EDUCATION, DIGITAL SKILLS AND DIGITAL LEARNING

(A.) Policy and legislation

(A.1) Policy objectives

The development and promotion of ICT professionalism, digital skills (also called e-skills) and e-learning require a strong consensus and cooperation among Member States and stakeholders.

(A.2) EC perspective and progress report
Regarding digital skills:

Pan-European digital competences (e-competences) frameworks and tools, as well as efficient and interoperable digital learning solutions are indispensable for reducing digital skills shortages, gaps and mismatches. Similar activities are under development in the United States, Russia, Japan, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Latin America, and other parts of the world. In the early 2000s, the development of national frameworks had already begun in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and other European countries. In the Council Conclusions of 23 November 2007, Member States supported the Commission’s intention to continue to provide a platform for the exchange of best practices, and to promote a regular dialogue on digital skills and develop a European e-Competence Framework.

Progress has been made with the development of the European e-Competence Framework for ICT professionals being available and with the establishment of a CEN technical committee (CEN/TC 428 on ICT Professionalism and Digital Competences). CEN/TC 428 published the standard EN 16234. See details in C.1 below.

Launched in 2016, the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition is bringing together Member States, companies, social partners, non-profit organisations and education providers, who take action to tackle the lack of digital skills in Europe.

Regarding digital learning:

 Efficient, accessible, affordable and interoperable digital learning solutions are necessary to promote the development of a large digital learning and technology-enhanced learning market in Europe. It is vital to ensure everyone’s right to access education and lifelong learning.

The forced closure of schools and campus buildings in spring 2020 due to the Covid-crisis has pushed educators and students into teaching and learning with technology at a scale never seen before. This shift to remote teaching and learning has shown major flaws and weaknesses regarding digital skills and competences levels in the population, access to infrastructure and the availability and usability of quality digital resources and platforms. Many teachers are also lacking experience and training - technical and pedagogical – for teaching with digital technologies, including in remote settings. Students too faced new challenges learning at home, including being able to use digital tools and resources independently, efficiently and safely.

In this context, digital learning should be made understandable, pedagogically sound, usable and accessible for all learners, including those with additional needs. Digital learning also provides an opportunity to foster skills regarding accessibility using a design for all approach.

(A.3) References
  • COM(2020) 624. Communication “Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 — resetting education and training for the digital age” outlining the European Commission’s vision for high quality, inclusive and accessible digital education in Europe. It is a call to action for stronger cooperation at EU level to learn from the COVID-19 crisis and make education and training systems fit for the digital age.
  • COM(2020) 274. Communication “The European Skills Agenda — for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience” which is a five-year plan to help individuals and businesses develop more and better skills, by strengthening sustainable competitiveness; ensuring social fairness; and building resilience to react to crises, based on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • COM (2018) 22. On 17 January 2018 the Commission published the “Digital Education Action Plan” to support technology-use and digital competence development in education. A new Action Plan is foreseen for adoption in September 2020. 
  • Council Recommendation (2018/C 189/01) on key competences for lifelong learning
  • COM(2016) 381. On 10 June 2016 the European Commission published “A new skills agenda for Europe — Working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness”. It presents a number of actions and initiatives aiming to tackle the digital skills deficit in Europe. One of these actions is the launch in December 2016 of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition to develop a large digital talent pool and ensure that individuals and the labour force in Europe are equipped with adequate digital skills. This new coalition builds on the work already done under the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and the EU e-skills strategy, and will bring together a broader set of stakeholders beyond ICT-sector, including ICT-using sectors, training organisations, academia, social partners and Member States.
  • COM(2016) 180. On 18 April 2016 the European Commission published the Communication Digitising European industry, which introduced a set of coherent policy measures as part of a digital single market technologies and public service modernisation package. Part of the communication is devoted to digital skills. In particular, it calls for human capital ready for the digital transformation with the necessary skills.
  • COM(2013)654  Communication Open up education: innovative teaching and learning for all through new technologies and open educational resources”.
  • IP/13/182 Grand coalition for digital jobs
  • SWD(2012) 446: Digital agenda for Europe — a good start and stakeholder feedback”
  • COM(2012) 173: Toward a job-rich recovery and SWD(2012) 96: Exploiting the employment potential of ICTs
  • Recommendation 2009/C 155/01 on the establishment of a European quality assurance reference framework for vocational education and training (EQAVET).
  • COM(2007) 496 e-skills for the 21st century: fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs

(B.) Requested actions

General recommendation: Standardisation proposals must be based on clear and well-defined market needs and be developed in full coherence with multi-stakeholder initiatives and public policies in this area. These include relevant European Commission’s Communications: “e-Skills for the 21st Century” (2007); “Digitising European Industry” (2016);“Skills agenda for Europe” (2020) which include a Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition and a Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills; and “Digital Education Action Plan” (2020). The aim is to reduce skills shortages, gaps and mismatches; foster ICT professionalism and digital competence; and further mature the ICT profession, building on the European e-competence framework for ICT professionals and the digital competency framework for citizens.

Regarding digital skills:

The public and private sectors need to collaborate on the following topics :

Action 1 SDO to make further progress towards a comprehensive framework for ICT professionals integrating four building blocks: (1) European e-competence framework (e-CF) and related job profiles, (2) foundational body of knowledge, (3) qualifications and certifications, and (4) ethics. This should be complemented by relevant methods and tools for the further development, efficient implementation and regular maintenance of this framework to strengthen ICT professionalism in Europe and foster balanced international dialogue and cooperation on this subject

  • The standard (EN 16234-1:2016) was adopted in 2016. It provides a common European description about the knowledge, skills and competences of the ICT professional workforce in all sectors. Its review - CEN/TC 428 project (SA 2017-03) - was successfully completed and a new version was released in 2019 (EN 1634-1:2019). Based on proposals received in 2018, new projects started in 2019 to address the other building blocks.
  • To boost successful and consistent implementation, it is important to provide and maintain standards and supporting technical reports related to the four building blocks in a coherent and integrated manner. It is also necessary to reflect and address issues such as assessment and guidance tools, compliance, validation, recognition, and accreditation aspects etc. The aim is to provide an efficient solution to stakeholders, ICT and digital related user, supply and service organisations, businesses of all sizes in all sectors (multinationals and SMEs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Human Resources departments, ICT professionals and digital leaders, managers and workers, and education and training organisations on how to apply standards and implement a comprehensive framework. It is necessary to provide case studies to illustrate practical implementation.
  • Taking into account that digital technologies are rapidly evolving, the framework will need regular review and update in a consistent and integrated manner.

Action 2 Digital organisational capability and maturity: take stock of initiatives (such as the report on Digital organisational frameworks and IT professionalism) and their benefits regarding the digital capability of organisations, including education organisations, in liaison the individual competences of their staff. Make progress towards the development of synergy with the framework for ICT professionals (action 2) with a view to match personnel digital competence with digital organisational processes and procedures to ensure best return on investment in digital technologies.

Action 3 International cooperation: European SDOs need to coordinate and establish a regular dialogue and cooperation with international level with relevant associations (IEEE, ACM etc.) and standardisation bodies (ISO, NIST etc.) in the field of ICT professionalism and digital competence.

Action 4 Organisational capability: take stock of ongoing assessments, initiatives and their impacts regarding the capability of organisations in the context of the digital skills/e-competence of the personnel. Match personnel competence with organisational processes and procedures to ensure best return on investment in ICT.

Regarding digital learning:

Action 5 European digital learning standards to facilitate large scale adoption of best practices and solutions on a voluntary basis. The focus should be on specifications and guidelines for digital learning opportunities designed for all kinds of users, learning outcomes, credit points, assessment and e-portfolios. 

Action 6 Standardisation potential around digital learning: SDO to investigate digital learning courses and resources, content repositories and exchange mechanisms with a focus on data privacy metadata, learning design and structure, technical and semantic interoperability supported by agreed protocols, exchange formats and vocabularies. Interoperability should include context-aware, adaptable and mobile/ambient e-learning systems and also cross-domain aspects. This may include the learning trajectory or learning route including, e.g. the didactic approach, aimed learning & learner’s profiles and the availability of additional tools that support digital learning. End users (learners and educators) should also be involved in the design, testing and development of digital learning solutions.  

Action 7 Standardisation potential around interoperability and transfer of learners’ data: SDO to investigate the possible standardisation of  the exchange of learning & learners data which may be generated in the different learning spaces. By the use of a Caliper or xAPI-like framework, the exchange and therefore effective usage might be facilitated.

Action 8 European guidelines on ensuring accessible and inclusive digital learning. These guidelines should be based on a design for all approach to facilitate learning for diverse range of users, including learners with disabilities.

(C.) Activities and additional information  

(C.1) Related standardisation activities
Regarding digital skills:
CEN

CEN/TC 428 ‘ICT Professionalism and Digital Competences’ is responsible for the standardisation of a common language of professional ICT and digital competences, skills and knowledge applied in all domains. A non-exhaustive list of areas where CEN/TC 428 can develop its activity follows:

  • EN 16234:2019 (e-CF) maintenance and evolution
  • Interaction with different Frameworks
  • Curricula guidance
  • Professional profiles
  • Provide guidance for the assessment against EN 16234 (e-CF)

See: CEN/TC 428 - ICT Professionalism and Digital Competences published standards

The CEN workshop on ICT Skills has been definitively replaced by the CEN/TC 428.

ISO/IEC JTC1

SC 27 Competence requirements for information security management systems professionals

SC 7/WG 20 Software and Systems Bodies of Knowledge and Professionalisation and related activities

SC 36 on Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training (ITLET) runs activities in the following areas Business planning and communications; vocabulary collaborative and intelligent technology; learner information; management and delivery; quality assurance and descriptive frameworks; platform, services and specification integration; culture, language and individual needs; learning analytics interoperability

http://isotc.iso.org/livelink/livelink?func=ll&objId=8917700&objAction=browse&viewType=1

Regarding digital learning:

CEN

CEN/TC 353 ‘Information and Communication Technologies’ for learning, education and training. The TC has been reactivated in 2019.

CEN/TC 428 is responsible for all aspects of standardisation related to maturing the ICT Profession in all sectors, public and private. This includes, at a minimum, activity related to four major building blocks of ICT Professionalism (competences, education and certification, code of ethics, body of knowledge). A non-exhaustive list of areas where CEN/TC 428 develops its activity:

  • EN 16234 (e-CF) - a common European e-Competence Framework for ICT Professionals in all industry sectors’: maintenance and evolution
  • interaction with different international Frameworks
  • curricula guidance
  • professional role profiles
  • guidance for the assessment against EN 16234 (e-CF): Body of Knowledge (BoK), development of an education and certification model related to the e-CF, development of a sustainable code of ethics

All conceptual developments shall be consistent and interrelated.

For EN 16234-1 (e-CF) see:

(https://standards.cen.eu/dyn/www/f?p=204:110:0::::FSP_PROJECT:67073&cs=1A3E1A3B6A76A3121B54911C0B77BBA84)The new edition of EN 12634-1 has been published at the end of 2019.

For CWA 16458-1:2018 EU ICT Professional Role Profiles see:

To avoid organisational redundancy the CEN workshop on ICT Skills was closed in 2018. In consequence, CEN/TC 428 has overtaken full responsibility of the IT Professionalism standardisation work programme, including the future updating of the European ICT professional Role Profiles CWA in harmony with EN 16234-1 and other related concepts.

The Council of Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) has established an expert group IT Professionalism Europe (ITPE) with a large number of stakeholders, in part to take forward a wider consultative role. See: https://itprofessionalism.org/

IEEE

The IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) has developed a number of internationally accredited standards. The 1484.xx series of published standards covers system architecture, data models, learning object metadata and more. For more information please visit: https://www.computer.org/volunteering/boards-and-committees/standards-activities/committees/learning-technology

ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 36

Subcommittee (SC) 36 on Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training (ITLET) has the following work programme underway:

http://www.iec.ch/dyn/www/f?p=103:22:0::::FSP_ORG_ID:3410

Standards to ensure interoperability between information technology systems used in ITLET;

The identification of generic LET requirements for information technology systems and services used in ITLET situations (example:  types of digital content)

Standards projects being addressed:

The description of metadata for learning resources

  • ITLET vocabularies
    • the personalization of the IT-enabled educational environment (individualized accessibility)
    • models for describing competency
    • the creation of an ITLET quality framework
    • the advancement of e-Assessments, e-textbooks and related learning services, virtual experiments
  • Future work planned
    • learning analytics
    • massive open online course (MOOC) standardisation
    • how existing standards and specifications may work together to better the LET environment
    • ISO TR 20514: EHR Definition scope and context

http://www.iso.org/iso/home/standards_development/

list_of_iso_technical_committees/iso_technical_committee.htm?commid=45392

ITU-T

ITU-T SG 16 on multimedia has produced a series of standards that enable remote collaboration, e.g. Recommendation ITU-T F.742 on service description and requirements for distance learning services.

http://itu.int/ITU-T/go/sg16

The Recommendation ITU-T Y.2241 “Service framework to support web objects based ubiquitous self-directed learning” was approved by ITU-T SG13 in 2017. .

ITU-T SG13 is developing Recommendations on application of a u-learning environment to the smart farming (Y.sfes) and QoS requirements for smart education supported by IMT-2020 (Y.IMT2020-qos-req-se).

http://itu.int/ITU-T/go/sg13

The ITU also published a technology watch report on technology-based learning

http://itu.int/en/ITU-T/techwatch/Pages/learning-standards.aspx 

(C.2) additional information
Regarding digital skills:

This topic is suitable for standardisation for well-documented needs. Fostering ICT professionalism is a challenging task and is essential to ensure that the European economy has the supply of professional skills that it needs and that are currently not being delivered in sufficient numbers. Digital skills must also be provided, at appropriate levels, to the whole population, including those who usually find more barriers in accessing ICT, such as old people and people with disabilities. Efforts to facilitate this cohort of people could include accessible e-learning environments, such as accessible MOOCs. As new technologies and new areas of their application emerge rapidly, establishing standardised skill sets is a great challenge requiring timely and regular updates. Since the 1990s, this topic has primarily been addressed by public-private partnerships with the ICT industry. More recently, many countries around the world have launched standardisation efforts. There is a need to maintain a European platform for exchanging best practices, implementing a master plan and coordinating across Europe. The existing structure of the CEN TC 428 - ICT Professionalism and Digital Competences - constitutes a good place for such a piece of work — following the already successful development of the e-CF.

The e-Skills Manifesto also contains contributions from various stakeholders. See: http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/21341/attachments/1/translations/en/renditions/pdf

EN 16234-1 is the only existing standard in the field of ICT professionalism, focusing on e-Competences at the European and national level. Though several European organisations have started promoting and using the e-CF, those local implementations do not always fully comply with EN 16234-1, and local adaptations and application platforms make the standard more attractive to clients not accustomed to standardised approaches. Since 2019, new initiatives to produce standards, pre-standards and supportive documentation in the area of digital competences are ongoing e.g. development of a professional Body of Knowledge, IT Certifications and Qualifications, Curriculum Development Guidelines, development of a Code of Professional Ethics, and specification of Common Metrics for e-Competences. Alongside this work, there is work underway to update the EN-16234-1, incorporating a mapping with SFIA of the UK (Skills Framework for the Information Age). All of this takes place in the context of the ICT professionalism framework project. At the same time, new initiatives on ICT competences are ongoing internationally as well, e.g. in ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 7 and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 27. New standards may be developed, which might conflict with European standards. The fragmentation of the global digital market could undermine interoperability, which so far has led the European action. There is the need to support initiatives, which assure European governance and influence in the ISO.

Regarding digital learning:

European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education/DAISY Consortium/European Schoolnet/Global Initiative of Inclusive ICTs/International Association of Universities/UNESCO

The ICT4IAL project is a multi-disciplinary network of European and international partners that represent both learning and ICT communities. This network was co-funded by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Transversal Programme, Key Activity 3: Information and Communication Technologies. The project aims to:

  1. Raise awareness and increase the visibility of the issue of accessible information provision and its relevance for equitable lifelong learning opportunities;
  2. Support accessible information provision within organisations through the development, trialling and evaluation of guidelines that build upon already existing work in the field.

https://www.ict4ial.eu/project-aims