discuss innoval 300x208InnoVal aims at identifying innovative and reliable assessment methods that can allow all learners to have a chance at validation, with a special focus on the needs of disadvantaged groups such as refugees and early school leavers.

According to the CEDEFOP 2014 Validation Inventory Report, EU countries still greatly diverge in terms of mechanisms in place. In order to ensure the validity and reliability of assessment procedures, and to avoid additional costs, many educational institutions prefer to use standardised tests. The use of alternative methods such as portfolios, declarative methods and simulations, is on the increase but remains limited. The partners believe that the use of standardised tests hinders learners’ take up in validation and represents one of the strongest obstacles to their development in Europe.

Indeed, validation systems are often targeting adults who have had a bad experience with formal education and formal assessment methods. This has led them to not completing their secondary education and to not participating in any further formal education. Yet, they have acquired many skills and competences in non-formal and informal learning environments that they would be willing to have validated if the assessment method did not bring them back to their bad past experience with formal education. InnoVal aims to foster a change in practices related to the assessment of non-formal and informal learning across Europe and across sectors. This is particularly urgent when we consider the need to up skill the adult population (PIAAC results) and to deal with the current refugee crisis.

AGROPOLY is a new online game, a virtual place which reunites the fun of playing with games and usefulness of learning entrepreneurial skills and competences for students in the agricultural sector. Those who are planning to start their own business, can play the game to get an idea about real life situations and competences to be developed.

PLENTIS (Play & Learn Entrepreneurial Skills in the Agricultural Sector) has been financed by the European Commission in the framework of the ERASMUS+ programme. The project is led by TREBAG (Hungary) and counts on the collaboration of 7 partners from 4 different countries: VM KASZK Vocational School and PROMPT-H in Hungary; Soros Educational Center in Romania; the University of Life Sciences in Czech Republic, as well as Inveslan and HAZI in Spain.

Entrepreneurial skills are considered one of the basic key competences set out in the Lisbon Strategy, and essential to be included in the formal and non-formal learning itineraries. As entrepreneurship cannot be identified as one competence, but as a set of competences, the PLENTIS project aimed to develop an online educational platform, which is basically a gamified competence development land (literally), with actual content (knowledge base) and individual games to help teachers and students develop those skills and competences essential for entrepreneurship.

 

The main outputs developed include:

 

AGROPOLY GAME - is a virtual place which reunites the fun of playing with games and usefulness of learning entrepreneurial skills and competencies for students of agricultural sector. If these students are open or plan to start their own business in the future, they will already have an idea about real life situations as well as they get an idea about their competencies to be developed.

The game itself has a framing story serving as a starting point to give them motivation to perform well and achieve points. This framework is about building up their own enterprise depending on their collected points they earn based on correct answers.

Besides the tests – based on different types of game engines – real life simulations, decision trees can also be found (and played) on the platform. The platform contains 6 knowledge bases, covering the important topics of agricultural entrepreneurship and the essential competences belonging to it.

What do Dian Fossey, Jeanne D´Arc, King Arthur, Leonardo da Vinci, Phileas Fogg and Sherlock Holmes have in common? They all are MENTORS on the AGROPOLY platform, chosen by their outstanding capabilities to support gamers with their advice and specific knowledge and skills. Players receive hints and tips from the Mentors regarding how to develop their skills and use them in agricultural entrepreneurship. These form the base of a thematic knowledge Garden, which functions practically as an e-Learning Library.

 

TRAINERS´HANDBOOK - is the core tool to guide teachers in the use of games, and particularly AGROPOLY game, in their classes. That is, the handbook provides help for the application of the Agropoly game as a framework without describing ready-made, instant solutions but integrating the game into the tool system of modern methodology and giving the reader instructions as to how to prepare for its adequate use.

The Handbook presents firstly the educational segment supported with the creation of the system, then the teacher can become acquainted with the competences and skill sets which can be developed by the game.

It is important to outline that the most significant aim of this guiding book is to show the diversity of its use and the endless opportunities that Agropoly presents. PLENTIS partners do not offer a single recipe, since every student, every class, every lesson, every school, every town and every country is different. Only one thing is constant: the role of the teacher in finding the best possible method to match their students’ actual state and in order to achieve their learning aims.

 

The project came to an end in November 2016, but the PLENTIS team continues working on the AGROPOLY game and project outputs, to put them into practice in all the participating countries. We invite you to take part and joint the PLENTIS COMMUNITY on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Plentis-project-799739936780431/

 

For more details or information, you can contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Published in Serious Games
Monday, 21 November 2016 19:27

Using WIKIs for project management

Transnational project management is a key feature of all European projects, comprising a range of more or less formalized tasks and activities, that shall allow for the smooth and efficient implementation of projects. Over the past years a broad range of methods and tools have been developed, with a view to support the day-to-day and strategic management of EU projects. The bulk of those however is dedicated to planning, monitoring, documentation of results and outcomes, accountancy and evaluation.

Although those tools can be helpful at certain stages of a project, they show of very limited value when it’s about the a) creation of shared meaning of the project, as well as objectives and tasks, b) building of common ground for collaborative action, c) ensuring commitment, ownership and active engagement of everyone involved in the project and d) promoting exchange of experience and knowledge. In my opinion many of the problems that occur during the course of projects can be attributed to the absence of one or more of these conditions. The reasons may vary, as do the problems caused by them.

Project management software comprises tools, which work pretty well for projects taking place within organisations, but often show inefficient and bulky if applied to projects that operate across organisations and multi-stakeholder environments (typical for most European projects). Another shortcoming can be seen in the fact, that they require full control over all project parameters from the first to last second. The project design is supposed to be exactly right from the beginning, and within some narrow confines to remain unchanged until the end of the project. But, the most crucial downside is the fact, that most of those tools don't grow with the project needs.

In response to these limitations many of my colleagues including myself over the past years have searched for alternatives, which we finally found in WIKIs. Since 8 to 10 years we now work with WIKIs, with the help of which we build common workspaces and collaborative environments for European project partnerships.

WIKIS quite often are confused with Wikipedia, and people think of them mainly as tools for building knowledge repositories, such as encyclopedias or glossaries. However, WIKIs can do a lot more. They are real-time collaborative editing system, based on the wiki concept, which can be shaped in various ways to meet the needs of projects. One major advantage of WIKIs is that they can change to respond to the project's needs as they arise. This makes them attractive for project collaboration, especially when working in distributed project teams.

 

WIKIS help project actors on fitting their activities into the bigger picture

WIKIs gives project actors visibility into their work process and, more importantly, gives individuals and project partners a clear sense of where their work fits into the big picture, work and efforts of the team, questions they are grappling with and the complexity of tasks. Thus, WIKIs not only support a better understanding of the whole R&D endevaour, but help to break down any ‘them and us’ thinking. Moreover, WIKIs showed a much better means of coordinating contributors than the usual cumbersome method of e-mails and file attachments. And last but not least, WIKIs helped us to bring together all conversation and materials in one place. Jenny Mackness

A technical advantage of wikis over other document management tools is that there are plenty of good open source versions available at little or no cost. Plus, such wikis are usually extensible, so you can customize them to your needs. WIKIs are available as stand-alone software packages, which with the help of plugins can adapted to different needs. Those software packages are available for free, but require installation on a server (for example MediaWiki). So, some technical knowledge is required in order to make the WIKI work the way wanted. On the other hand there is various web services, such as pbworks, which offer free WIKI spaces, with an option to add extra features for a small fee.

 

Basic structure of the WIKI

Although some preliminary work (around 3 days) will be necessary to set up a WIKI, this investment pays off during the lifetime of the project and beyond. When creating a WIKI, the first step usually is to develop an overall structure and to define the areas and categories of utmost relevance for the project. All that should be kept as simple as possible.

Based on past project experience, I’d like to recommend the following basic sections:

  • Information section, where all official project information is stored (original application, overview of aims and objectives, work programme, specifications of tasks and deliverables),
  • News section, which holds updates on milestones reached, changes of the work program or partnership, calendar of forthcoming events and, any relevant third party news related to the subject area of the project,
  • Repository of results, holding draft and final versions of products (needs some conceptual planning. Especially when outputs are developed iteratively, and there's many versions of the same item.)
  • Library of documents (literature, materials, recommendations for further reading etc.)
  • Documentation section (minutes of online and face-to-face meetings)
  • Progress section, which at a glance provides an overview of upcoming, ongoing, completed and postponed tasks and activities, each of which should be linked up with the person(s) or team responsible for carrying out the activity.

Needless to say, that project managers should always bear in mind that, it’s first and foremost persons who come together in projects in order to share their experience and expertise towards solving a problem or developing innovations, while partner organisations by and large remain black boxes for those collaborating on a daily basis. But that's another story.

Over the years WIKIs for us turned out a quite valuable tool, helping to support the project actors towards developing a sense of ownership for processes and results , as well as building common ground and shared meaning for collaborative action.

 

Adding visibility

WIKIs also offer a variety of tools, which can be used to visualize virtually every aspect of a project. For example, our wikis start with a picture of the team, taken at a workshop all participants felt comfortable with. This reminds people of both, that they are part of a bigger team, and in a more subtle manner, of successful collaboration in the past. Moreover, we add photographs of key actors to each single task and activity. So, everyone in an eye-catching manner can see who's engaged in a certain piece of work, team mates sharing the work, persons with leading roles, peer reviewers involved etc. Photos show that a real person is behind each activity. Nothing is sadder than tasks lists with a bunch of partner logos, indicating the organisation a person represents in the project partnership.

The photograph is followed by both, a short and detailed description of tasks and activities. We usually spend plenty of time on breaking down „abstract“ tasks into concrete activities because of two reasons. We often have the situation that applications were written by one or two key persons, who built the project on assumptions, ideas and concepts most of which remain implicit and thus, there is a certain risk that people come to different interpretations of the same text. Also at this point WIKIs can be of great value, because they allow project actors to add their point of view or make comments on conclusions drawn by others. So, step by step the partnership can build common ground for the project.

 

 

WIKI page: News section

 

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WIKI page: Repository of project outcomes and results

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WIKI page: Monitoring progress

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discuss toitoitoi projectThe "TOI TOI TOI" project in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme has developed a range of web tools, which shall allow project coordinators to evaluate themselves, partner organisations and whole project consortia with a view to their capacity towards ensuring sustainable impact of projects.

The tools have been developed based on in-depth analysis of past LdV-ToI projects, and by project coordinators can be used to evaluate their own and other partners' organisational and professional capacities, including a range of basic competences needed in order to  effectively contribute to the creation of impact and sustainability of education development projects. The tools can be used for both, self- and team-evaluation.

Website: Toi Toi Toi Project