Europe has been fighting the global COVID19 pandemic, which has had dramatic effects on people’s lives and society in its entirety. Besides the enormous economic consequences, due to repeated lockdowns in protection of the health of the population and health services, the educational sector suffered in particular.
VET centres and schools were repeatedly closed to the day and educational processes disrupted. As a first response, remote schooling was introduced and became fundamental to ensure the continuity of learning in situations where in-person classes were suspended.
Online educational platforms enable students to learn at their own pace and give them more flexibility during the day, but students with special educational needs (SEN),, were partly excluded due to the lack of accessibility. These include students in need of customised methodologies and technical foresightsA significant number of learners and teachers were not substantially prepared for successful, accessible and well-balanced remote schooling. The digital gap was quite visible during the lockdown with the closing of educational institutions across Europe for up to 24 months. This resulted in a manifold of issues on different levels, which need to be addressed urgently, and include:
- At an administrative level, each individual VET centre and school need to facilitate the process of getting digitally ready,
- Methodological level, teaching staff were/are not prepared to tackle digital education, due to the lack of digital skills,
- At the learner’s level, not being able to cope with digital education, due to a lack of knowledge in using digital educational methodologies and instruments, even though they may be experts in using technologies in other fields, e.g. gaming, social networking, phoning etc.
- At a social level, families were not always able to address their children’s educational needs, e.g. access to computers, tablets or suitable internet connections were not always available.
In addition to that, learners with special needs or other disabilities were forced to stay at home without the specialised support that they would otherwise have had access to at school or other structured facilities. This had significant consequences on various levels, which include: a risk of isolation; interruption of educational pathways; loss of daily habits, especially relating to social spaces; stress and frailty behaviours; family's difficulty in reconciling work and care needs.
The above mentioned needs, which arose during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic in educational settings with a special focus on the SEN and accessibility will be addressed in this project. The project is going to provide short-, medium- and long-term solutions, innovative approaches and instruments for VET educators and decision makers with a clear focus on the educational environment and accessibility especially for learners with special needs for a good, well-balanced, inclusive digital education, by:
- Producing a DIG-i-READY Good Practice Catalogue, with a special focus on implemented solutions during the COVID19 crisis;
- Developing a DIG-i-READY Handbook providing carefully designed Digital Competence indicators and guidelines for “going digital”, a collection of accessible and inclusive digital tools, recommendations for systemic change for a “new and inclusive normal”. A localised version of the DIG-i- READY handbook will be produced in the 6 partnering countries ;
The outcomes can be immediately used to face the COVID19 emergency but also will provide a useful resource incase of other crisis situations like earthquakes, floods and epidemics.
All activities are divided into different phases that are interlinked with one another. Work within the different activities will be distributed among partners according to their field of expertise.
- Phase 1: Development of all activities will be focussed on the development of the proposed Project Results. The DIG-i-READY Good PracticeCatalogue will sum up the results of the Mapping of Existing and Good Practices. The DIG-i-READY Handbook will be developed, consisting of 6 chapters focusingon short, medium-term solutions, and will be created on the basis of a framework that will be derived from the Good Practice Catalogue.
- Phase 2: A peer review will be conducted. All training partners that participated in the different development activities will be asked to provide feedback at different stages of the project results. They will use their experiences and their network of local, regional, national and international partners along with an Advisory Board that will be set up for the lifetime of the project. The Advisory Board will review the project results and provide feedback that will be used to optimise the final products.
Eventually, a Learning Teaching and Training activity will be conductedto ensure the correct transfer of the main findings and results included in the Handbook to local VET Educators/Decision makers. Participants will be informed, trained and prepared, so they can train others in using the Handbook. To improve the outreach of the Handbook, more national versions can beeasily produced after the life-time of the project and can be added at a later stage.
- Phase 3: This phase focuses on the dissemination and exploitation all the project phases and that will appeal to a wider public. All members of the consortium, the Advisory Board and Partners will be ambassadors of the project`s key messages. Beside that, a variety of different activities and measures will be implemented focusedon dissemination and exploitation of the project results, laid down in the Dissemination Plan & Exploitation Strategy.
All activities in phase 3 are designed to provide information to all relevant target groups (including the media and the public), in a strategic and effective manner. The activities also include transnational project meetings and events. All three phases are accompanied by a series of ongoing transversal activities, throughout the entire project, such as project coordination, quality and risk management and a coordination and supervision of all dissemination and exploitation activities in order to ensure a timely implementation of all project measures.
The project aims to provide solutions to making digital education in VET inclusive in any crisis situation. The following results will be produced during the project lifetime and will be available after its completion:
- DIG-i-READY Good Practice catalogue of promising practices on inclusive digital readiness This will summ up the findings and conclusions of a call for Good Practices covering the EU.The already existing tools and methodologies being used during the pandemic under the umbrella of digital inclusive education practices collected in order to extract the key success factors for inclusive digital readiness. -
- DIG-i-READY Handbookof 6 DIG-i-READY Chapters which will take the findings of the Good Practices Catalogue to the next level and as well as provide short-, medium-term solutions and long-term recommendations.
- Chapter 1 – Digital Competence Framework (short-term) Building upon the Digi Comp Framework, necessary Digital Competences for Students and Educators (Leaders, Teaching Staff, Parents) will be mapped and compiled. Special attention will be drawn to Assistive Technology (AT)/accessibility features and requirements.
- Chapter 2 – Indicators (short-term) Using scientific methodology, grass-root experience from partners and based on a digital skills and a needs analysis, the findings in PR1 and Chapter 1, a set of indicators for a good, sustainable, accessible, wel lbalanced, inclusive digital education in a school/home environment including ethical aspects of digital learning, will be developed.
- Chapter 3 – Guidelines (short-term) Using the indicators of Chapter 2, practical guidelines for “going digital” for the VET community (school leaders, teachers, students and parents) will be developed, respecting the digital infrastructure in a VET centre/school and home environment, social and digital skills of students with/without special needs and teachers. The guidelines will facilitate the management of the “emergency process” of transitioning into and out of a digital learning environment.
- Chapter 4 – Tools collection (medium-term) Common digital tools and methodology collected in PR1, taken from the daily practice of all project partners, will be evaluated by using the indicators of Chapter 1, showing their pros and cons, feasibility, accessibility and potential for adaptation, improvement and upgrade.
- Chapter 5 – Recommendations for a systemic change (long-term) Taking the Lessons Learned Section of PR1’s Good Practice Catalogue and the results of Chapter 1-4 of the Handbook, recommendations will be provided for decision makers on local, regional, national and international level, school leaders/teachers for the initiation of a development process towards a “new inclusive normal” in order to facilitate the Digital Readiness of VET centres/schools.
- Chapter 6 – Local (medium-term) partners together with their local experts and APs will develop a ready to use local version of the Chapters 1-4, to enhance the impact and improve the usability of the handbook on local and regional level. The project results will be developed for initial use in VET centres/schools and meet the criteria of accessibility and easy-to-use. An added value of the products will be their transferability to educational institutions of higher education and regular school education.