NEF+ New opportunities for The Development od Outdoor Learning in vocational education

Since 2015, Center for Innovative Education has been organizing and conducting the New Education Forum (NEF). NEF is a platform for exchanging knowledge, experiences and contacts in the field of educational innovation. Within its framework, it is essential for us to promote transversal competences as essential labour resources, advocate vocational education and training as efficient means of preventing prejudice and exclusion, and to discover innovative directions for education, aiming to engage groups of individuals in difficult circumstances. NEF works internationally, bringing together representatives of over 190 institutions from 17 EU member states: European regions and cities, higher education and research institutions, as well as employers from a variety of industries. So far, NEF events have welcomed over 2.500 participants.

We’re taking it a step further!

The pandemic has forced everyone to adapt to the new conditions, and as a consequence, we have been witnessing significant progress in terms of the digitalization process as well as the pace of implementing the required technical solutions. Reports published by the World Bank indicate that a third of companies have increased their use of the Internet, apps, and digital platforms, which has had a considerable bearing on their bottom line. The third wave of the coronavirus and the forthcoming lockdown will serve as a challenging test for the authorities and a number of companies, forced to urgently digitise their services and move their operations online. The abovementioned factors, have also posed questions about the ramifications of the current state of affairs and the ensuing needs with the realm of education.

A survey carried out by OECD in 2018 found that less than 40% of educators felt ready to take advantage of digital technologies and showed significant variations across EU member states. In order to address the situation and the consequences of over yearlong restrictions, we have developed the idea of New Education Forum+ (NEF+).

In order to alleviate the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to augment Outdoor Learning by using digital education solutions, expecting such a compound to provide an unexpected added value in the field of vocational education and training (VET).

Thanks to the research conducted, we can observe the multidimensional effects of Outdoor Learning on the development of essential job skills, active citizenship and personal growth. Nonetheless, relatively few countries have decided to incorporate Outdoor Learning into their formal and non-formal education. For over a year now, the NEF+ consortium and its partners have been working together using the Outdoor Learning method in order to promote universal skills among young people. Within the framework of NEF+, Centre for Innovative Education and its partners, the University of Edinburgh, LIT, Femxa, and the government of Cantabria, will identify and promote this perspective by means of ensuring access to good practices and advice on employing the Outdoor Learning method using digital tools that will bolster vocational education.

We believe that the benefits that can be drawn from the online world should extend far beyond the consumption of digital skills. That is why the primary objective of the project is to reinforce (in broad terms) educators’ digital competences in order to indirectly involve and support trainings for young people, tailoring their knowledge to the newly created perspectives. It is worth noting that educators play a major role in ensuring the transversal competences and skills required by young people. The NEF+ project will allow educators to boost and develop their specialist knowledge on Outdoor Learning, a relevant and efficient pedagogical model of working with young people by means of:

  • training transversal skills and key competences, pursuant to the appeals of the European Commission and OECD;
  • fostering social integration and diversity in the society and among the learning community. Additionally, the model addresses questions of gender equality and cultural diversity.

NEF+ is our answer to a shortage of adequate digital tools supporting the implementation of innovative, Outdoor Learning-based methodology that ensures the full use of this potential. The prospects of professional development in the field of innovative Outdoor Education practices for VET will significantly increase teacher employment and provide more opportunities on the labour market. In addition, the NEF+ community and the vocational education networks we are engaged in will allow us to support VET educators in incorporating Outdoor Learning into their curricula. Not only will we provide the necessary expertise, but also demonstrate specific examples of the benefits that can be drawn from utilizing Outdoor Education in vocational education and training.

For the past three years, NEF+ consortium partners have been cooperating on the FOLM project, ‘From Outdoors to the Labour Market.’ The Outdoor Education model has been used in three countries: Spain, Poland, and Ireland. Thanks to the financing that the NEF+ project has obtained, it will provide:

  • innovative solutions promoting the Outdoor Learning approach in vocational education and training as a means of supporting, developing and optimising the education model, particularly in terms of bolstering the role of the teacher;
  • a free digital library collecting all information on Outdoor Education, including: research, statistics, expert materials, guidelines (also from OL Coaches), and recordings of networking sessions;
  • a chance to participate in events and to become a speaker during networking sessions;
  • exchanging insights on Outdoor Education among its European practitioners.

In the long run, the NEF+ online network will ensure that educators, institutional members of the Consortium, and entities outside its scope continue to develop their professional skills regarding Outdoor Education. Cross-sectoral knowledge exchange and the cooperation between the interested parties and experts will advance the teaching industry and improve the current awareness of employing Outdoor Learning in European vocational education. Additionally, NEF+ will strengthen cooperation between authority figures in the field of public education, improve the education process, and help young people. It will enable the percentage of young people in education and employment to rise, particularly during the pandemic. Expanding and specifying the usefulness of Outdoor Learning in vocational education bears favourably on health and wellbeing, the environment, and social justice. Therefore, by actively and efficiently pursuing its goals, NEF+ contributes to at least three objectives covered by The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The NEF+ project is financed by the Erasmus+ programme. The total value of the project amounts to EUR 288,235. Thanks to NEF+, New Education Forum has been expanding its resources, reach, and influence.