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Literature Review

Learning Analytics

A further rapid growth area in the use of data in education is Learning Analytics (LA). LA has been defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs” (SoLAR, 2011).[15] It is seen as assisting in informing decisions in education systems, promoting personalized learning and enabling adaptive pedagogies and practices. At least in the initial stages of development and use, universities and schools have tended to harvest existing data drawn from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and to analyse that data to predict individual performance and undertake interventions which can, for instance, reduce drop-out rates. Other potential benefits include that LA can allow teachers and trainers to assess the usefulness of learning materials, to increase their understanding of the learning environment in order to improve it, and to intervene to advise and assist learners. Perhaps more importantly, it can assist learners in monitoring and understanding their own activities and interactions and participation in individual and collaborative learning processes and help them to reflect on their learning.

Pardo and Siemens (2014)[16] point out that “LA is a moral practice and needs to focus on understanding instead of measuring.” this is an important distinction … else the popular use of LA based on AI will be on displacing teachers (schools without teachers) which will impoverish learning, and these experiments will occur in poorly resourced schools, as teacher displacement tools .. and certainly not in elite, well resourced schools. In this understanding: “learners are central agents and collaborators, learner identity and performance are dynamic variables, learning success and performance is complex and multidimensional, data collection and processing needs to be done with total transparency.”

Although initially LA has tended to be based on large data sets already available in universities, school based LA applications are being developed using teacher inputted data. This can allow teachers and understanding of the progress of individual pupils and possible reasons for barriers to learning.

There has been only very limited use of Learning Analytics in developing countries. However, in 2018 Global Learning for Development published ‘Learning Analytics for the Global South; (Lim, C. P., & Tinio, V. L. (Eds.), 2018).[17] The publication considered how the collection, analysis, and use of data about learners and their contexts have the potential to broaden access to quality education and improve the efficiency of educational processes and systems in developing countries around the world. An opening discussion paper by Gašević examined how the potential of learning analytics could support critical digital learning and education through quality learning at scale and the acquisition of 21st century skills.

This was followed by four responses from experts in Africa, mainland China, Latin America and South East Asia.

In viewing Learning Analytics through the lens of three key challenges facing education systems in the Global South: quality, equity, and efficiency, Gašević suggested “that the implementation of learning analytics in developing countries has significant potential to support learning at scale, to provide personalized feedback and learning experience, to increase the number of graduates, to identify biases affecting student success, to promote the development of 21st century skills, and to optimize the use of resources.”

Gašević acknowledged that while there is an increasing number of guidelines for addressing issues of privacy and ethics in learning analytics, citing Ferguson et al (2016) and Sclater, (2016), guidelines specific to different regions of the Global South, consistent with local cultures, legislation, and practices, need to be developed. Moreover, he said that in order to promote equity in the Global South, specific guidelines for the use of learning analytics need to be designed.

Paul Prinsloo from the University of South Africa, citing Selwyn (2014), said Learning Analytics, like all (educational) technology, must be “understood as a knot of social, political, economic and cultural agendas that is riddled with complications, contradictions and conflicts.”

Learning analytics can provide relevant and actionable information by analyzing the impact of learner’s socio-economic context, the school or college’s quality, the learner’ engagement, and the effectiveness of the educational systems.

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

The use of digital technologies for Assessment

The DigiCompEdu Framework says “Assessment can be a facilitator or bottleneck to innovation in education. When integrating digital technologies into learning and teaching, we must consider how digital technologies can enhance existing assessment strategies. At the same time, we must also consider how they can be used to create or to facilitate innovative assessment approaches. Digitally-competent educators should be able to use digital technologies within assessment with those two objectives in mind.

E-assessment is becoming more widely used by educational institutions and examination awarding bodies, particularly those with multiple or international study centres and those which offer remote study courses. Online assessment is used primarily to measure cognitive abilities, demonstrating what has been learned after a particular educational event has occurred, such as the end of an instructional unit or chapter, although the use of automated testing can provide formative feedback in near real time

E assessment can provide efficiencies through allowing online marking and uploading of results.

To assist in the sharing of assessment items across disparate systems, global standards such as the IMS Question and Test Interoperability specification[13] have emerged.

However, for large-scale examining bodies the transition from traditional paper-based exam assessment to fully electronic assessment can take time. Practical considerations such as having the necessary IT hardware to enable large numbers of students to sit an electronic examination at the same time, as well as the need to ensure security, are among the concerns that need to be resolved to accomplish this transition. Question and Answer systems also require the development and updating of question banks.

As in the example of Learning Analytics, despite the widespread use of e-Assessment in economically advanced countries, there are limited documented examples of its use in developing countries.

The University of Rwanda, through the UNESCO funded KFIT project, has been developing e-Assessment and intends to extend its implementation following the period pf project funding.

H. Ndume, S.I. Dasuki & P. Ogedebe (2014) from Baze University in Abuja, Nigeria have published a paper in the IEEE journal, African Journal of Computing & ICT, entitled ‘E-Assessment Systems for Universities In Developing Countries: A Nigerian Perspective’.[14] They say the present paper based examination systems used in Nigerian universities are resource and time consuming. More seriously, they say the present systems are “marred with problems” including “massive examination leakages, demand for gratification by teachers, bribe-taking by supervisors and invigilators of examinations.”

The paper focuses on the technical description of the development of an e-assessment system for university entrance and they argue that this system should be extended for students sitting term time and final assessment exams. But they note that the successful implementation of such a system is dependent on sufficient resources including infrastructural support, electricity supply, and skilled ICT workers.

Ndume et al (2014) also draw attention to the limitations of multiple choice questions. This reflects wider pedagogic considerations around e-assessment from educationalists in advanced economies. Multiple choice questions may fail to reflect the practical application of competence in, for example, many TVET programmes and focus excessively on cognitive knowledge.

Advances in the development of automated semantic systems and of Artificial Intelligence may help overcome these limitations.

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

OERs for teaching and learning

There has been considerable progress in the development and adoption of OERs in many countries and cultures. This has been to a large extent based on awareness-raising around potentials and important practices at local, national and international level, initiatives which need to continue and be deepened. Nevertheless, there remain barriers to be overcome. These include how to measure and recognise the quality of OERs, the development of interoperable repositories, how to ensure the discoverability of OERs, and the localization of different OERs including in minority languages. The PLC-OER model provides an approach for OER development in native languages

While progress has been made, policy developments are uneven in different countries. There remains an issue of ensuring teachers’ capacity to understand the discovery, potential and use of OERS and, importantly how to themselves develop and share OERs. This requires the incorporation, of OER use and development in both initial and continuing professional development for teachers.

De Los Arcos and Weller (2018) have undertaken a study funded by the Hewlett Foundation[9] addressing concerns that “established trends in open educational resources (OER) research originate largely in the US and Europe, while the provision of open content and pedagogy tend to be dominated by English-speaking, developed countries.”

They reference Albright (2009) in introducing the danger that the world of OER risked being separated into contributors and consumers, if the North was allowed to lead the production of knowledge without reciprocity from the less developed nations of the South. De Los Arcos and Weller’s paper presents the results of an extensive survey of 7700 responses from participants in over 180 countries, nearly a quarter of them native speakers of a language other than English, grouping the survey responses into those from the Global North and the Global South. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a higher percentages of computer users in developed nations had broadband at home, use a mobile phone or a tablet to go online, and are able to connect to the internet at work, impacting on their ability to perform effectively in a digital environment. These challenges have been identified as strategic areas of action in the Ljubljana OER Action Plan adopted at the 2nd OER World Congress hosted by UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia[10]

Other results were more surprising. Teachers in developed countries indicated that they create classroom resources and share them online with an open license marginally more often than teachers in developing countries; however, teachers in the global south were more likely to tell others how they have used a resource and assessed its quality. 75.4% of educators in the South said that they use OER because it allows them to better accommodate diverse learner needs in the class, compared to 62.3% in the North.

Obviously, teachers in the South faced bigger technological barriers to finding and contributing resources. The authors cite Perryman and Seal (206, in their study of OER users in India, who observed that educators who experience a high incidence of inhibitors also show high levels of engagement with OER.

Arcos and Weller (2018) conclude that the survey results provide no evidence to talk about a divide, still less to brand the South as passive consumers. Challenge of getting OER in local languages still very significant.

The growing diversity of Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives coupled with better understanding of the limitations of open content has led to an understanding that a narrow focus just on OER may not be enough for educational institutions to fundamentally embrace and establish effective open pedagogical practices.

Open Educational Practices (OEP) are defined as practices which support the production, use and reuse of high quality open educational resources (OER) through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers and administrators of organizations, educational professionals and learners.[11] Open educational practices seek to fully use the potential inherent in OER to support learning and to help students both contribute to knowledge and construct their own learning pathways. Such open practices provide the architecture and philosophical underpinning for fulfilling the promise of using OER to expand collaborative, inclusive, accessible, and active learning and related pedagogy. Open educational practices are also seen as giving agency to students by allowing them more control over the structure, content, and outcomes of their learning and by creating opportunities to generate their own learning materials.

The 2nd World OER Congress in 2017 co-organised by UNESCO and the government of Slovenia produced Draft Outcome and Recommendations[12] detailing the challenges for the future development of OER in terms of:

  • Capacity of users to access, re-use and share OER
  • Language and culture issues
  • Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER
  • Developing Sustainability Models
  • The development of supportive policy environments.

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Artificial Intelligence and teaching and learning

Attwell (forthcoming) reports that a number of experts interviewed for a UNESCO report on emerging trends in the use of ICT for education raised the importance of Artificial Intelligence i (although a number also believed it to be over hyped).

A recent report from the EU Joint Research Council (2018)[8] says that:

“in the next years AI will change learning, teaching, and education. The speed of technological change will be very fast, and it will create high pressure to transform educational practices, institutions, and policies.”

It goes on to say AI will have:

“profound impacts on future labour markets, competence requirements, as well as in learning and teaching practices. As educational systems tend to adapt to the requirements of the industrial age, AI could make some functions of education obsolete and emphasize others. It may also enable new ways of teaching and learning.”

However, the report also considers that “How this potential is realized depends on how we understand learning, teaching and education in the emerging knowledge society and how we implement this understanding in practice.” Most importantly, the report says, “the level of meaningful activity—which in socio-cultural theories of learning underpins advanced forms of human intelligence and learning—remains beyond the current state of the AI art.”

Although AI systems are well suited to collecting informal evidence of skills, experience, and competence from open data sources, including social media, learner portfolios, and open badges, this creates both ethical and regulatory challenges. Furthermore, there is a danger that AI could actually replicate harmful pedagogic approaches to learning this is a real danger.

In a publication entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence in Education: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Development’, UNESCO (2018 cire Rose Luckin (20116) on the new competencies needed to empower teachers to use educational data to improve pedagogy: 

  • A clear understanding of how AI-enabled systems can facilitate learning provision, so that they can make sound value judgments on new AI-enabled educational products;
  • Research and data analytical skills, so that they can interpret data provided by AI-enabled systems, ask useful questions about the data and provide students with feedback based on insights that arise from the data; and
  • New management skills, so that they can effectively manage both human and AI resources at their disposal.
  • A critical perspective on the ways Ai and digital technologies affect human lives and new frameworks of computational thinking and digital skills can increment students ́ capacities to understand the power, the dangers and the possibilities of AI.
  • Enable teachers to take advantage of AI taking over repetitive tasks to bring in more human capabilities they may not have had time for before: mentorship, emotional support, interpersonal skills, etc.
  • Help learners acquire those skills and competencies that are likely not to be replaced by machines.

Teacher training programmes, they say,  should therefore account for these new competencies, both at the in-service and preservice level.

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

The use of digital technology for teaching and learning – pedagogy

Digital technologies can enhance and improve teaching and learning strategies in many ways. However, whatever pedagogic strategy or approach is chosen, the educator’s specific digital competence lies in effectively orchestrating the use of digital technologies in the different phases and settings of the learning process.

Shahadat Hossain Khan (2016) identifies two strategies with five main orientations to ICT-enhanced teaching distributed along a continuum from teacher-focused approaches: comprising information-oriented, feedback-oriented and practice-oriented to student-focused approaches: consisting of activity-oriented and industry-oriented teaching.

A study by the European Training Foundation on Digital and Online Learning in Vocational Education and training in Serbia has examined how the introduction of Digital and Online Learning changes teachers’ practice? They say: “From the narratives of the teachers interviewed, those who believe they have integrated DOL into their own practice acknowledged that working in the DOL environment does effectively mean ‘turning everything upside down’. They have to change the way they observe the learning process, and how they observe the students’ role and their own role in it.” The report says that this indicates that they are prepared to become much more reflective practitioners beyond their normal subject material. “The amount of literature that teachers need to assimilate increases, and some of them recognise that they will be on a continuous learning pathway following the introduction of DOL. This changes how they prepare their own lessons and how they conceptualise the whole teaching and learning process.”  All the teachers interviewed perceived that the use of DOL makes them more available for students and enables them to reach those who are not in school regularly.”

Jane Hart (2019) has developed what she calls a Framework for 2019 for learning in the workplace.

The pedagogical approach at the University of Northampton in the UK  is characterised as ABL – active, blended learning.

They define Active Learning as  “a learning & teaching approach that strives to more directly involve students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities designed to help them use and make sense of new knowledge (rather than just reading it or listening to it). There are lots of ways that this can happen: through application exercises, through collaborative or peer learning (discussion, debate, team-based learning), through project, case or problem-based learning etc.”

Blended approaches are seen as supporting “learning across multiple modes of delivery, combining classroom activity with independent study, and using technology where appropriate to support learning both in and out of the classroom. This might include: online discussions or debates, online activities (often referred to as ‘e-tivities’): tests, quizzes, preparation or extension activities and resources, online labs or virtual classrooms etc. Sometimes this includes ‘flipping the classroom’ where lecture content might appear online before the class to help students prepare for activities in the classroom.”

A recent report for the UK government (Ali Zaidi, Shane Beadle and Arthur Hannah, 2018) found that Further Education and Higher Education providers “do not generally regard online learning as a priority and few planned to expand their online learning offer to reach a wider geographical area. Most provision was developed organically to meet a local need rather than as part of a coordinated strategy. However, there are a wide range of private providers and MOOCs that specialise in online learning and have plans for expanding their market share.”

They report also found that “ a lack of teacher skills in using online learning authoring tools and understanding effective online pedagogies was inhibiting their ability to expand their online offer. Some providers also reported that teachers had limited time to develop new courses which slowed developments in some subject areas.”

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Modes of Continuing Professional Development – Learning Online

Internet cooperation in school networks

Jisc have provided a number of short case studies of effective practice for CPD for teachers in Further Education Colleges which are used as examples in this report.

Example: Hull College, UK

Hull College is supporting teachers who lack e-confidence. An e-learning team demonstrate new techniques in short sessions each week called the ‘Small change, big difference’ programme. The college Principal (school Director) takes the lead on Yammer, which is used as a social space for staff, posting messages of congratulation about the good practice she sees around the college. The e-learning team post messages on Yammer about their training sessions as well. These range from how to integrate social media into teaching to using mobiles for learning

Mobile learning


UNESCO-UNEVOC’s has organised a workshop bringing attention to the approaches and innovations in TVET-oriented practices that have adopted the use of mobile technology to improve the skills and content delivery by teachers and trainers. These initiatives, they say, will illustrate the synergy between mobile technology, teacher-trainers digital skills and pedagogy to be able to transform TVET teaching and learning environments. The workshop will not discuss how important mobile is in teaching and learning but rather concentrate on the need for technology and teacher-trainer preparedness on skills training and vocational education.

Elearning coaches

Example: Reaseheath College UK

Reaseheath College introduced its e-learning team model in September 2015 to ensure that the best combination of technical, specialist and curriculum knowledge was available to enhance the curriculum. Developing the digital literacy skills of staff and learners was key to the strategy in line with FELTAG recommendations.

In the Reaseheath model, e-learning coaches act as a capillary network within the college, supporting and supplying staff with ideas and training and acting as the eyes and ears of their departments. These eight individuals from subject areas across the college, who have a passion and understanding of ILT, have weekly remission from their teaching commitments to support and develop staff digital literacy. For content creation, a digital developer is included in the team to support the coaches.

Overseeing this team is an eLearning coordinator, who is also involved in the teacher training programme at the college, ensuring that the college’s teachers of tomorrow are aware of the benefits of digital, and are equipped with the skills needed to succeed. Other initiatives include drop-in digital literacy sessions for teachers and learners, and a “learner voice” element in quality review weeks.

Since the introduction of the team, the college has seen a substantial increase in the use of the VLE by both learners and teachers (an increase of 165% and 569% respectively), along with a significant increase in the effective use of technology through observations of teaching and learning practise. Innovative practice such as augmented reality, app development and 360 video are all being developed for use within specific curriculum areas with the help and support of the e-learning team.

Gloucester College has a team of three digital learning coaches who support staff to develop their digital capabilities in a variety of ways:

  • New members of staff are supported by digital learning coaches and complete a college-specific digital MOT and the discovery tool during induction. The digital MOT introduces them to the essential systems used by the college and ascertains any additional training needs. After completing the discovery tool, new staff members are encouraged to share the personalised report generated by the tool with their coach who will work with them to build a tailored development plan. In addition to facilitating responsive support, it also serves as a record of the starting point for that member of staff which, together with evidence of achievement, can be used to support the six-month probationary review
  • Existing members of staff are invited to complete the discovery tool on college development days when they also have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss their findings with digital learning coaches. The relationship to learning and teaching is reinforced through other staff development initiatives such as observations and learning walks
  • The library team are engaging with the discovery tool, sharing their results with colleagues and pairing up so that those who are confident in any given area can support those who are less so

Professional development courses in the Internet (E-Learning)

The European Training Foundation (2018) has published a report on Digital Skills and Competence, and Digital and Online Learning. They say Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is “essential to improve the digital competence of teachers and to facilitate a more regular use of new technologies in teaching and learning.”

Distance Online Learning is seen as an opportunity to improve the efficiency of CPD at modest cost in countries where teacher training is unlikely to improve rapidly, (World Bank, 2016, p. 33). Distance Online Learning is seen as offering “easy and affordable, often free, platforms for networking, peer-learning and online collaboration” and of particular value in VET “where CPD needs to target heterogeneous groups of teachers and trainers operating in diverse contexts, including teachers at school, and trainers/workers in the workplace or in training centres.” They go on to say “large-scale CPD programmes through virtual communities and online events that can act as agents for change or transmitters of professional development (Imants, 2003)” providing the Western Balkan and Turkey region there are already a number of virtual platforms associated with professional development for VET as examples.

Open online courses (MOOCs)

Perhaps the most visible development in the Open and Distance Learning landscape in the past three years has been the spread of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) providing free access to education for sometimes thousands of participants. MOOCs have been embraced by Higher Education organisations wishing to extend access to courses and by private organisations seeking to develop new business models for education.

MOOCs have been criticised for their lack of support for learners and for low completion rates; while others point to the large numbers who do complete courses and that learners are free to access those parts of courses that they wish.[4]

Experiments continue with different pedagogical approaches, with the UK, Open University led OpenLearn consortium[5] advocating a social learning approach whereby learners themselves support each other.

Despite their origin in North America and Europe, Kanwar (2016) has drawn attention to the steady growth of MOOCs in Asia. This includes Peking University, who offer Chinese language MOOCs for both students and members of the public and JMOOC in Japan which targets home makers and senior citizens. Malaysian MOOCs supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, are also meant for students and members of the public.

However, Roberto Rey Agudo (2019) considers that while MOOC platforms bring high-quality educational content to learners anywhere, particularly in the developing world, “they do so by catering mostly to a selective sliver of the population.”[6] The major reason for this is the predominance of the English language in MOOC provision.

Coursera has 181 partners in 27 countries; edX has 130 partners worldwide. In spite of their international reach, English is the language of instruction for over 80 percent of their courses.

This trend is more pronounced in MOOC platforms. A search for Java programming courses on edX finds 60 courses from institutions in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Guatemala, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States. 56 of those 60 courses are delivered in English with four offered in Mandarin and none in Spanish, Cantonese, German, Dutch or French.

Agudo says: “English creates a barrier of inequality for many. Worldwide, proficiency in English is a marker of socioeconomic privilege — as is access to a stable internet connection or the digital literacy required to navigate online courses.”

Nevertheless, the Nigerian Ambassador to UNESCO, Mariam Y Katagum, draws attention to South Africa as a country embracing MOOCs and points to the opportunity of access, cost-effectiveness and quality education as the most prominent benefits of online courses, while the possibility of massive roll-out and participation is peculiar to MOOCs[7]. She sees as barriers not only issues of connectivity and access to computers but also the privatisation of universities, contributing to the absence of government policy in promoting MOOCs as well as a lack of public funding.

Despite early hype that MOOCs would disrupt education, both public and private MOOC providers have struggled to develop business models to sustain provision. Charging for accreditation has provided only limited income and some private sector providers are now turning towards more traditional closed commercial provision or are charging for access to online courses.  Again MOOCs can be based in public education structures/systems so that business models are not necessary though there may be a charge for certification.

UNESCO has some experience and engagement with MOOCs. In 2014 UNESCO’s Institute of IT in Education (IITE) together with the University of London launched its first Massive Online Open course (MOOC) on ‘ICT in primary education’. More than 7000 participants from 166 countries were registered, with over 3000 participants from emerging economies.

With support from the European Commission, UNESCO has participated in the Globalizing OpenupEd MOOCs’ initiative in Africa working with the Africa Council for Distance Education (ACDE), and in Asia working with the Asian Association for Open Universities (AAOU).

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Modes of Continuing Professional Development – Online learning communities and Communities of Practice

In this section we examine literature around different modes of Continuing Professional Development. We are especially concerned to explore effective forms of CPD aside from the more traditional face to face courses and workshops. A further concern is to identify modes of CPD which can easily scale, given the numbers of VET teachers and trainers who need CPD in the use of technology for teaching and training and the requirements for ongoing updating as new technologies enter the classroom and workplace.        

Within vocational education and work based learning, there has been particular interest in Communities of Practice. The idea of Communities of Practice is based on situated learning theory that emphasises the situated nature of learning. Knowledge in this sense is generated, acquired, and and transformed through the social interaction within such Communities of Practice. Communities of Practice are not conceptualised as an educational programme, but the teaching and learning that takes place in such a community is part of the daily practice (Attwell and Luebcke, forthcoming),

Mark Smith (2003) has produced a useful summary of research and writings, particularly by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, on communities of practice. Wenger points out that we are all members of different communities of practice:

Being alive as human beings means that we are constantly engaged in the pursuit of enterprises of all kinds, from ensuring our physical survival to seeking the most lofty pleasures. As we define these enterprises and engage in their pursuit together, we interact with each other and with the world and we tune our relations with each other and with the world accordingly. In other words, we learn.

Over time, this collective learning results in practices that reflect both the pursuit of our enterprises and the attendant social relations. These practices are thus the property of a kind of community created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise. It makes sense, therefore to call these kinds of communities of practice.” (Wenger 1998: 45).

Although the nature and composition of these communities varies members are brought together by joining in common activities and by “what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities” (Wenger 1998).

According to Wenger (1998), a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members
  • How it functions – mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time (see, also Wenger 1999: 73-84).

A community of practice involves much more than the technical knowledge or skill associated with undertaking some task. Members are involved in a set of relationships over time (Lave and Wenger 1991: 98) and communities develop around things that matter to people (Wenger 1998). The fact that they are organizing around some particular area of knowledge and activity gives members a sense of joint enterprise and identity. For a community of practice to function it needs to generate and appropriate a shared repertoire of ideas, commitments and memories. It also needs to develop various resources such as tools, documents, routines, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the community. In other words, it involves practice: ways of doing and approaching things that are shared to some significant extent among members.

Rather than looking to learning as the acquisition of certain forms of knowledge, Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger have tried to place it in social relationships – situations of co-participation. As William F. Hanks puts it in his introduction to their book: “Rather than asking what kind of cognitive processes and conceptual structures are involved, they ask what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place” (1991: 14). It not so much that learners acquire structures or models to understand the world, but they participate in frameworks that that have structure. Learning involves participation in a community of practice. And that participation “refers not just to local events of engagement in certain activities with certain people, but to a more encompassing process of being active participants in the practices of social communities and constructing identities in relation to these communities” (Wenger 1999: 4).

Learning is not seen as the acquisition of knowledge by individuals so much as a process of social participation. The nature of the situation impacts significantly on the process.

Learners inevitably participate in communities of practitioners and… the mastery of knowledge and skill requires newcomers to move toward full participation in the socio-cultural practices of a community. “Legitimate peripheral participation” provides a way to speak about the relations between newcomers and old-timers, and about activities, identities, artefacts, and communities of knowledge and practice. A person’s intentions to learn are engaged and the meaning of learning is configured through the process of becoming a full participant in a socio-cultural practice. This social process, includes, indeed it subsumes, the learning of knowledgeable skills.” (Lave and Wenger 1991: 29).

In this there is a concern with identity, with learning to speak, act and improvise in ways that make sense in the community. What is more, and in contrast with learning as internalization, learning is seen “as increasing participation in communities of practice concerns the whole person acting in the world’ (Lave and Wenger 1991: 49). The focus is on the ways in which learning is ‘an evolving, continuously renewed set of relations’”. (ibid.: 50)

Coffield (2008) draws attention to the importance of metaphor and prefers to move from the acquisition metaphor as he sees it as “the unacknowledged metaphor behind government policies in education” (p.8) and the participation metaphor which he says “locates learning in “in the simultaneous social processes of: learning to belong to different ‘communities of practice’ …; learning to recognise changes in our identity because learning changes who we are; learning to create meaning out of our experiences; and learning what it means to know in practice.” (p.8) From such a viewpoint, he says, the learner is “transformed into a practitioner, a newcomer becoming an old-timer, whose changing knowledge, skills and discourse are part of a developing identity – in short, a member of a community of practice.” (Lave and Wenger 1991: p.122)

In a study undertaken by the IPTS on ‘Pedagogical Innovation in New Learning Communities’, Kirsti Ala-Mutka and Anusca Ferrari (eds., 2010) say members of online communities “learn by making and developing connections (intentionally or not) between ideas, experiences, and information, and by interacting, sharing, understanding, accepting, commenting, creating and defending their own opinions, their viewpoints, their current situations and their daily experiences.” (p.6)

Personal development, they say, “goes hand-in-hand with other forms of learning, such as knowledge and skill acquisition for practical and professional aims.” (p.6)

This approach has significant impact on the balance between pedagogical models. In the communities they studied there was more of an emphasis on constructing and creating new knowledge rather than the focus on teaching or acquiring codified knowledge normal to traditional education and training environments. They found that

codified knowledge constitutes only a small proportion of online communities’ learning activities, whereas interaction among peers leads to knowledge sharing (often based on members’ experience) and knowledge creation (based on a mix of codified knowledge and new knowledge collaboratively developed).”

More problematic is the issue of how much it is possible to form or even to facilitate the formation of Communities of Practice and how much intervention is needed or desirable. Based on six case studies Kirsti Ala-Mutka and Anusca Ferrari say. “little support is provided to members in structuring and scaffolding their learning or in developing learning-to-learn competences.” (p 6)

They promote the use technology and tools that encourage self-expression and social networking to support Communities of Practice. They also propose a series of rubrics to develop such communities:

  • The information available in the community must be reliable;
  • The interest of community members must be kept alive;
  • ·Members need to be educated, through codes of conduct and rules, to self-manage their learning processes. In communities where learning is an explicit objective, a key concern is to empower individuals’ learning attitudes so that management plays a decreasing role in steering the learning process within the community. (p 8).

Communities of Practice are clearly an attractive approach to fostering informal learning and developing work based learning. However, attempts to reconceptualise the pedagogy of Communities of Practice for groups of formal learners have proved less successful: it is to be doubted whether the practice of being a learner provides a strong enough common tie to form a community in the way Lave and Wenger envisaged.

Nevertheless, the UK Jisc have launched an “active community of practice’ for teachers around the use of new technology for learning. They characterise it as “an open community that welcomes both experienced participants and those who have not previously engaged in this field but who would like to find out more.”

With over 100 active participants, they say, “the network events and mailing list offer opportunities for colleagues to work together on all aspects of digital capability for staff and students.”

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Training for Change

There is a general recognition of the need for training and professional development for vocational teachers in the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning. There is less agreement on how this might be achieved and what are the most effective forms of training and CPD. In part four of our review of literature and projects we look at some of the ideas in this debate before going on in the next sessions to look at emergent forms and sources of CPD.

Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) argue that “the literature provides evidence that many effective approaches to ICT CPD are in place, but they remain localised.” CPD is fragmented – unlike initial training, it is not a homogenous model and interesting small scale developments may not be widely disseminated. What ICT CPD lacks in coherence, it makes up for in innovation but this is difficult to capture. As Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) note, it is “a very varied provision which has grown ahead of a comparable rate of research into its effects.”

in looking at research into effective practices in ICT CPD in order to draw out what appear to be critical success factors, it is hard to isolate “CPD issues which are specific to ICT CPD [as opposed to those] which are linked to wider approaches to the effective professional development of teachers.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009).

Twining, Raffaghelli, Albion and Knezek (2013) introduced the main outcomes of discussions at the EDUsummIT 2011 by the Technical Working Group on Teacher Professional Development (TWG3). The focus was to explore how professional development of teachers may ensure that teachers are better prepared to use information and communication technology (ICT) to promote 21st century learning. The broad topics considered there were teacher learning for pedagogical innovation, benchmarks for teacher education relative to pedagogical use of ICT, factors affecting teachers’ use of ICT, models for teacher education related to ICT, multimedia cases in teacher education, communities of practice (CoPs) for teacher professional development, and teacher learning for educational renewal with ICT.

A systematic review on professional development found that there are some key features of professional development linked to better achievement by students which may transfer to vocational education and training. These were:

  • Observation of teaching;
  • Feedback to teachers;
  • The use of external expertise linked to school‐based activities;
  • Scope for teachers to identify their own CPD focus;
  • An emphasis on peer support;
  • Processes to encourage, extend and structure professional dialogue; and
  • Processes for sustaining CPD over time to enable teachers to embed practice in their classrooms.

(Cordingly et al, 2003).

There is also convincing evidence that collaborative professional development is more strongly associated with improvements in teaching and learning (DfE, 2010, p. 10).

Attwell and Hughes (2010) say that the literature around the training of Vocational teacher and trainers in the use of technology for teaching and learning identifies two distinct trajectories; “the digital literacy approach with the focus on developing teachers’ technical skills and a pedagogic approach with the emphasis on new teaching and learning opportunities afforded by the technology.”

Some of the literature has adopted a critical stance or been supportive of one or the other.

For example Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) claimed that there was

“An over-emphasis on skills training in itself at the expense of deep understanding and application of skills to developing learning and teaching. This is linked to a perceived need to address a skills ‘deficit’ in teachers, rather than to develop a focus on pedagogy.”

Programme designers need to consider readiness for change when promoting unfamiliar pedagogical approaches. In this endeavour, there is a need for benchmarks in relation to policy development and assessment using ICT as well as for pedagogical use (Kirschner, Wubbels, & Brekelmans, 2008).

Twining (2013) says that pedagogical transformation occurs when teachers move beyond simple applications of ICT to use it for planning instruction and collaborating beyond the classroom, supporting learning by creating structure, providing advice and monitoring progress.

Wei-Wei Marinda Chang (2016) has written a thesis on ‘Digital Competence and Professional Development of Vocational Education and Training Teachers in Queensland.’

She identifies four elements of different kinds of knowledge in teachers’ use of technology for teaching and training which she calls the TPCK model: “Technological (TK), Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) and Technological Content Knowledge (TCK).” She says “the digital competency of Queensland VET teachers and trainers can be characterised as not very strong. It was clear that teachers felt the most confident in TCK and felt that TPCK was their weakest capability. As the most complex skill in TPCK, this indicates that Professional Development should target TPCK in particular.

Chang goes on to say VET educators need to be treated as adult learners “who, through research, are understood to be “generally autonomous and self-directed, goal-oriented, relevancy-orientated, practical and seek recognition and respect for their prior experiences and knowledge” (Knowles, 1973, cited in Tafel, 2008, p. 25). Yet she says “the majority of PD offered to educators is generic and classroom based (Tafel, 2008), is delivered by the institution administrators with little regard for the personalised requirements of the teachers (Borthwick & Risberg, 2008) and offers little to no on-going support and follow up (Perkins, 2009).” She concludes that “the effectiveness of PD can be widely debated within the VET sector (Harris, Simons, Hill, Smith, Pearce, Blakeley, Choy & Snewin, 2001).”

Writing from a Higher Education perspective, Davis and Fill (2007) found that:

“A good approach has been to allow the academics to specify their needs, then to show them technological solutions that might meet those requirements, rather than start with the technology.”

[“Thus, when the idea of a ‘nugget’ emerged from the early meetings that sought to establish common ground, the learning technologists did not initially rush to replace it with the term ‘learning object’, nor to expose the academics to emerging interoperability standards and metadata theories.”]

Conversely, Westerman and Graham-Matheson (2008), cited in Vogel (2010), identified digital literacy as key. Their claim was based on action research in Canterbury Christchurch’s Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit to build digital literacy among academics.

“Twenty five volunteer participants selected six digital tools from a suite of institutional and Web 2.0 tools assembled by the LTEU … and devised their own personal development plans for the coming year. The LTEU provided group workshops or demonstrations, with homework and a follow-up session. All but the most experienced self-reported significant gains in digital literacy and many reported easily applying what they learnt to their practice.”

Some authors advocated an integration of the two. The Management of E-Learning (CAMEL) project (Higher Education Funding Council for England and JISC InfoNet, 2006) rejected European Computer Driving Licence-type training in favour of “small chunks that relate to something they are actually doing”, and suggested that requests for technical support should be taken as “new opportunities to disseminate new ideas, give pointers and engage staff further every time you interact with them”. The technical needs here are viewed as an opportunity to start a conversation about pedagogy.

Attwell and Hughes (2010) say that in terms of practice, the technical skills approach seems to predominate although most of the rhetoric advocates concentrating on the pedagogy.

Through a series of case studies, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) found that adult literacy educators needed to fully understand the realities of modern ICT, and that, due to a lack of funding, access to ICT in a timely and appropriate fashion was an obstacle, even though having a centralised repository of shared resources would have been invaluable. Of particular importance, the study found that educators differed in their ability and willingness to use ICT. Most described their existing skills as self-taught, and preferred to learn this way and only seeking help when absolutely necessary (2005, p.10). In addition, the majority of adult educators felt that the rapid changes to technology meant they would always be in a state of requiring technical skills development. They also concluded that any PD program designed to target ICT capabilities required institutional ICT policies to support it if it were to have a chance at success, and that these policies should clearly identify financial implications and consequences to existing Information Technology (IT) infrastructures (NCVER, 2005).

Jane Hart produces an annual survey of the Top Tools for Learning compiled by  from2,951 votes from 52 countries in the 12th Annual Digital Learning Tools Survey. She has also categorised the tools into 30 different areas, and produced 3 sub-lists that provide some context to how the tools are being including for Personal and Professional Development for Workplace Learning (WPL100): the digital tools used to design, deliver, enable and/or support learning in the workplace and for Education (EDU100): the digital tools used by educators and students in schools, colleges, universities, adult education etc.

In her commentary on the results she say that Web resources still dominate (Youtube is number 1), Some social networks are up, some down and Web courses are increasing in popularity with Coursera the most popular web course platform. She also draws attention to  a subtle shift from course development to content development and says that Learning at work is becoming personal and continuous. Team collaboration tools support the real social learning at work are also growing in popularity while video conferencing is eclipsing conference calls and “audience engagement has become a big thing.” It is notable that traditional Virtial Learning Environments and ed-tech tools are not generally popular.

Lack of funding for CPD is a recurrent theme in the literature: a study focused on the introduction of apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain found that vocational school directors and staff alike were aware of the need for the increased use of technology both as part of the curriculum and for teaching and learning but were frustrated by financial restrictions on access to technology and to opportunities for CPD (Attwell, Garcia and Molina, 2017).

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Initial and Continuing training for VET teachers in Europe.

Part three in a series reviewing literature and projects in the training and professional development of VET teachers in the use of digital technologies looks at initial training and Continuing Professional Development.

Initial VET teacher training

CEDEFOP (2016) have provided a useful summary of the existing vocational training of vocational teachers in Europe in their Briefing Note on Professional Development for VET Teachers and Trainers. 

The teaching profession is regulated in most countries, they say. Qualification requirements are set by legislation on education or VET (Croatia, Latvia, Malta, Austria, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden) or by specific regulations (Bulgaria, Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania, Poland, Romania). Some countries have established professional standards or profiles for teachers (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, the UK). Others (Lithuania, Slovenia) have defined specific requirements in vocational training programmes or curricula.

Most countries require tertiary education as entry level to the teaching profession; in some (the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain) teachers need a master degree. In some countries, candidates need to have completed tertiary pedagogical education before teaching (Bulgaria, Estonia, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Slovenia), while in others (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia, Malta, the UK) this is not the case. In the latter, VET teachers are given a certain period of time to acquire a pedagogical qualification as an in-service training option. In some countries, candidates need to pass a professional teacher examination or get a license (Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia).

Initial teacher training is well-established across the EU. Most countries offer teacher training programmes and recognised teacher qualifications at EQF levels 5 to 8. Teachers of general subjects are trained in general teacher training programmes and teachers of vocational theory usually have a degree in a professional field such as engineering or hospitality. Some countries have specific VET teacher training programmes (Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden).

In most countries (Belgium-Flemish Community, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Finland and others), initial teacher training includes practice (traineeships) in schools under the supervision of experienced teachers. In some countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, UK-Wales), novice teachers start out on their career with an induction period of up to one year under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

For teachers of practical vocational subjects, lower levels of qualification topped up by professional experience can be accepted. Examples are a secondary VET or master craftsman’s certificate (Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia).

Trainers in work-based settings

The availability of a mentor is often perceived as a guarantee of quality and hence a condition for companies to be accredited as a learning workplace. In-company mentors are mandatory in about half of the countries; these are mostly those with well-established apprenticeship systems (the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia). Some of these countries have recently turned their attention to in-company trainer competences, while (re-)establishing or strengthening various forms of WBL in their VET systems. Competence requirements range from a qualification in the occupation combined with a good personal record, to a qualification in the occupation combined with years of experience in the profession and pedagogical training.

Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional development (CPD) provision also varies across countries. In most, accredited training courses or programmes are considered CPD, whereas there is no validation or recognition of competences acquired while teaching or training. Some countries recognise ‘self-study’ as a form of CPD (Sweden), which probably includes also training courses acquired independently by a teacher.

In some countries, teachers can undertake their CPD in companies (Estonia, Slovenia, Finland) while others (the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, UK-England) have developed e-environments for teachers’ professional development and exchange of good practices. Tailor-made courses in the Netherlands complement teacher competences. Different bodies provide teacher CPD programmes depending on the organisation of education and training systems in the countries:

higher education institutions and universities (Bulgaria, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, UK-Wales); teacher training institutes (Cyprus, Iceland, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia);

  • in-service training institutions (Belgium-Flemish Community, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Slovakia, Romania, the UK);
  • ·national centres or agencies working in VET (Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia.
  • non-state providers of adult education (Estonia, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden);
  • VET schools (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Finland);
  • Municipalities (Portugal, Sweden), companies (Bulgaria, Italy) and teacher unions (Belgium).

Another source of CPD is through projects. CEDEFOP say that although projects usually cover a limited scope and allow for training of a limited number of teachers and trainers, their outcomes are often impressive and can be useful to others. To reap the benefits of successful projects, these need to be identified and mainstreamed into national initiatives or further developed to allow for knowledge transfer to other sectors or countries. Sustainability plans need to be given proper attention to avoid any discontinuation of valuable initiatives once EU funding stops.

References and Footnotes

Literature Review

Frameworks for teachers and trainers in using technology for learning

Part two of a series reviewing literature and projects in the training and professional development of VET teachers in the use of digital technologies.

Digital capability framework

Jisc have produced a Digital capability framework which “describes the skills needed by staff from a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment.”

Figure 1 JISC Digital Capability Framework

Jisc NUS Roadmap

May 2019, saw the launch of the Jisc NUS roadmap (Jisc, 2019) designed to support students, course representatives, and union and guild representatives to work with their institution on improving student digital experiences.

Jisc say “Informed by extensive research into learners’ experiences and expectations of technology, the roadmap has been updated following over 77,500 student responses to Jisc’s digital experience insights survey, gathered over three years.” It is intended to enable institutions, including universities and vocational education and training colleges,  to identify gaps in their digital provision, while allowing students to compare their digital experiences to others’.

The roadmap focuses on ‘Good Practice Principles’ which has four levels of progression: First steps, Developing, Developed and Outstanding. Whilst obviously focused on wider aspects of the student experience, one section covers teachers, with the good practice principle being that “Teaching staff are confident users of digital technologies and media.” Students were asked “What one thing would improve the quality of your digital learning and teaching?”  They were further asked to “rate your digital learning and teaching overall” and in a more open question “When digital technologies are used on my course…”

First steps were:

  • Training available for teaching staff in all core systems such as the virtual learning environment, assessment systems and lecture capture
  • E-learning specialist staff are available to support teaching staff
  • All teaching staff can use in-class digital technologies and audio visual equipment
  • All teaching staff can upload content to the VLE and use an online submission and grading system

Developing were:

  • A technology enhanced learning (TEL) or e-learning strategy with goals for teaching staff development
  • There is a growing cohort of teaching staff with digital expertise, supported by elearning specialists
  • All teaching staff can use the specialist academic/professional technologies of their subject area
  • Workshops are available to support the development of digital teaching skills

Developed were:

  • All teaching staff can design digital activities suitable to their subject area and student needs
  • Local e-learning staff or staff digital champions support digital approaches at the course or subject level
  • Staff share digital teaching ‘know how’ via one or more communities of practice
  • Dedicated funding and staff support for digital innovation projects

Developed were:

  • Teaching staff have time allocated to develop, practice and evaluate digital approaches
  • Specific rewards and career pathways for digital teaching expertise and innovation
  • Teachers and students work in partnership to develop new digital approaches
  • There are excellent digital teaching and learning projects that have been recognised outside the organisation

DigComp Edu

Both the European Commission and UNESCO have developed frameworks for teacher development in the use of technology for teaching and learning. The frameworks are designed to be flexible, to be capable of adoption in different national policies and for different contexts. There are considerable similarities between the frameworks, both of which are intended to be applicable for vocational education and training as well as for general school teachers.

The DigCompEdu Framework aims to capture and describe educator-specific digital competences by proposing 22 elementary competences organised in 6 areas. Area 1 is directed at the broader professional environment, i.e. educators’ use of digital technologies in professional interactions with colleagues, learners, parents and other interested parties, for their own individual professional development and for the collective good of the organisation. Area 2 looks at the competences needed to effectively and responsibly use, create and share digital resources for learning. Area 3 is dedicated to managing and orchestrating the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning. Area 4 addresses the use of digital strategies to enhance assessment. Area 5 focuses on the potential of digital technologies for learner-centred teaching and learning strategies. Areas 6 details the specific pedagogic competences required to facilitate students’ digital competence. For each competence, a title and a short description are provided, which serve as the main point of reference.

The Framework also proposes a progression model to help educators assess and develop their digital competence. It outlines six different stages through which an educator’s digital competence typically develops, so as to help educators identify and decide on the specific steps to take to boost their competence at the stage they are currently at. At the first two stages, Newcomer (A1) and Explorer (A2), educators assimilate new information and develop basic digital practices; at the following two stages, Integrator (B1) and Expert (B2), they apply, further expand and structure on their digital practices; at the highest stages, Leader (C1) and Pioneer (C2), they pass on their knowledge, critique existing practice and develop new practices.

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT CFT)

UNESCO has created an international Framework that sets out the competencies required to teach effectively with ICT: the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT CFT).

UNESCO locates the CFT in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the attainment of the social and economic goals recognised as a key focus of education systems worldwide. Teachers, they say,  need to be equipped to guide the next generation to embrace and be able to achieve these goals. Technology is seen as having a significant role to play in the achievement of the SDGs.

There have been three ICT CFT versions, in 2008, 2011 and 2018. Each has reflected the prevailing thinking on the relationship between technology and education, with suggestions on how to achieve competencies using popular technologies of the time. From the outset, it was envisaged that the ICT CFT would be dynamic and revisited regularly to ensure relevance.

The ICT CFT Version 3 is intended to inform teacher-training policies and programmes that strengthen the use of ICT in Education. Its target audience is teacher-training personnel, educational experts, policy-makers, teacher support personnel and other professional development providers. The ICT CFT assumes a working knowledge of the benefits of ICT in Education, and encourages contextualization and adaptation of teacher professional development as relevant.

The new version of the ICT CFT emphasizes that teachers, in addition to having ICT competencies and the ability to develop these in their students, must be UNESCO, in partnership with industry leaders and global subject experts, has created an international Framework that sets out the competencies required to teach effectively with ICT: the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT CFT).

UNESCO locates the CFT in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the attainment of the social and economic goals recognised as a key focus of education systems worldwide. Teachers need to be equipped to guide the next generation to embrace and be able to achieve these goals. Technology is seen as having a significant role to play in the achievement of the SDGs.

The new version of the ICT CFT emphasizes that teachers, in addition to having ICT competencies and the ability to develop these in their students, must be able to use ICT to help students become collaborative, problem-solving, creative learners and innovative and engaged members of society.

For this purpose, teachers’ professional development should be understood as a lifelong learning process, rather than a one-off event. It is advised that the ICT CFT be integrated into the three phases of teacher professional development:

·       pre-service

·       in-service

·       On-going formal and informal pedagogical and technical support

The ICT CFT consists of 18 competencies organized according to the six aspects of teachers’ professional practice, over three levels of teachers’ pedagogical use of ICT. The underlying idea is that teachers who have competencies to use ICT in their professional practice will deliver quality education and ultimately be able to effectively guide the development of students’ ICT competencies.

References and Footnotes

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