Competences and Learning Profiles of Digital Age's Students

Competences and Learning Profiles of Digital Age's Students

Ana Loureiro (Polytechnic Institute of Santarém, Portugal & University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Inês Messias (Universidade Aberta, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0039-1.ch008


In the connected world we live in today, people no longer look for information only in formal places. Internet has become a place of choice to gather information. Social networks have grown from places for socialization to platforms where knowledge is created and shared, where connectivity and collaboration are natural. Many people look at the web as a place for learning, using it to create a network which allows them to gather, select, share, reshape ideas and create knowledge to then replicate on social networks. Students' learning profile is becoming more proactive in the search for information and constructing valid knowledge. The demands of the information age raise the necessity of students to acquire different skills and competences – 21st century skills. This chapter aims to present the different students' learning profiles and the type of learning environments available online.
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Students need to acquire certain skills and competences, specific of a digital and connected society in order to effectively benefit from e-government, e-learning and e-health services, and participate actively in the knowledge society as co-creators, and not simply consumers, as highlighted by the European e-skills strategy (McCormack, 2010). To only possess hard skills (that comes with experience and formal education) may not be enough to get a job. Besides e-skills and e-literacy competences, soft and social skills are also a demand. These skills and competences can be practiced and enhanced in virtual environments - which are by nature social and collaborative spaces. Students have access to virtual worlds with role-play and simulations, social networks and a wide range of web 2.0 tools, which allow them to practice and develop some of these skills and competences. In an e-learning format, which normally means to study at a distance of ‘brick and mortar’ tertiary institutions, e-skills are a demand. And in spite of what one might think, to learn at a distance is not by itself a synonymous of being isolated from the world; on the contrary, to be able to socialize and communicate is crucial, so that the student can maintain motivated, and also so that he can take advantage of collaborative tools to create and share knowledge. Therefore the acquisition of soft and social skills are mandatory.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formal Learning: Occurs essentially when a student attends to class in a formal institution. And is the one we use for most of our student life as it may confer a formal recognition in the form of a certificate or diploma.

Informal Learning: Can be defined as a result of doing daily activities. It is not organised nor has a formal recognition, for it can be made during daily tasks, such as observation, asking questions, trial and error, and sometimes it can even be accidental.

Digital Literacy: A group of competences that allows an individual to acquire knowledge through digital processes.

Soft Skills: Personality traits, qualities and also social skills which every student possesses although in varying degrees - it is related with emotional intelligence.

Social Skills: The set of skills that allow students to communicate, relate and socialize with others.

Information Literacy: Comprehends knowledge of one's needs and problems with information, and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and create, use and communicate effectively the information to solve existing problems or issues.

Literacy: The ability to comprehend what we read, to give meaning, and to understand written language. Not having any relation to the fact of one being educated or not.

Non-Formal Learning: Can be referred as semi-organized and intentional, meaning it may or may not have organised activities but that it has a learning objective.

Digital Literate: Does not refers only to the capability to use a computer or an email, but to the capability to gather, understand, interpret and share information available in all digital media. Being digital literate gives us the ability to communicate and work more efficiently, because it involves understanding how all digital devices work and how they can be used to interact with society.

Natural Form of Learning: The learning process is individual and occurs because the learner wants to learn independently of the time/place they are in, at their own pace and in an autonomous way; depends on the level of socialization an individual can carry out - more the socialization more the person will learn.

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