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Enable Project Bring Education, Training to Marginalized Learners

By Bob Little / October 2010

TYPE: OPINION
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Providing learning and development opportunities to people who, for one reason or another, would not be able to access these opportunities any other way, has to be one of the most noble and beneficial uses of e-learning.

While minorities (albeit sometimes powerful minorities) within some societies disagree with the view that anyone and everyone should be allowed to develop their knowledge and skills to their full potential, there are many more people who would argue that only in this way can a civilized society grow and achieve more than can currently be envisaged.

So, although it's often easy to criticize the European Union's bureaucrats in Brussels for wasting money in their care, the 24-month, 300,000 euro, E.U.-wide "Leonardo" project known as ENABLE, has all the hallmarks of money well spent—and, it seems, not purely for the benefit of the developmentally disadvantaged in Europe.

The ENABLE project aims to find ways to bring e-learning to society's marginalized learners. Indeed, just over a year into the project, it's making such impressive progress that it's attracting interest from outside Europe and has received an enquiry from McGirr Associates, a company that specializes in doing the same thing within New Zealand.

The ENABLE project involves Learning Light, The Workshop Sheffield and the learning development consultancy, The MRS (all based in Yorkshire, U.K.), along with partner organizations in Italy, Greece, Romania, and Poland. The first phase of the project, which recently completed, involved research in these four countries plus the U.K.

"Learning Light is co-ordinating the pan-European project to enable 'marginalized' learners to develop their knowledge and skills via e-learning," said David Patterson, Learning Light's operations director.

"In the U.K.," he added, "we studied the Somali community living here. In Poland, we studied women who were returning to work, and we looked at other groups in Italy, Greece and Romania. We've developed two e-learning applications and we're now rolling out this initiative across Europe, using the experience and expertise we've built up to identify and contact people who find it difficult to undertake formal learning. The aim is then to engage these people in learning through more flexible learning delivery methods and technologies, including e-learning."

Of the program's potential to expand, Patterson said, "Mandy McGirr [of McGirr Associates, the New Zealand group] is interested not only in the research and results of the Leonardo project, but also in the range of e-learning materials that Learning Light has developed covering various aspects of waste recycling operations. Having piloted these successfully in the U.K. among social groups who otherwise would not have access to learning and development materials, we've seen them put to use most effectively in Nigeria recently, among workers who, for a number of reasons, are unlikely to attend formal face-to-face training courses."

The e-learning programs Patterson is referring to deal with disassembling electrical equipment in the most environmentally-friendly way, following the requirements of the European Community's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. The policy aims to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and improve recovery and recycling rates, thus helping the environment.

Patterson said, "Many people in Nigeria make their living from looking for precious metal components for recycling within this e-waste and then burning the waste to get to them, and this releases carcinogenic substances. They are literally killing themselves to get to the 'usable' bits from the e-waste. Our e-learning materials, delivered via the U.K.'s University of Northampton, in conjunction with the Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Centre for Africa, at the Nigerian University of Ibadan, are helping to change that. So, on a number of levels, we feel that it's important to contribute to these workshops. Not only can we train these e-waste workers how to dismantle this equipment at minimum risk to themselves but we can also reduce the amount of this waste going to landfill and improve recovery and recycling rates."

About the Author
For more than 20 years, Bob Little has specialized in writing about, and commentating on, corporate learning—especially e-learning—and technology-related subjects. His work has been published in the U.K., Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Contact Bob at bob.little@boblittlepr.com.



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