16 SES 04 B, ICT and Inclusion
In 2015, 995,000 first time asylum applications were submitted in the EU countries. This amount exceeded the number of applications of the last thirty years and raised questions about the EU’s ability to integrate quickly migrants and refugees into its economy and society (Ayar et al., 2016).
Promoting social inclusion of refugees and migrants represents one of the most relevant challenges the European Union is nowadays facing. In this view, finding a job represents the first step to rebuild a new life in a different country and to restore self-confidence. Moreover, developing refugees’ skills and competences, especially for those with low level of education, becomes one of the most significant factors to boost employment and integration.
Immigrants usually integrate slowly in the labour markets of the host countries having, on average, lower employment rates and salaries than natives. These features are quite widespread for migrants in the first years after arrival, when the lack of language skills and relevant job experience is particularly evident, and may become crucial factors in diminishing integration over time if they are not properly addressed (Kerr and Kerr, 2011; Ott, 2013).
MOOCs and more in general the provision of e-learning courses are advocate by many as the way for equalising educational opportunities, independently from gender, nationality, socio-economic status. Moreover, their strength is clear in bridging divides, at least in theory, with more than 25 million people enrolled in a MOOC from 2012 and 2015, nearly 40% of which from developing countries.
In this scenario, the Advenus project (Developing online resources for adult refugees, ref. 2016-1-NO01-KA204-022090), funded under the Erasmus+ programme, aimed at creating high quality and open access e-learning resources devoted to adult refugees aged 18-40 in order to enhance the basic skills for a successful integration in the host European societies. The consortium is led by Lillehammer University College (Norway), and includes LUMSA University (Italy), Porto University (Portugal) and CDI (Community Development Institute, Macedonia). The project promotes the Erasmus+ objective of equity and inclusion by addressing cultural differences faced by refugee adult learners between the ages of 18-40 years.
Through the Advenus project a suite of five e-learning, open access courses in literacy and numeracy in the four partner languages was developed. LUMSA University was in charge of the design of two e-learning units related to literacy and employment issues (such as writing a CV and a cover letter, understanding job ads) and to the development of digital literacy, i.e. the capacity to retrieve and to understand information available in the Internet.
This contribution presents an overview of the theoretical premises of the project and describes in detail the creation and the trialling of the e-learning resources devoted to promote the social inclusion of refugees and migrants in Europe. The final section is focused on the results of the trials and on the methodological implications arisen from the project. Based on the outcomes of Advenus, a new Erasmus + funded project has been submitted by the same consortium and approved: the ReGap project (Reducing the Education Gap, ref. 2017-1-NO01-KA204-034182). The last section of the presentation is therefore also devoted to a brief overview of ReGap, highlighting the connections with Advenus, in terms of further developments of the strengths and improvement of the weaknesses of the previous project.
The initial phase of Advenus included a review of the literature in order to establish the constructs interested by the e- learning courses. Then a set of focus groups with cultural mediators, adult educators employed in hosting centers and with refugees and migrants themselves were carried out in the partner countries, in order to match the learning goals envisaged for the OERs and the actual needs of the prospective learners. Based on the findings of the focus groups, the OERs were created and implemented in the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). The trialing and validation phase envisaged the development of a trial protocol aimed not only at the achievement of minimum qualitative standards, but to report and understand, in a transparent and replicable way, mechanisms and processes activated into the learning path through the e-learning resources. In relation to the trials, it should be noted that technology was not the exclusive focus of the evaluation for the ADVENUS courses. If the main idea was that of involving refugees in a learning path, useful for their employability and directed to improve social inclusion in the hosting country, one important measure of success was their willingness, after these courses, to repeat the experience, using similar courses or different opportunities available online for self-improvement. Other than this ultimate goal, the ADVENUS courses experience should have developed participants’ engagement in an e-learning experience, fostering their curiosity into basic e-skills and reinforcing their literacy skills in the language of the host country. In this view, the protocol followed a matrix developed by Phillips (2012), that includes three different data sources, each related to specific research questions: 1) Learning analytics review; 2) “Small-talk” interviews; 3) Direct Observation. Following this rationale, several variables were considered in each tool for data collection in order to answer to the questions of the Evaluation-research matrix. These variables were ordered into five domains: 1) Individual learner variables; 2) Contextual / cultural variables (linked to learner); 3) Learning environment variables; 4) Technology variables; 5) Pedagogic variables. This paper presents in detail the results of the trials carried out in Italy, which involved 90 refugees and asylum seekers. The trials were aimed at 1) trying out, on the moodle platform, two ADVENUS courses created by LUMSA; 2) trialing the “e-observation” grid for the evaluation of the quality of the learning process in a mediated learning environment.
The development and the validation of online resources to boost social inclusion for refugees and migrants highlighted several key aspects that have become the starting point of a new proposal, approved and funded under the Erasmus+ programme (the ReGap project, ref. 2017-1-NO01-KA204-034182). 1) focus group results identified the hosting country language acquisition as the key element for inclusion and employment. Teachers, educators and refugees repeatedly stressed the importance to design the online courses with a specific attention devoted to lexical competence and e-skills development in relation to job searching. On the other hand, cultural issues were often seen as obstacles for comprehension and understanding and this implied the need for a re-conceptualization of cultural and linguistic notions, acting on the misalignment between L1 and L2, between mental encyclopedia and mental lexicon (Appel, 1996). 2) From the trials of the courses three different considerations have arisen: i) the ADVENUS courses represented an innovative and rich experience for the participants, although it was reported a kind of overloading effect of information and new words/expression in the resources, that refugees scarcely managed to process during the trial sessions; ii) the relationship among Advenus-researchers and the participants was deeply influenced by refugees’ personal and legal situation at the moment of the trials. Moreover, some of them were at risk to be returned to their country of origin and they were trying, for the last time, to submit their request for asylum in Italy (already rejected once). This personal situation understandably had negative effects on their motivation to learn and to complete the courses. iii) The heterogeneity of refugees’ educational and cultural background questioned the concept of learning individualization and posed new challenges for educators and researchers, aiming at involving refugees (and more in general disadvantaged groups) in learning and e-learning experiences.
Aiyar, S., Barkbu, B., Batini, N., Berger, H., Detragiache, E., Dizioli, A., Ebeke, C., Lin, H., Kaltani, L., Sosa, S., Spilimbergo, A., & Topalova, P. (2016). The Refugee Surge in Europe. IMF Staff Discussion Note. Available at https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2016/sdn 1602.pdf (last accessed 18 January 2017) Appel, R. (1996). The lexicon in second language acquisition. In P. Jordens and J. Lalleman (eds.) Investigating second language acquisition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 381-403 Attwell, G. (2006). Evaluating e-learning. A guide to the evaluation of e-learning. Bremen: Perspektiven-Offset-Druck. Phillips, R., McNaught, C., & Kennedy, G. (2012). Evaluating e-learning. Giuding research and practice. NY: Routledge. Tamim, D. (2011). What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning: A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study. Review of Educational Research (Vol. 81), 4-28. Kerr, S. P., and Kerr, W. (2011). “Economic Impacts of Immigration: A Survey?” In Finnish Economic Papers vol.24 no.1, pp. 1–32. Ott, E. (2013). The Labour Market Integration of Resettled Refugees. Evaluation Report 2013/6, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Policy Development and Evaluation Services. Available at http://www.unhcr.org/research/evalreports/5273a9e89/labour-market-integration-resettled-refugees.html (last accessed 18 January 2017)
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