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Digitalisation to support continuous learning

With digitalisation and globalisation, our lives are in constant transition, marked by the increase in competence requirements and the acceleration of the new learning cycle. This has been very well understood in Finland as demonstrated by the numerous initiatives and projects related to the Parliamentary reform of continuous learning (2019-23). In CSC’s statement on the recently proposed strategy draft for continuous learning in higher education institutions, we emphasise that the digital ecosystems of education requires much more than technology to be successful. A strong strategic and pedagogical approach as well as innovative digital learning materials and environments are needed. Also, the semantic, organisational, and legislative interoperability need to be ensured so that the learners’ information flow across the different levels of education and support the paths of continuous learning.

Making continuous learning a reality will require a firm commitment from the education system as well as individuals who will have to be prepared to update their skills and competences throughout their lives in order to be able to adapt to the evolving needs of the labour market and society. In order to create a basis for continuous learning, all education sectors must also pay more and more attention to fostering learning-to-learn skills and the idea of learning as a lifestyle. In addition, education systems must be flexible, facilitating the creation of individual learning paths allowing all learners to update their skills and competences whenever and wherever needed, either with a full degree or shorter courses, depending on their specific situation and competence needs. Organisations are facing a digital transformation where they must be able to shift their strategies, culture, and ways of working as well as manage the change so that they can meet the needs of digitalization and continuous learning.

Digitalised service ecosystems can play a major part in promoting continuous learning. For example, the Digivisio 2030 programme is creating a digital service with the working title continuous and flexible learning tray. The service will combine the learning offering of Finnish higher education institutions so that learners can find offering that meets their individual needs and helps them to keep their competences up to date. Meanwhile, the Digital Service Ecosystem for Continuous Learning (JOD) project aims to enable smoother transition between education and working life and produces services to support individual education and career choices. Both Digivisio and JOD will make use of data and AI to give personalised guidance to each learner, helping them to build learning paths that match their individual needs and interests.

Increased use of data can bring many benefits, both at the level of individual learners and that of education providers and systems. Learning data analysis allows for assessing learning results and suggesting the most suitable learning methods and paths for each learner and also improvements at institutional and/or system level. While making the most of data to improve education provision and individual learning results, it must be ensured that data use is controlled and ethical, paying due attention to privacy and data protection. Students must always have the right to determine how their data is used, according to the MyData principles.

Pairing digital education with strong digital pedagogy

Digitalisation of education also implies various tools, platforms and materials for digital and remote learning. Such solutions must be developed with a creative mindset and in good cooperation across all levels and fields of education in order to ensure their interoperability. Most importantly, they must be paired with strong digital pedagogy and user support for learners and teachers alike.

The European Commission has announced its plan to suggest EU-level guidelines for digital pedagogy in its upcoming proposal for a Council Recommendation on digital education. As underlined in CSC’s feedback on the Commission’s plan, these guidelines must be learner-centric and pay due attention to offering opportunities for teachers to update their competences in digital pedagogy in a continuous manner as a part of their professional growth. They must also acknowledge that not all learning will be digital in the future but onsite learning and campuses will continue to play a vital role in learning and related social interaction.

Digitalisation of education is one of CSC’s main areas of expertise. In addition to supporting the Digivisio 2030 programme, we provide a number of digital solutions for learners and teachers and for information management in education, also utilising tools based on analytics and AI. In addition, we facilitate the collaboration between various stakeholders at different levels of education. We are happy to share our knowledge and experiences to help the education sector make most of the opportunities that digitalisation presents in order to foster European competences and thereby guarantee Europe’s future success and wellbeing.

Kimmo Koski
The author is Managing Director at CSC

Hanna-Mari Puuska
Director, Research and Education Information Management and Data Analytics, CSC