E-Learning Platform

Are you a trainer/mentor and want to promote soft skills development? Are you a student and want to improve your soft skills?

This e-learning platform enables access to various resources which are currently being developed to promote soft skills development. These include a soft skills curriculum for students in Vocational Education and Training (VET), a train-the-trainer guidebook and ultimately, a serious game which is expected to complement more traditional forms of teaching and training.

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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the soft skills?
Soft skills are the more transferable skills of a person, such as communication, decision-making, collaboration, teamwork, time management, creativity etc. They’re all very necessary for cultural fit and can be very good predictors of future job performance. Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills. So in other words desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude Unlike hard skills, soft skills are not so easy to measure, which makes it a lot more difficult to screen for these skills. Although soft skills are hard to measure, it is still wise to train these skills at an early stage of a student’s educational journey. This will benefit the students during their internships, later on in job interviews and eventually even in life. It will also help the students to get a better understanding of themselves in social or business situations. Soft Skills are sometimes hard to train but they are more important than the hard skills when you look at it as a person. Soft Skills partially define who you are and how you act in different situations.
What is the difference between soft skills and hard skills?
Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities, such as writing, reading, math or ability to use computer programs. By contrast, soft skills are the traits that make you a good employee, such as etiquette, communication and listening, getting along with other people. the key differences between hard skills and soft skills are how they are gained and put to use in the workplace. Hard skills are often gained through education or specific training. Put another way, hard skills could be defined as your technical knowledge whereas soft skills are your overall habits in the workplace.
Why do my students need to aware of their level of soft skills?
Employers and hiring managers typically look for candidates with both hard and soft skills, where soft skills are important for the success of the employer. Being able to interact with others is important in any job. When students want to integrate in the job market or go on work placement, first they need to be aware of soft skills in general. How should I behave? How do I blend into the work environment? How do I interact with others? When students actually know about soft skills, they need to be aware of their level of soft skills. What are my strengths and weaknesses regarding these skills and how can I improve? Which soft skills are important in this particular job and can I improve those soft skills? It might be even possible students don't know the excistence or importance of a certain soft skill. It starts with the general knowledge and awareness of soft skills, followed by how and which skills to improve. To make a great entrance to their future employer, students can prepare themselves through have full awareness of their current presence, attitude, communication level, ability to adapt, co-work skills, etc. and train themselves in skills which don't come naturally to them. It helps students in their current environment and will be valuable for their future working opportunities and eventually in life.
How can gamification/serious gaming help develop soft skills?
There are four main benefits to applying serious gaming for soft skill training 1. Serious gaming helps with the initial motivational ‘hurdle’, by providing a fun and engaging activity regardless of the end goal. Soft skills have become increasingly important for employers around the world. To a student, soft skills might appear as a distant secondary goal when they are studying to become, for example, a carpenter or technician; jobs that are centered around interaction with things rather than people. This makes the goal of soft skill training rather unappealing for them, they don’t find it relevant. The intention is to draw in the student with fun gaming goals and challenges such as competition, badges and narratives (external motivation). While playing the game, we intend to change their perception of soft skills, creating a sense of urgency to train these skills (internal motivation). 2. ‘Playing’ naturally includes a lot of soft skills. Gaming techniques such as competition, collaboration, time pressure, strategic decision making, etc. are great examples and practical applications of the soft skills that the students find important. This allows us to implement the training of these skills on two levels: the practical assignment they will have to do (educational content), and the mechanics surrounding that assignment (gamification/serious gaming). In most cases there is only educational value in the assignments, but in soft skills we can benefit from both levels. 3. Serious gaming and digital applications in general can provide greater replayability than traditional methods. This is important, as every student learns at a different rate. Perhaps a student did not understand everything that was said during class, or was having a bad day. No problem, as a digital application is available 24/7, ready to practice when the student is in the right mindset to work on their skills. The class is already on chapter four, but your student needs more practice with chapter two? A digital application can assess these needs and provide the student with the option to practice as much as they need. 4. Serious games can offer personalized training courses. Students that are insecure about their ability can start out easy, by practicing alone at first. By providing them with fun challenges and a safe learning environment, the students feel empowered to achieve small steps in their big goals. As the game recognizes the progress of the student, it can provide progressively tougher challenges in order to keep the student challenged, and moving forward. The goal is to make every student feel like they are capable of achieving the end goal, by keeping their short term goals realistic and managable.
What is gamification and how can I apply this in my classes?
Gamification is the use of game elements and techniques, in a non-gaming context. The goal of gamification is to make an activity more engaging, by using techniques that make normal ‘playing’ so much fun. Gamification can take many shapes or forms, based on the goal of the activity, the target demographic and the available resources. A game has three essential elements: an end goal, an obstacle and a way for the player to overcome that obstacle. In a typical class the end goal might be to pass an exam, the obstacle is a students lack of knowledge and their way to overcome that obstacle is by studying from their book. Here are some ideas to gamify this process: • If students are not motivated to get a high grade for an exam, try adding or changing something about the end goal. A common gamification is competitition: make each lesson a competition between your students. Make sure to reward the students that find it difficult but are trying really hard as well, to keep it fair for everyone. • Games often reward players through badges or achievements. Perhaps you also got a sun sticker in kindergarten if you tied your shoe laces correctly. If a high grade is not appealing enough for your students to work extra hard, try to find a ‘badge’ that does appeal to them. • Reward good behaviour by giving your students ‘powers’ in class. Give a student that has done their homework five weeks in a row an ‘escape power’: one week of their choice they can skip their homework. Give a student that often answers questions an ‘invisibility cloak’: they can decline to answer one question of their choice. • Students might feel overwhelmed by the large amount of things they have to learn. Change the obstacle by applying 'levels'. Divide the content into smaller blocks and celebrate each time a student masters a small block. This gives them a feeling of empowerment and a short term goal to work towards. If the end goal is appealing, the obstacle is challenging and the student feels empowered to overcome the obstacle, you have achieved your gamification goal.
How can educational games help me as a teacher/trainer compared to other teaching methods?
Educators should think about offline and online games in the context of the broader pedagogical model that they apply within a specific learning process. Games can be used together with traditional learning activities, and can help improve the learning process by: 1. making taking risks and failing — acts that we all try to avoid otherwise — part of the process, and even the excitement; 2. letting learners actively engage, “do” things not just listen to them to understand; 3. requiring students to think promptly, use logic to solve a problem; 4. increasing motivation (by using levels, badges, leaderboards, etc.); 5. inducing curiosity, urging to overcome a challenge; 6. retaining the interest of the students; 7. encouraging students to work together (especially in multiplayer role-playing games). The feedback loops and successive challenges typical for gameplays can be well connected with established learning theories, such as constructivism (learning by doing and reflection) or flow (learning by being perfectly immersed and focused on an activity). There should always be an interplay between games or traditional activities. Games can kickstart learning, but students need to learn how to apply those skills to the “real” world as well.
When do I teach soft skills?
There are two different approaches for teaching soft skills. The first one is to teach them as separate subjects or at least devote individual classes to them. The second approach includes them as part of other subjects. The advantage of the first approach is that the skills receive special attention; the drawback is that students may come to perceive them as unrelated to other aspects of their working life. The second approach resolves this problem but obliges the teacher to ensure that the soft skills don’t get buried amongst the other subjects (one solution could be to assign them a certain percentage of the assessment). In any case, there are two conditions for teaching soft skills regardless of which approach employed: a) their teaching has to be adapted to students’ ages and abilities. b) they have to be accurately aligned to curriculum and qualification aims. Teachers should make an initial analysis of students’ soft skills and their professional needs. A health worker doesn’t require the same soft skills as a factory worker. On the other hand, it is true that there are soft skills that go right across the board and are useful in any working environment. These should really be developed throughout students’ compulsory education.
How do I explain to my students what soft skills are?
At first glance the concept of soft skills may seem a bit fluffy for many students. But as soon as you break the concept into concrete examples from real life experience your students will be able to understand and also to contribute to the talk. One way to introduce soft skills for the first time might be to break the introduction session into the following 3 steps. 1: Soft skills are NOT hard skills: You start talking with your students about soft skills as skills being “different from hard skills”. Because it might be easier for all students to relate to the hard skills concept and competences like “learning to use a specific tool or machine” or “the grammar of a language”. This way you can start out with introducing you students to hard skills and invite them to brainstorm with you on “the most important hard skills that they will learned the last week”. From “Hard skills” you move towards step 2. 2: Soft skills ARE: From step 1 you move to step 2 in your introduction to your students, starting with the question: What then is Soft skills? Now everybody will be tuned into the opposition of hard skills and soft skills, and most of your students will be able to participate in the discussion. Let the students first define their own top 5 of “Needed soft skills” either in the class room plenum or in smaller groups.
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