Evaluation of the Limmattal Training Centre’s ‘n47e8’ project

In 2018, the Bildungszentrum Limmattal (BZLT) introduced the pedagogical concept 'n47e8' for the first time with learners undergoing logistics training. This pedagogical concept meaningfully combines competence-based training with individualisation and the experience of self-efficacy in digital and physical learning environments. SFUVET provided scientific guidance to the BLZT and conducted a comparative analysis of the learning outcomes of n47e8-based classes and conventional ones.

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As a competence centre for logistics and technology, the Limmattal Training Centre offers formal upper-secondary level vocational education and training (VET) and tertiary-level professional education as well as non-formal continuing education and training (CET). It also runs occupation-specific innovation projects. The over 1,200 people enrolled are expected to take responsibility for both their own learning and their future careers. This is the Limmattal Education Centre’s pedagogical and didactical credo and is also a guiding principle in the development of various teaching methods and learning tools.

The n47e8 project emerged from this vision. 'n47e8' is a pedagogical concept that meaningfully combines competence-based learning with individualisation and the experience of self-efficacy in digital and physical learning environments. It is implemented using a learning management system (LMS) and a series of missions that learners can complete at their own pace. Each mission presents learners with concrete learning situations and includes a set of tools and information to help them to build competences. Learners are also provided with individualised practice areas and opportunities to deepen their knowledge. This enables them to apply professional competences in concrete situations and take initial transfer steps. After conducting a self-evaluation of a pilot class in the 2018/19 school year, the Bildungszentrum Limmattal commissioned SFUVET's Evaluation Unit to evaluate the new pedagogical concept from 2019 to 2023. The various participants (in particular learners, teaching staff and workplace trainers) were contacted at various points in the apprenticeship to obtain their feedback. The evaluation was intended to elucidate the following:

  • How do learners from LMS and non-LMS classes differ in terms of development of professional and general competences?
  • How do learners from LMS and non-LMS classes differ in terms of their motivation to learn and perform well?
  • How do learners from LMS and non-LMS classes differ in terms of self-efficacy expectations?
  • To what extent do LMS classes encourage a relationship culture?

Specifically, SFUVET’s Evaluation Unit carried out the following activities:

  • Online survey of learners enrolled in LMS and non-LMS classes at multiple points during the apprenticeship.
  • Online survey and workshop with teaching staff
  • Workshop with workplace trainers

Learners generally felt that they had become proficient in the various competence areas. However, in terms of goal setting, methodological and personal skills, learners felt somewhat less well-equipped at the end of their apprenticeship than they had felt when they began their training (irrespective of LMS or non-LMS class). One possible explanation for this is that learners may have gained a more realistic and critical appreciation of themselves as their apprenticeship progressed, in particular thanks to their experiences during training. It is therefore possible that learner self-assessments at later time points are based on a different comparative yardstick than at the start of their apprenticeship. It is also interesting to note that learners in LMS and non-LMS classes followed different trajectories in their assessment of self-reliance: While learners in non-LMS classes gave themselves progressively lower ratings over time, learners in LMS classes gave themselves a higher rating in the final year of the apprenticeship. That said, all learners (irrespective of LMS or non-LMS class) indicated that their competences and motivation had improved at the end of their apprenticeship.

Learners expressed a relatively good sense of self-worth and self-efficacy and felt positive about their chances of successfully completing their training. Moreover, all learners felt that the atmosphere in the classroom was positive and that cooperation was rather good.

The level of confidence about their preparation for the qualification procedures was higher among learners in LMS classes than among the learners in the non-LMS classes. In addition, learners in LMS classes were able to predict their performance in the qualification procedures more accurately. In contrast, learners in non-LMS classes tended to overestimate their performance. This seems to indicate that the LMS provides learners with better feedback on their performance, which in turn allowed them to make more realistic estimates of examination grades.

The learners enrolled in LMS classes for the Federal VET Diploma (learners enrolled in training for the Federal VET Certificate did not evaluate this aspect) also felt that they had greater control over their own learning and the learning environment (e.g., selection of materials, pace). This sentiment was not felt to the same extent by learners in non-LMS classes. This shows that learners are aware of the individualised nature of LMS and make use of it. There are also very clear and consistent differences between learners in LMS and non-LMS classes when it comes to their appreciation of distance learning (in the context of the Covid situation). The learners in LMS classes were able to cope with the change much more easily and also gave more positive ratings of their instructors than the learners in non-LMS classes. This may be due to the fact that learners in LMS classes were already more accustomed to working on their own and therefore distance learning was less of an adjustment for both learners and their teachers. In contrast, learners and teachers in non-LMS classes found the transition to be much more challenging.

The vast majority of teachers were satisfied with the n47e8 concept and considered it to be useful for learners. They felt that additional training was needed to help teachers to cope with their new role (e.g., coaching skills and learning process design methodology). They also felt that the LMS should be easier to use, have a clearer structure and provide greater visibility of the learning process.

Workplace trainers are not very familiar with the n47e8 concept. However, they liked the innovative approach, learner self-reliance and individualised learning. At the same time, however, they were concerned that less apt learners would be 'left behind' as they might feel overwhelmed by the work that they would have to do on their own.

The results show that the learners generally enjoy working with the LMS. In particular, they felt that self-directed learning offered advantages over the 'regular' classroom system.