New technology supports work-based learning

Learning Layers, user interface (Screenshot/Vimeo)
Liis Kängsepp
3/5/2015 12:38 PM
Category: Sci-Tech

People tend to learn something new at their work places almost every day, but sharing that knowledge with colleagues could be tricky in many industries. Tallinn University-based Learning Layers aims to create a system that would make the sharing process easier and quicker.

“Our focus is on how information technology is used in working contexts,” says Tobias Ley, a researcher in charge for Learning Layers project at Tallinn University, where he and his colleagues are trying to develop software that could help us all learn more at our workplace and communicate the new knowledge to our colleagues. “There are studies that show how people learn at work. We are looking for solutions that would not work on just one person, but would improve the learning experience of the whole organisation, for it’s not just people who learn, but the organisations too,” Ley says.

The Learning Layers project is one of a kind for many reasons. For Estonia, one of the achievement is being the coordinator of such a large project, According to Ley, this has never happened before. Secondly, the European Commission has pointed out that although some sectors have benefited tremendously from developments in technology and the learning experience in some organisations has improved thanks to different technological solutions, some sectors are lagging behind. So, for the time being, Ley and his team are focusing on construction industry in Germany and family doctors in the United Kingdom, researching how people in those sectors engage in informal learning at their workplace and how they share know-how with others.

In the UK Learning Layers works together with family doctors who often have very little time to reflect on learning experiences they get when interacting with patients and colleagues. Learning Layers helps them organise those sets of data and use technology to share their observations with other doctors. This helps the doctors improve information exchange on similar problems they may have with different patients, encouraging the doctors to cooperate on finding solutions that are best for everybody.

“The doctors don’t want to use Google or other cloud services because they don’t know where the data is stored and who has access to it,” Ley explains. “We can roll out a cloud-based platform where they have full control over their data.”

The other major case study is the construction industry. When you think about how many people go through a construction site each day and what kind of information has to be exchanged in order to get everything done right, you could easily see how wires could get crossed and information lost. So, with the help of one of Learning Layers project tools, people at the construction site can take pictures with their mobiles, add information to them and upload them to a special cloud-based environment, accessible to all stakeholders.

“Mobile phones are already heavily used at construction sites – people make a lot of phone calls, take pictures, and learn something about the site by doing this. But it's not very sustainable. Our idea was to see how all this learning can be better connected to a physical place, or a particular machine or tool, and how others can take advantage of it and learn something,” says Ley. “The world around us evolves so quickly and new knowledge comes in quickly. For example, new, sustainable construction techniques and materials are being invented, but these don’t get used as workers know too little about them. At the same time we want to save money and people at the construction sites have to solve problems fast and alone, when in the past they were supported by teams or had more time to talk to their colleagues. So Learning Layers tools can help them to connect to a wider support and learning system.”

The article was first published at researchinestonia.eu.

M. Oll

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