Digital work-based learning: opportunities and barriers for the digital transformation of the training systems

Digital work-based learning

This article is a reflection on the priorities for the development of digital approaches in work-based training, based on the ILO masterclass hold on the 7 th of December 2022 and the study of the document available at–en/index.htm

The insights of the ILO study are in line with the Digital WBL output 1. “Guidelines for designing Digital WBL & Remote Experiential Activity” produced in the framework of the Erasmus Project.

The ongoing program on the Digital WBL project offer a training opportunity for VET Teachers, experts, VET Providers coordinators, and relaunch the call for Ambassador of the Digital WBL.


The increasing use of the digital component in continuing education, work-based training and apprenticeship pathways is fuelling the pedagogical research on structuring intervention approaches and outlining good practices in the use of digital.


According to the recent ILO study (2022) 1 the beneficial effects of using the digital component to enhance the VET systems are related to the upgrade of the C-VET pathways to the digital skills needs of the world of work. Reasoning in terms of barriers, a good infrastructure is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the digital transformation of VET systems. The shortage of the ‘school-to-workplace connection’ and more specifically the lack of integrative pedagogical approaches, are barriers in conceiving the digital transformation of apprenticeship and work-based learning systems.


Among the most disruptive barriers, it is the human factor that assumes a decisive value in the use of technology. All other enabling conditions being equal, it is “the personal beliefs, values and attitudes of the trainers” that condition the use of digital transformation of apprenticeship, as well as of all work-based learning systems. This requires teachers and trainers to develop an open and analytical attitude towards the use of digital technologies, which does not mean being uncritical or techno-optimistic but rather able to assess when digital technologies could be adopted (or not) to pursue specific learning objectives¹.


The motivational approach of teachers is also one of the key factors emerging from the “Guidelines for designing Digital WBL & Remote Experiential Activity” produced within the Erasmus Digital work-based Learning project, coordinated by SFC Sistemi Formativi Confindustria.

The aim of the document, elaborated under the guidance of Oberta University, is to guide all those involved in vocational training to understand, reflect and improve practices in the field of Digital Work-Based Learning.


Based on the survey carried out for the Guidelines productions, a tool for the assessment of Good Practices in WBL digitisation was developed considering 5 macro-areas of analysis:


The tool has been applied on a first slot digitisation of work-based learning good practices.
The insights confirm the critical issues that, according to the ILO study, VET Provider teachers and coordinators are called upon to consider in the digital development plan. Among them, it is important to include:

  • Developing protocols for the ethical integration of digital technologies (e.g. privacy issues, digital divide risk reduction and accessibility).
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of integrating digital (approach, tools, technologies) into VET programmes
  • Digital technologies should be integrated into a broader learning project that may also include ‘traditional’ activities (e.g. paper and pencil).

As shared by the SFUVET² referees during the Masterclass, among the main assets to support the digitisation of work-based learning systems should be considered:

  • The centrality of the purpose of learning over the choice of technology: if one thinks firmly about learning, the correct use of technology will be the end result.
  • Competences (digital + didactic) for trainers are needed to identify the potential of digital technologies.
  • Skills are not enough. A good infrastructure is needed
  • Infrastructure can be achieved by developing partnerships with corporate or NGO research centres.
  • Exploiting the expertise (and resources) provided by universities, research partners and research centres is a winning strategy.

SFC Sistemi Formativi Confindustria’s Learning Community on trainers’ digital skills

SFC’;s commitment to the development of digital skills in work and training environments is continuing both at national and European level, by participating in initiatives dedicated to the digital literacy of workers (e.g. VALUE CHAINled by INAPP), and to specific skills (NEW METRO for mechatronics in Industry 4.0, INGENIOUS for Agriculture 4.0 and Decision Support System).


Through the ongoing project as DIGITAL WBL, SEAL, DIGITRONICS, SFC is engaged in the realisation of an online training offer addressed to teachers, VET Provider coordinators in order to support the development of frameworks supporting the digitisation of VET training systems. The Digital WBL project intends to set up a Learning Community at European level of more than 200 teachers, coordinators, experts in technology and digital training experiences. The purpose of the Learning Community is to:

  • Exchange opinions, hypotheses of teaching programmes for teachers, 
  • Identify solutions for the exchange of resources on the territory, for the development of digital
  • WBL experiences Attend (or deliver, or signpost) ad hoc training for teachers interested in AR and VR experiences applied to the training context, other digital work-based learning systems
  •  Contributing to the collection of training in Open Educational Resources for teachers’ digital skills

To date, the community already has over 70 participants from European universities and VET Providers including the University of Oberta (ES), the University of Ioannina (GR), the Dual Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (DE), the Styrian Technology Park (SI), the Technical University for Logistics in Riga (LV) and others VET Providers.

In February 2022, the first meeting of the Ambassador of such a Learning Community will attend the training program led by the Dual Hochschule Baden-Württemberg in Karlsruhe, Germany.

If you are interested in joining the Learning Community, participating in training events in Italy and Europe for VET trainers and staff on the digitisation of training, please contact SFC (Ivana Russiello – [email protected]) or via

¹ 2022, The digital transformation of apprenticeships: Emerging opportunities and barriers—ed_emp/—ifp_skills/documents/publication/wcms_861712.pdf


² Swiss Federal University on Vocational Education and Training


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