Connected Learning actors, including representatives from Arizona State University, Jesuit Refugee Service, Southern New Hampshire University, InZone, and UNHCR, facilitated a discussion with conference participants at eLearning Africa to discuss how to improve displaced lives through connected learning.
Below are the Top 10 recommendations from this session, as well as summaries from various thematic discussions.
Top 10 recommendations:
- Co-create employment schemes with refugees themselves
- Keep it local
- Create opportunities for youth to use their digital skills in their communities
- Promote digital entrepreneurship
- Don’t be afraid of taking it offline
- Success in the job market requires HE to focus on both hard skills & soft skills → ensure critical thinking & empathy & communion skills are embedded
- Be realistic about the time required to learn how to use an online learning environment
- Identify basic skills needed and contextualized, future trainers and innovation chances
- Emphasize communal commitment to ethics (self-designed)
- Local partnerships offer the equipment & accreditation needed for blended learning
Deep dives into the 3 discussion topics included below:
The discussion on employability schemes focused on the importance of looking for ways to fill the gaps in skills, and the need to really amplify creative skill sets. There was a broader discussion on the greater number of opportunities afforded outsides of the camps, and that employment schemes can be one way to experiential learning opportunities to help refugees have experience in urban and local communities. The need to educate employers about refugees employability status is required, as many firms are not aware that refugees are permitted to work in many locations. The possibilities of building up entrepreneurial skill sets through resources and training was also identified as another opportunity, and a potential pathway for solutions. For example in Estonia, citizenship is available for entrepreneurs. Many wondered if this would be the case for refugees? In addition to the aforementioned skills, additional conversations focused on the value of learning the language and cultural values of the host-countries and communities; while also unpacking and exploring gender norms and ways to promote equitable opportunities. One element that was echoed throughout the discussion was the need for greater investments in IT infrastructure and training to ensure that refugee communities aren’t left behind in the digital divide, and that digital literacy should be a key aspect of any employment scheme.
Building digital skills was identified as a vital life-skill that needed greater investments, particularly for displaced communities. The benefits afford to those with digital skills range from increased access to information and knowledge; greater educational opportunities; and increased access to a wider-array of jobs – be they directly related to digital work, or where digital literacy is a prerequisite for employability. The group identified that without digital skills displaced communities are much more likely to be further marginalized as the world becomes increasing digital. One of the greatest hurdles to promoting digital equality is simply access to opportunities for skills development and utilization. As a result, it was proposed that greater investments need to be made in the development of digital skills, first as an enabler for greater learning opportunities (for example building basic digital literacy skills), but then also opportunities for applied digital skill sets; through which displaced communities could use their skills in digital media production, or computer science to contribute to society as well as potentially earn an income. For this to happen there is a need for further investments into digital education and training programs.
Blended tertiary education
The discussion on blended tertiary education focused on the importance of developing comprehensive partnerships for the provision of quality, relevant educational opportunities. The group emphasized the importance of reliable technology solutions, offline access and input of refugee community to enhance the impact and cascading effect of the blended offering. The need for flexibility in the offering (time of day, location, etc) was mentioned as a key priority as well as the content being reflective of the needs of the local labor market. The group also recognized the value that educational offerings bring to the facilitators of the program, often teachers from the home country that are grateful for the opportunity to continue their own professional development.