About VR4VET

VR4VET-logoVirtual Reality for Vocational Education and Training – VR4VET – is a project funded by the European Union’s Erasmus Plus program, grant agreement 2021-1-NO01-KA220-VET-000028033.

Digitalization of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and career guidance received major attention in the research literature long before COVID-19. The pandemic emphasized the need for digitalization but also contributed to rising youth unemployment. Currently, 3.1 million young people in Europe aged 15-24 cannot find a job. The number of people not in education, employment or training aged 15-29 is 9.6 million, and they often cannot contribute in society because of low self-esteem, low motivation, low level of developing working skills and lack of mastery in school and in daily life. At the same time, youth already participating in education and training do not always receive adequate information about possible career choices. To include these groups in the working life or training programs, innovative solutions are needed. Research in digital career guidance emphasized online communication, video, chat, and other tools. Immersive technologies have been used in VET in several contexts, their use in career guidance is not explored.

The project proposes a new approach to VET and career guidance applying Virtual Reality (VR) to allow active and engaging exploration of professions and introductory training. This approach can give young job seekers a more realistic picture of different jobs and a vital learning experience that is needed for decision-making learning competence. The project will contribute to developing innovative digital career guidance methods, including young people with mental health and other employability challenges, supported by studies. The project will develop competence, counselling techniques for VET trainers and career advisors, boosting their digital competences, aligning with EU Youth Guarantee and Bridge to Jobs initiative.

The project will work with a wide target audience consisting of eight target groups: 

(1) Young unemployed need a better understanding of different professions and their own abilities. VR4VET will meet their needs by making the process of learning about professions accessible, engaging and rewarding, focusing on developing the sense of mastery.

(2) VET learners need to acquire knowledge and skills required for a specific profession and they need to stay motivated and enjoy the learning process. VR4VET will partially meet their needs by including the training component in the VR profession modules, making them suitable for introductory VET.

(3) School pupils need a better understanding of different professions, their own interests, and of pros and cons of VET versus higher education. VR4VET will meet their needs by allowing them to explore different professions in a playful and fun way, providing an authentic experience of the profession, and allowing them to consider more options in making career choices.

(4) Employees at welfare organizations need to help the unemployed to get jobs and retain them more effectively. (5) VET trainers need to improve the VET process and outcomes, making VET and VET professions appealing to the learners. (6) Career guidance counselors need to more effectively facilitate better career choices, making career counseling an engaging experience for the target audience. VR4VET will meet the needs of these three groups by providing innovative resources for their practice and the necessary training to use them.

(7) University students need knowledge of their major subjects and soft skills, workplace-relevant experience, and a diverse and interesting study process. VR4VET will meet their needs by engaging them in project activity and interaction with different stakeholders.

(8) Academics need to build knowledge via new studies and cooperation, innovate through new ideas, and improve teaching with new approaches. VR4VET will meet their needs by providing them with a possibility to collaborate and supervise students in an open community, developing and evaluating innovative materials.

The project aims to achieve four major general goals that include more specific and measurable objectives.

First, the project aims to improve the employability of youth. This goal will be achieved by a) making the VET and career guidance a more engaging and interactive experience with original and innovative VR training and demonstration materials and b) reaching out and collaborating with VET and career guidance stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of the new VR resources.

Second, the project aims to innovate VET and career guidance with a new type of VR training. This goal will be achieved by a) creating a pedagogical approach for VET and career guidance based on the active participation in realistic workplace scenarios and developing a sense of mastery in the participants, b) creating a design methodology with processes for developing scenarios, content and VR interaction for training modules applicable to any profession, c) setting up and maintaining a technical infrastructure for a sustainable open-source development process enabling in-kind contribution by any interested community member, and d) developing prefabricated resources and software building blocks, so that the process of developing profession modules is simplified and the resultant apps are consistent.

Third, the project aims to innovate Higher Education via customer-driven and multidisciplinary project-based learning. This goal will be achieved by a) designing educational projects for Higher Education students following student-active learning and project-based learning approaches and enabling their participation in the development effort in the project and b) attracting Higher Education students from different relevant study programs, such as computer science, design, psychology, and pedagogy into multidisciplinary and international teams.

Fourth, the project aims to Facilitate the capacity building in VET organizations and among career counselors. This goal will be achieved by a) designing training materials on VR for VET and presenting them in the form of digital resources, b) designing and evaluating a replicable course model for adult learners, covering general digital competences and technological, pedagogical, and methodological aspects of VR for VET, and c) organizing three trainer workshops aiming at the participants to become proficient users of VR for VET.

The project focuses on producing high-quality innovative results, and applies a common development methodology, consisting of an initial phase guided by Design Thinking, two iterations of prototyping and evaluation, followed by finalisation of the results. This process is supported by management, quality control, extensive communication, and dissemination of the continuously updated results.

Following the Design Thinking methodology, we will define a joint approach to engage stakeholders and conduct interviews and focus groups. We will collect data in three countries to create a shared and deeper understanding of the users and context. We will then jointly analyze the data and create a list of challenges and needs that can be solved and addressed. Next, we will generate concrete solutions to the identified challenges using a pool of affordances and mechanics of VR, game technology, and digital storytelling. Based on these design solutions, we will create multiple low-fidelity prototypes of profession scenarios and experiment with VR building blocks.

In the main development activities, the project will use open-source software development methods, a process by which open-source software or similar software with publicly available source code. We will apply this methodology to the production of VR modules and the underlying development infrastructure, mostly to simplify involvement of students and potentially interested external stakeholders. We will also apply agile software development practices that involve discovering requirements and developing solutions through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and the end users. We will choose an agile method to match the ambitious plans developing VR modules in international teams involving both senior developers and student teams.

In parallel to the scenario and VR development, we will work on identifying the competences and skills needed for trainers to use the VR resources in their practice. We will then use this knowledge to design a continuing education course and digital educational resources on the topic of VR for VET and implement the course at the three universities of the consortium. Each implementation of the course will include a three-day-long intensive training for the participants, supported by the project.

VR4VET will be a partnership in applying VR for VET and career guidance, providing a standard of excellence in this area. VR4VET will innovate VET and career guidance offering a new approach and VR resources to the target audience and contributing to digitalization of the sector. Ultimately, VR4VET will improve the employability of youth and their inclusion in the job market.

The project will focus on the production of innovative results that include a design methodology, scenarios and design for VR profession modules, the VR apps that implement these scenarios, a technical infrastructure for streamlining and partially automating the development of these apps, and a continuing education course on VR for VET for trainers to boost their digital competence and allow for a smooth integration of the VR apps to the practice.

The design methodology will be based on a deep understanding of the target audiences of a) the intended end users – young unemployed, school pupils and VET students, and b) of the trainers – career counselors and VET instructors. It will describe how to create an educational VR module that can be used as an interactive demonstration of an industry branch and/or a profession, so that it realistically simulates the working environment and reflects the everyday tasks.

The scenarios and design of the profession modules will be based on combining the expertise of career counselors, VET trainers and the representatives of the specific industry. Each scenario will describe the typical tasks, procedures, typical mistakes, key worker skills, workplace environments and other details of the profession. It will contain pedagogically designed formative and summative performance feedback and recommendations.

The VR applications will be designed for multiple professions in the industries selected in the project, following the design methodology and implementing the specific scenarios. These VR applications are intended to be integrated into the career guidance and VET practice as supplementary materials for the end users. The applications will be openly distributed and compatible with modern and accessible VR devices.

The development infrastructure built in the project will include an open-source code repository and prefabricated code components, physically stored on a secure server. The hardware infrastructure will be maintained by the project, while the software infrastructure will be built and used by an open development community, started by the project partners. 

The continuing education course for trainers on the topic of VR for VET will be based on the understanding of skills and competences that are required to use VR in the VET and career guidance contexts. The course will be implemented at three universities across the project partner countries and include digital open educational resources.

Other outcomes of the project will include raising awareness about the benefits and practical requirements of digital technologies for VET and career guidance, facilitating adoption by direct collaboration with different stakeholders, building knowledge by evaluating the use of VR in this context, and contributing to higher education by involving students into the VR development process.