supportive system, the participants’ user-generated contentis an important part of the process.3. Enduring and without a time limitThe third prerequisite is that the process in an online environment is continuously ongoing. Atraditional educational situation is characterized by the pupil being expected to develop with acertain and predetermined progress in accordance with a certain development plan over adetermined period of time – but this is not the case in online environments. The environmentcan be characterized as enduring in the sense of being persistent, surviving, and with theintention of lasting over time. An online environment is just its activity and cannot be so mucheLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 6Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  7. 7. more. Activities arise and subside, irrespective of where we are in the process, which shouldreasonably be regarded as something natural. The day when the activity ceases, thecommunity and the environment, for natural reasons, will also cease.Our departure point is that the participant takes part in online environments because somethingin his/her life or work situation commits him/her (Carlén & Jobring 2006). Other people have thesame commitment and experience the same thing – those participating in a community thusshare a similar experience and a shared commitment. They have the same motives for action –reasons as to why they commit to the community. Each participant’s individual reasons foraction are then simultaneously a joint motive for action. Jointly, they create the communities’purpose, or objective. We can also express this in terms of the sum of all individual motives foraction being the communities’ and online environment’s purpose.An approach which is based on the participants’ motives for action differs from otherapproaches in order to explain and understand the activity in an online environment. In themore management-focused research into net-based communities, trust between theparticipants is often emphasized as an important foundation for developing and maintaining theactivity in online environments (Stuckey 2005). However, we have shown that, in onlineenvironments with strong spheres of interest, e.g. groups consisting of women giving birth tochildren at about the same time, and in groups with special needs or illnesses, the trust issuewould seem to be less significant. Trust is created via the strong sphere of interest per se, inturn creating an environment to underpin and preserve processes (Svensson & Jobring 2009).The participants’ involvement creates permanence through its activity. The point is that theresult of the participation, regardless of the intention, is permanence. The participants’expectation is that it is a process going on over time. In normal education, the participantsexpect their participation to be of limited duration. However, no one takes part in an onlineenvironment with the notion that the activity will cease at a given point in time – if anything,quite the reverse. The participants’ involvement confirms the prevailing activity and, in doing so,the continuous and enduring process.Understanding and respect for this character - the participant-generated permanence isrudimentary when developing supportive systems for professionals under the inspiration andinfluence of informal learning in online environments.4. The participants’ shared interestThe fourth and final prerequisite – the shared interest – constitutes a combined unit based onthe three previously-presented prerequisites. As we have previously argued, a community iscarried forward by jointly-acting (though not necessarily together) individuals. Joint action,however, lacks significance for the creation of the community’s purpose per se, instead gainingsignificance by means of preserving the activity and forcing the development of the community.If the individuals have the same motives for action, this will also constitute the purpose of thecommunity and the online environment. However, in order to be designated as a community,there is no necessity to act in concert or together. If we again refer to the text on permanence,we can say that the similar rationality of action, as a consequence of the similar situationalexperience, constitutes the basis for individual participation in a net-based community.The participants expect the community, one way or another, to realize their requirements whilethe community puts demands on the participants’ participation. In this reciprocity, in thiseLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 7Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  8. 8. balance between motives for action and community, we also find the community’s permanence.If there is an imbalance or a lack of concordance between the two, the participant’s incentivesto participate will decrease and vice versa; if the community develops the whole time inharmony with the participants’ development, then the community will also develop in anenduring way. The strength of the participants’ shared interest is of fundamental importance forthe enduring development of an online environment.Summary of prerequisitesIn aspiring to develop the bases for a system of support, we have clarified differences thatseparate the informal online environment from formal educational environments such as e-learning – these can be summarized as in Figure 2 below: Figure 2: Four differences between e-learning and Supportive SystemsThe various prerequisites are dependent on and related to each other. If the intention of aprogramme is competence development in a specific subject or thematic area, it naturally alsofollows that we focus on the educational material to be included in the programme. Theparticipants will then not need to have anything in common besides the subject itself – we areconducting, in other words, distance education.If the intention is to start out from the informal environment, we also change the departurepoints – the question then will be how to create the prerequisites for, as well as advance theparticipants’ possibilities of, jointly creating a process which can be goal-related and validatedand can thus be ascribed a value.The figure describes two extremes – and between these, of course, a range of variants occurs.A supportive system’s various activities do not need to be located within one or the otherextreme. One possible design for progressive development is to vary different forms over time– certain sequences might, perhaps, entail traditional distance education followed bysequences containing more out-and-out online environment activities.eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 8Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  9. 9. Creating a supportive system – an outlineOn the basis of the four prerequisites, we are now able to outline some basic features of asupportive system. The system is based, of course, on the online environments that alreadyexist – but are further developed and supported methodically and systematically. A supportivesystem can consist of different online environments and a methodology that supportsprocesses and works towards progressing the individual’s development, something which weintroduce in more detail below.Media in a supportive system – the PLE and OLC/PLNUser-generated input and the PLE (Personal Learning Environment)By way of introduction, we mentioned the development of the PLE. As early as 2008, e-learningpapers noted this phenomenon in a thematic issue under the designation the PersonalLearning Environment – PLE (Schaffert & Hilzensauer 2008).In a PLE, the user is equipped with tools in order to communicate, tag, collect, and update thecontent as well as to create and navigate an environment adapted to his/her own needs andinterests. The possibility of tagging, categorising, and publishing works online immediately,without needing to understand or even concern oneself with the underlying technology,provides teachers and students with a number of opportunities to develop a personal webpagein the form of a PLE.Participants, professionals within the same profession, have the opportunity, via personal webpages, of monitoring information and communicating via various media that are relevant toother users in the joint group. A participant in a supportive programme with employees in afashion house can, via his/her personal web page, monitor a fashion blogger. The blogdescribes something that the participant deems to be of interest to the entire group, creating apost on the group’s platform. We thus obtain user-generated input.The OLC/PLN – shared interestFor several years, established journals and conferences have existed in the field of OnlineLearning Communities – OLCs (Jobring & Kommers 2008). In the active construct developmentthat prevails, there has today been some emphasis of, and in some cases a renaming of thephenomenon as the Personal Learning Network (PLN). Here, a PLN is seen as consisting ofthe individuals interacting with and obtaining knowledge from an online environment. Theconcept of the PLN is stated by Wikipedia to be based on the theory of connectivism developedby Siemens (2005) and Downes (2007). Participants create contacts and develop networkswhich contribute towards their professional development and knowledge.The PLN has obvious similarities with what we have previously described as personaldevelopment and learning in OLCs. The participants contribute and obtain knowledge viadifferent nodes. In a supportive system, an online-based community – OLC or PLN works likethe shared node. A PLE is the individual’s resource bank and the PLN that of the participants’in the system. The OLC/PLN then becomes an important part of the individual’s professionaldevelopment. The media part of a supportive system would then be based on individual PLEswhich provide an input for the participants and a shared part - a OLC/PLN where continuousdevelopment is supported and experience is exchanged.eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 9Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  10. 10. The proposal that through a combination of PLE/PLM-OLC create systems for skillsdevelopment are presented increasingly frequent, for example by Mott (2010) and is animportant research and development taskProcess support and progressionProcess support and progression constitute the other principal part of a supportive system andhave the purpose of bringing together the individuals’ PLEs within the shared OLC/PLN. Theissue of supervision is key. In many social media and similar online environments, there is nodirect supervision – examples of such media being Twitter and Facebook.Possibly, there is some control of activities, but this is not supported by an expert or anoutsider.The purpose of a supportive system is to methodically and systematically support and advancethe progressive development of the participants’ qualifications. In this case, supervisors arerequired but the difficulty of supervising such a learning process is apparent (Björck 2004).Supporting the process is an advanced task for one person - a process supervisor – but wealso need a subject expert – professional expert – to support the development of theparticipants’ knowledge, competencies, and skills. This leadership duo forms an importantcomponent of the development and implementation of a system.There exists today elaborated methodology, primarily for distance courses. One such method isproblem-based learning which can function as structured process support during certain stagesof a supportive system. PBL methodology has been used in online distance courses given byGothenburg University (Gillberg 2004). A variant of this theme is described by Preston (2008),a method used by teachers in the MirandaNet community, which she calls “Braided learning”.The development takes place during different phases. During the first phase, the communitydeals with creating a shared and braided text on the net which provides scope for multiplicityand the venting of different opinions. Some of the members act like discussion leaders or“braiders” and assist in shaping the debate by making summaries during the discussion and,perhaps, changing its course (Cuthell 2005). The texts are stored, together with forumdiscussions and cases studies, on the MirandaNet network.What Preston (2008) describes using the term “Braided learning” can be described as a circularmethod of working whereby the participants’ own contributions are dealt with, commented on,written, and used as a basis for development. Methods that advance the participants’involvement in the form of problem ownership and circular methods of working are, whichshould be evident, entirely central to advancing and supporting progressive developmentprocesses in an online environment – as such, they can also be effective methods of ensuringthat informal learning obtains a greater formal content for those participating.In the figure below, we have summarized our perception of how a supportive system can beshaped:eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 10Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  11. 11. Figure 3: Outline of a supportive online system for ongoing and continuous professional developmentMeasuring progression and development in the groupIn traditional education, a specific subject is mediated or taught. Exams and result monitoringare, in this case, relatively uncomplicated. But if we replace the subject with a “frame” or aspecific context like an online environment, how will we then be able to know that theparticipants are actually developing their professional skills? The problem is that, in an informalenvironment, learning occurs on a series of different levels and within a series of different areas– simultaneously.In order to answer that question, as mentioned above, the European Commission, through anumber of different development programmes, has supported the development of variousvalidation tools and methods. It has turned out, however, that these have often been time-consuming and expensive to implement. On 23 April 2008, the European Parliament adopted“The European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF)” (European Commission2008a). This is an accessible document developed in order to evaluate participants’ informallearning. It has been in development since 2004 and is being implemented today by the EUmember countries.Usually, validation takes place following activity for a period of time or after having finished ajob. We are of the opinion that the EQF, through its formulation in the form of progression fromone level to another, can also be used as an instrument and a basic “EQF programme plan” inorder to advance an actively ongoing process in online environments. The participants knowwhich knowledge/skills/competencies they have and they know what their goal is inparticipating. We see before us a progressive, continuous, and enduring process, composed inaccordance with a qualifications increment in line with the 8 stages of the EQF.The idea behind linking the EQF to a supportive system is being able to use a universal,generally accepted, and clearly graded qualification standard against which the participants’qualification development can be validated. Evaluation of the participant’s level can beconducted using a “peer to peer” procedure and in dialogue with occupational experts andprocess leaders.eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 11Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  12. 12. CLOSING WORDSA supportive online system for ongoing and continuous professional development as a methodof qualification development is new and radical. It departs, both in form and content, from thetraditional competence development concept, entailing that it must be carefully established withboth the organisation/industry and with the occupational group.The systems benefits and its implications is a faster adaptive process based on continuousinvolvement and a higher degree of customization through circular way of working. It implies afaster and more efficient individual development process. Its basis is the groups commoninterest and the system can therefore not replace traditional approaches but is an urgent optionalong with existing educational system.Primarily, it is about building and creating trust in a vision of a long-term, continuous and largelyself-governed learning which is superior to traditional further education models and whichstrengthens the organisation, the occupational group, and the participating individual. Suchvision-creating work takes time and requires great openness to new or complementary ideasoriginating from both organisational management and from the occupational group in question.ReferencesAla-Mutka. K., (2009) Review of Lifelong Learning in Online Communities, EU-Joint research centerIPTS.Beck., U., Beck-Gernsheim, E., (2002) Individualization Institutionalized Individualism and Its Social andPolitical Consequences, Sage Publications (CA), LondonBjörck, U. (2004). Distributed Problem-Based Learning. Studies of a Pedagogical Model inPractice. Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Buchem I., Hamelmann H., (2010) Microlearning: a strategy for ongoingprofessional development, eLearning Papers, • www.elearningpapers.eu • 1 Nº 21 • SeptemberCarlén, U., & Jobring, O. (2005). The Rationale of Online Learning Communities. The InternationalJournal of Web Based Communities (IJWBC), Vol.1, No.3 pp 272-295Cuthell, J. P. (2005). Beyond Collaborative Learning: Communal construction of knowledge in an onlineenvironment. INSTICC, Miami, Web Information Systems and Technologies.Downes, S., (2007). An Introduction to Connective Knowledge in Hug, Theo (ed.) (2007): Media,Knowledge & Education - Exploring new Spaces, Relations and Dynamics in Digital Media Ecologies,International Conference.European Commission, (2008a). European Qualification Framework (EQF), 2006/0163 (COD)European Commission (2008b). Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of theGovernments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 22 May 2008 on promoting creativityand innovation through education and training, (2008/C 141/10)eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 12Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  13. 13. Fini, Antonio, et al. (2007) Towards e-learning 2.0, EDENFejes, A. (2004). New wine in old skins. Changing patterns in the governing of the adult learner inSweden. International Journal of Lifelong Education 24(1), 71-86.Gillberg, G. (2004) Nätbaserad handledning [Net-based facilitating] in Jobring, O. (Ed.). (2004).Lärgemenskaper på Nätet - en introduktion [Learning Communities on the Net – an Introduction].Studentlitteratur, LundHernández-Serrano, M. & Jones B., (2010) Innovation, informational literacy and lifelong learning:creating a new culture, eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 1 Nº 21 • SeptemberJobring, O., & Carlén, U. (Eds.). (2005). Att förstå lärgemenskaper och mötesplatser på nätet[Understanding Learning Communities and Meeting Places on the Net]: Studentlitteratur.Jobring, O., Carlén, U., & Bergenholtz, J. (Eds.). (2006). Att skapa lärgemenskaper och mötesplatser pånätet [Creating Learning Communities on the Net]: Studentlitteratur, LundJobring, O., & Bergenholtz, J. (2007). Organisering för kontinuerligt lärande [Organisation for ContinuousLearning], www.proficiens.seJobring, O, Kommers, P, (Eds.). (2008). Online Learning Communities in Context, International Journalof Web Based Communities IJWBC, Vol. 4 - Issue 2 – 2008, Inderscience PublishersJobring, O., Svensson, I., (2009) Vuxnas lärande i Sverige. Utvecklingstendenser och visioner, [AdultEducation in Sweden. Trends and Visions], Report in the project ”Nordiska kompetensnätverket " EUInterreg IV A Kattegatt / SkagerrakMott, J., (2010) Envisioning the post-LMS era: the Open Learning Network, Educause QuarterlyMagazine, Volume 33, Number 1Nilsen M., (2009), Food for Thought. Communication and the transformation of work experience in web-based in-service training, Thesis, University of Gothenburg. Faculty of EducationNew Media Consortium. (2010) Horizon Report, The New Media ConsortiumEDUCAUSE Learning InitiativeOECD. (2007) Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open EducationalResources. Publication: 22/05/2007.Pea R.D., (2004) The Social and Technological Dimensions of Scaffolding and RelatedTheoretical Concepts for Learning, Education, and Human Activity, The journal of the learning sciences,13(3), pp 423-451Preston C.J., (2008) Braided learning: an emerging process observed in e-communities of practice, Int.J. of Web Based Communities 2008 - Vol. 4, No.2 pp. 220 - 243Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities, Routledge FalmeSchaffert, S., Hilzensauer, W., (2008) On the way towards Personal Learning Environments: Sevencrucial aspects - eLearning Papers Nº 9 ▪ JulySclater,N. (2007). Personliga lärmiljöer, virtuella lärmiljöer och formellt lärande [Personal LearningEnvironments, Virtual Learning Environments and Formal Learning], Nät och bildning nr 7, 2007,http://www.cfl.se/natochbildning/eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 13Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  14. 14. Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal ofInstructional Technology and Distance LearningStuckey, B. (2005). Growing on-line communities of practice: conditions to support successfuldevelopment of Internet-mediated Communities of Practice. Thesis. Research Centre for InteractiveLearning Environments, University of Wollongong, Australia.Svensson, I., et al. (Eds.). (2003). Folkbildning.net - An anthology about Folkbildning and flexiblelearning. CFL and FBRSvensson, I., Bryant, K., Callerud, C., (2007a). Teachers Learning Community - a participant-governednet based learning community supporting a continuous teacher training for folk high school teachers andstudy circle leaders in net based collaborative pedagogics and methodology. Paper presented at theEDEN conference in Naples.Svensson, I., (2007b). Connecting the online study circle and the online learning community insupporting continuous teacher development. Paper presented at the Online- EDUCA conference inBerlin.Svensson, I. Jobring, O. (2009). Connecting the online study circle and the online learning community insupporting continuous self help for people suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. In ICT Skillsbriefing no. 3/09Wilson, S., Liber, O., Johnson, M., Beauvoir, P., Sharples, P., Milligan, C. (2006) Personal LearningEnvironments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems, TENCompetence Project,http://dspace.ou.nl/handle/1820/727AuthorsOve Jobring Dr.Researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Work Science University of Gothenburgand senior adviser at the Alexandersoninstitute, Campus Varberg. Founder of the researchgroup Online Learning Communities (OLC) at the ICT-university in Gothenburg.ove.jobring@av.gu.seIngemar SvenssonSenior adviser at the University of Gothenburg, Senior consultant at Upendo Enterprise.External expert at EACEA and at the Swedish International Programme Office for Educationand Training.ingemar.svensson@folkbildning.neteLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 14Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  15. 15. Copyrights The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 3.0Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast provided that the author andthe e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivativeworks are not permitted.The full licence can be consulted on http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/Edition and productionName of the publication: eLearning PapersISSN: 1887-1542Publisher: elearningeuropa.infoEdited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L.Postal address: C/ Muntaner 262, 3º, 08021 Barcelona, SpainTelephone: +34 933 670 400Email: editorial@elearningeuropa.infoInternet: www.elearningpapers.eueLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 15Nº 22 • December 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542

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