One of the highlights in the Construction pilot of the Learning Layers (LL) project in 2015 was the training campaign based on the “Theme Room” approach in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. Originally the idea of such a campaign was initiated by the traininers (Lehrwerkmeister) of Bau-ABC in their internal discussions. They wanted to have a flexible training model that would link to each other regular presence workshops and self-organised learning with peer tutoring and online support. This was brought together in the concept of “Theme Rooms” (Themenräume).
1. The “Theme Room” approach takes shape and is implemented
The key idea of the Theme Room concept was to agree on a set of key themes that would be covered by parallel (or successive) workshops. The continuation of learning should also be supported by online learning spaces and peer tutors. The participants will work their way through the set of Theme Rooms in an agreed time frame (to be adjusted to the tempo of the participants). With the help of online learning spaces and peer tutoring the participants should be supported to make their way through the learning tasks in the Theme Rooms.
Screenshot 1 and 2: Grouping into Theme Rooms and Overview on learning materials
In the preparation the following set of themes was considered for the Theme Room training:
- Use of social media as support for learning
- Preparation of digital learning materials
- Intellectual property rights, licensing and sharing information
- Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as an integrative toolset.
In the detailed planning we chose to start with fewer themes and to organise two workshops for each of the two selected key themes. We agreed to start with the themes ‘Social media’ and ‘Digital learning materials’. The theme ‘Intellectual property rights’ was then introduced by a short contributions from a special tutor (Dirk Stieglitz) who visited the groups one after another. Finally, we agreed to postpone the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to a later phase of the Theme Room training.
With these content-related preparations we then started the training campaign that involved the whole training staff of Bau-ABC (in Rostrup) and the parallel centre ABZ (in Mellendorf). For each parallel group (altogether 5) we appointed one peer tutor from Bau-ABC staff (Lothar Schoka, Kevin Kuck, Markus Pape, Stefan Wiedenstried, Melanie Campbell) and a co-tutor from the ITB team (Pekka Kämäräinen, Joanna Burchert, Lars Heinemann, Werner Müller, Ludger Deitmer). In addition, Dirk Stieglitz served as a special tutor and Jaanika Hirv (Tallinn University) was supporting the overall implementation of the training.
2. Interim assessment after the first Theme Room workshops
Insights into the thematic workshops and into the learning experiences will be given in another article (see Peer learning and use of digital media in Theme Room workshops). Therefore I will make a shortcut to the interim assessment that took place after the cycle of four workshops in a joint wrap-up meeting in Bau-ABC. Below I have picked up some points from the discussion:
a) The learning experiences in the groups
The participants from Bau-ABC started with comments on their special learning experiences and with positive feedback on the learning climate in the groups. Here, it was worthwhile to note that several positive comments came from participants who indicated themselves as beginners. Also Director Emken (in the role of a participant) emphasised the importance that everyone had a chance to participate as a peer learner (and to learn more in one’s own pace). In this respect there was no pressure to try to know more (and to show more) than one was able.
Screenshots 3 and 4: Reporting on learning by two groups with their GoConqr mindmaps
b) Feedback on practical arrangements
Concerning the practicalities, there were several comments. Firstly, the timing of the sessions on Friday afternoon was not considered quite ideal for such learning new things. Yet, we could agree that the groups had always overcome the fatigue and got inspired during the sessions. We got a clear signal that it was worthwhile to have two workshops for the same theme and a to maintain continuity across the themes. In a similar way the trainers appreciated the continuation of work with the same tutors in their groups.
c) Organisational implications
Director Emken referred to the need for Bau-ABC to position itself as users of digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in training. In this respect Emken emphasised that Bau-ABC is in the position of learner and has to make progress, but it is clearly moving on step by step. Here, Emken reminded that Bau-ABC needs to keep its industrial counterparts with it on the journey. From this perspective it was clear to him and to the participants that there is a commitment to continue with the Theme Room program and to make the best of it.
Altogether, the comments were positive and expressed willingness to work further with such training. We as Learning Layers partners were pleased to conclude the event by looking forward to good continuation. The Theme Room training had made its case and provided a good basis for the next steps.