Basic principles for dealing with digital forms of teaching and learning within the framework of accreditation procedures for educational programmes at professional colleges and training programmes for VET professionals

Digitalisation in VET is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon. The private sector is a major driver of innovation in this area as it is often the first to embrace digital technologies before they influence training content and teaching practices in education institutions.

people talking around a table
Adobe Stock

Although digitalisation is widely discussed in society and is omnipresent today, we have relatively little systematic knowledge about what digital technologies are used at various levels within the education system. We do not know how (significant or important) they are or how the deployment of digital technologies affects the processes of education and training. Finally, the use of digital forms of teaching and learning raises questions about quality and quality standards.

This also applies to study programmes at professional education and training colleges (PET colleges) as well as to pedagogical training programmes for those working in the Swiss VPET system. Both types of programmes are subject to recognition by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Given the growing number of digitally supported courses offered that also need to be assessed in recognition procedures, a new project was launched to examine how digital forms of teaching and learning could be adequately taken into account in the recognition of the respective programmes. The project is part of the overall VET 2030 Strategy SERI therefore asked SFIVET to work with the Zurich University of Teacher Education to conduct a survey to ascertain how digital forms of teaching and learning could adequately be taken into account in recognition procedures.

The following questions were asked:

  • What forms of digital teaching and learning are used in study programmes at PET colleges and in pedagogical training programmes for those working in the VPET system? How can these forms of teaching and learning be described and categorised?
  • How can the suitability of digitally supported forms of teaching and learning be assessed in terms of specific requirements?
  • What constitutes a justifiable impact on recognition procedures? What changes regarding concepts, terms and indicators may be needed?

The aim of the study was to produce a report that would show the possible impact of digitally supported forms of teaching and learning on recognition procedures and include recommendations on any changes that might be needed.

  • Review of research publications on digital forms of teaching and learning, clarification of research concepts and terminology, analysis of possible developments in this area
  • Analysis of documentation describing the guidelines for recognition procedures
  • Questionnaire-based survey: Current state of digital forms of teaching and learning and assessment of suitability
  • Interviews and workshops with experts: assessment of suitability and consequences for recognition procedures 

Most of the education institutions and programmes are structured according to the ‘enrichment concept’, which means that several people are physically present at a specific time and place to learn about a specific subject under the guidance of a teacher. The setting is characterised above all by physical presence and direct interaction between teacher and students as well as between the students themselves. However, these face-to-face sessions can be supported by digital media, usually learning platforms and social media.

With regard to the question how well digital forms of teaching and learning contribute to achieving learning objectives (e.g. acquiring a specific set of professional competences), none of the respondents taking part in the survey had any fundamental objections to the use of digital forms of teaching and learning. The respondents in charge of the programmes and education institutions in question all stated that the most important consideration was whether the didactic concept enables specific professional competences to be acquired and whether the training content is structured in a progressive manner. The respondents felt that digital forms of teaching and learning also have their place here and stated that the adequate use of digital forms of teaching and learning depended to a large extent on whether the teachers themselves were open to using digital media and whether they actually possessed the knowledge and skills to do so.

Regarding possible adaptation of the recognition procedures, various problems were identified, such as what constitutes learning hours (in particular the categories of self-study and classroom hours), the costs and competitiveness of training courses and the skills requirements that teachers must possess. To address these issues, the definition and allocation of learning hours should be revised. Moreover, education institutions should be given the opportunity to present their (media-enhanced) didactic concept in order to justify and valorise their programmes. Finally, evidence should be provided  that the teaching staff possesses the knowledge and skills needed to work with the proposed digital media.