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No. 250
This report sets the scene for the discussion of Panel 4.2 “Skills for a Digital World” of the OECD
Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy, 21-23 June 2016, Cancún (Mexico). It provides new evidence
on the effects of digital technologies on the demand for skills and discusses key policies to foster skills
development for the digital economy.
The report was prepared by Michele Rimini and Vincenzo Spiezia, OECD, for the Working Party on
Measurement and Analysis of the Digital Economy (MADE). It was approved and declassified by the
Committee on Digital Economy Policy on 13 May 2016 and prepared for publication by the OECD
Note to Delegations:
This document is also available on OLIS under reference code:
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FOREWORD ................................................................................................................................................... 2
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................................................................. 4
SECTION 1. WHAT SKILLS FOR THE DIGITAL ECONOMY? ............................................................... 6
ICT generic skills ......................................................................................................................................... 6
ICT specialist skills ...................................................................................................................................... 7
ICT complementary skills ............................................................................................................................ 9
Foundation skills ........................................................................................................................................ 11
2.1Developing Relevant Skills for the Digital Economy ..................................................................... 14
Strengthening foundation skills .............................................................................................................. 14
Good practices at the school level .......................................................................................................... 15
Good practices at the national level ....................................................................................................... 16
Good policy practices for the promotion of digital literacies ................................................................. 17
2.2.Activating Skills in the Digital Economy ....................................................................................... 20
Active labour markets policies for the digital economy ......................................................................... 20
Skills Assessment and Anticipation Exercises for the Digital Economy ............................................... 22
2.3Putting Digital Skills to Effective Use ............................................................................................ 23
Workforce training for the digital economy ........................................................................................... 24
Age biased technological change, workforce training and training obsolescence ................................. 25
Supporting workforce training and digital leadership in SMEs ............................................................. 25
Governing skills systems for the digital economy ................................................................................. 27
Building effective multi-stakeholder partnerships ................................................................................. 29
Digital technologies facilitate personalised learning ................................................................................. 30
Digital technologies foster collaborative learning ..................................................................................... 31
Digital technologies reduce time and space barriers .................................................................................. 33
Digital technologies are changing expectations on the teaching profession .............................................. 35
Policies that address teachers’ professional development needs in ICT .................................................... 36
ICTs to support professional learning communities .................................................................................. 38
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for Lifelong Learning .............................................................. 38
Data driven innovation in teaching and learning ....................................................................................... 41
Digital technologies and the labour market ............................................................................................... 44
CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................................. 49
NOTES .......................................................................................................................................................... 50
REFERENCES .............................................................................................................................................. 51
The pervasiveness of digital technologies in daily life is fundamentally changing the way individuals
access and elaborate knowledge. Individuals have to process complex information, think systematically
and take decisions weighting different forms of evidence. They also have to continuously update their
skills to match rapid technical change at the workplace. More fundamentally, in order to seize the new
opportunities that digital technologies are opening in many areas, individuals have to develop the right set
of skills to make a meaningful use of these technologies.
Increasing use of digital technologies at work is raising the demand for new skills along three lines:
ICT specialist skills to programme, develop applications and manage networks; ICT generic skills to use
such technologies for professional purposes; and ICT complementary skills to perform new tasks
associated to the use of ICTs at work, e.g.: information-processing, self-direction, problem-solving and
communication. Foundation skills, digital literacies as well as social and emotional skills are crucial to
enable effective use of digital technologies by all individuals in their daily lives.
To ensure that individuals can engage in digital activities and adapt rapidly to new and unexpected
occupations and skills needs, a stronger emphasis has to be placed in promoting strong levels of foundation
skills, digital literacies, higher order thinking competencies as well as social and emotional skills.
These changes in the demand for skills present two major challenges to skills development systems,
including formal education, training and the recognition of skills acquired through non-formal learning.
First, while there is awareness that the skills profile of citizens and workers will be very different than in
the past, the skills of the future are difficult to identify with certainty due fast technological changes. The
second challenge is to ensure that, once changes in skills have been identified, skills development systems
adjust sufficiently fast to match new skills demands.
While raising the demand for new skills, digital technologies are also creating new opportunities for
skills development. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and Open Educational Resources (OER)
modify learning methods and give access to quality resources to a larger population over more flexible
hours. The use of digital technologies in formal education and vocational training has the potential to
improve learning, although the outcomes depend on the capacity to link these tools to effective pedagogy.
Big data analytics can also complement labour market information systems with a more timely and precise
monitoring of changing skills demand to adapt skills development and activation policies.
Lastly, the increase in the quantity of data that are collected on education and labour markets on a
daily basis through online courses, administrative records and online job vacancies, and their exploitation
through data analytics can open endless avenues for research and innovation in education and training and
helps to better inform policy decisions.
In spite of their potential, these initiatives have, thus far, remained a niche. Barriers to their adoption
include limits on learners and teachers/trainers’ capacity to take advantage of digital technologies;
concerns about the quality of online education; and the lack of recognition for learning outcomes. Policies
to overcome these barriers and to ensure consistency and quality, especially in an international
marketplace, are key to grasping the learning opportunities created by these tools.
The OECD has developed a comprehensive Skills Strategy that helps countries identify the strengths
and weaknesses of their national skills systems, benchmark them internationally, and develop policies that
can transform better skills into better jobs, economic growth and social inclusion. The OECD Skills
Strategy provides a useful approach to address the opportunities and challenges for skill development in
the digital economy. This approach consists of three main steps. First, identify more precisely the kind of
skills required in the digital economy, through the definition of an agreed framework for digital literacy,
further cross-country analysis of existing datasets and the development of new surveys. Second, examine
how these changes may translate into curriculum reform, teacher training and professional development.
Third, leverage ICTs to improve the access to and the quality of education and training, e.g.: through
online courses, new learning tools at school and adequate recognition of skills acquired through informal
Increasing use of digital technologies at work is raising the demand for new skills along three lines.
First, workers across an increasing range of occupations need to acquire generic ICT skills to be able to use
such technologies in their daily work, e.g.: access information online or use software. Second, the
production of ICT products and services – software, web pages, e-commerce, cloud and big data – requires
ICT specialist skills to programme, develop applications and manage networks. Third, the use of ICTs is
changing the way work is carried out and raising the demand for ICT-complementary skills, e.g.: the
capability to process complex information, communicate with co-workers and clients, solve problems, plan
in advance and adjust quickly. Last but not least, the attainment of sound levels of foundation skills
constitutes a prerequisite for the proficient development of ICT generic, specific and complementary skills.
ICT generic skills
OECD analysis (OECD, 2016) shows that the demand for ICT generic skills, as measured by the
OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), has increased in a large majority of countries. Yet, the frequency
of ICT use at work continues to differ significantly across them (Figure 1). Furthermore, in half of the
countries surveyed by PIAAC, women tend to use ICT at work less than men.
Figure 1. Daily users of office software at work, by gender, 2012
As a percentage of all workers
Source: OECD, based on PIAAC.
The analysis also compares the demand for ICT generic skills and the supply of these skills in the
workforce, as measured by the PIAAC assessment of ICT skills. Many workers use ICTs regularly without
adequate ICT skills: on average, over 40% of workers using office software every day do not seem to have
sufficient skills to use them effectively according to the assessment (Figure 2).
Male Female
Figure 2. Daily users of office software at work, by ICT skills
As a percentage of all workers
Source: OECD (2016).
ICT specialist skills
ICT specialists have been among the most dynamic occupations in recent years and several forecasts
suggest that the demand for ICT professionals will grow even faster in a near future. In 2014, ICT
specialists accounted for 3.6% of all workers in OECD countries. This figure hides large differences
between men and women. While 5.5% of male workers in OECD countries are ICT specialists, this
proportion is just 1.4% for female workers (Figure 3).
Some forecasts predict a significant shortage of ICT professionals (EC, 2014; OECD 2014c) over the
next 5 to 15 years. These forecasts rely on a scenario-based approach which, by its very nature, is hard to
validate. Unfortunately, available statistics do not permit to address these issues thoroughly.
Figure 3. ICT specialists by gender, 2014
As a percentage of all male and female workers
Source: OECD, based on Australian, Canadian and European labour force surveys and United States Current Population Survey, April 2016.
%All users Users with insufficient ICT skills
%Male Female
Official statistics on wages and job vacancies are mostly available at the level of industries, not
occupations. In ICT services, wages have been growing in line with productivity growth over for 15 years
while vacancy rates have remained stable or even decreased since 2007 (OECD, 2016).
The share of online vacancies for ICT specialists has also remained stable in most countries for which
data are available since 2012 (Figure 4). Median vacancy duration, i.e.: the number of days necessary to fill
an online vacancy for ICT specialists was just 32 days in France, Germany and the Netherlands in 2014.
Figure 4. ICT online job postings (2012-2015)
As a percentage of all online postings
Source: OECD (2015x), based on BurningGlass ( and Jobfeed (
Employers’ surveys provide complementary information about potential skills shortages. In the
European Union, 41% of enterprises looking for an ICT specialist report having difficulties to fill the
vacancies. However, only a small share of enterprises (14%) wants to hire one. Therefore, the percentage
of enterprises reporting hard-to-fill vacancies for ICT specialists is only about 3% and has not changed
from 2012 to 2014 (Figure 5). Business surveys in Australia and New Zealand as well as other
international surveys report similar findings (OECD, 2016).
Figure 5. Enterprises that reported hard-to-fill vacancies for ICT specialists, 2012 and 2014
As a percentage of all enterprises
Source: OECD (2016).
As available statistics do not permit to fully address these questions, the development of better
measures – based on both official statistics and online vacancies – is an important step for future work.
Australia Canada France Germany Netherlands NewZealand United
58 62 41 39 51 49 46 33 51 39 38 41 51 49 31 37 47 41 26 37 29 30 11 16
%2014 2012
As a percentage of all enterprises looking
for an ICT specialist
ICT complementary skills
The diffusion of ICT at the workplace is not only raising the demand for ICT specialist and generic
skills. It is also changing the way work is carried out and raising the demand for ICT- complementary
skills. These are skills that are not related to the capability to use the technology effectively but to carry out
the work within the new environment shaped by ICTs, i.e.: a “technology-rich environment”. For instance,
higher frequency of information made available by ICTs calls for better capability to plan in advance and
to adjust quickly. Organisations characterised by horizontal work enabled by ICTs call for more
cooperation across teams and stronger leadership. Wider diffusion of information among a larger number
of workers increases the importance of management and coordination. The sales skills required in face-to-
face commercial transaction are not the same as those involved in an anonymous e-commerce sale.
A significant strand of literature (Author, Levy and Murnane 2003; Van Reenen, 2011; Michaels et
al., 2014) argues that digital technologies are replacing workers in performing routine tasks and increasing
demand for non-routine ones (Figure 6). Such shifts in the relative importance of tasks at the workplace
raise questions on what skills workers should develop to meet new requirements at work.
Figure 6. The changing nature of work
Source: Levy, Frank and Richard J. Murnane (2013). “Dancing with robots: Human skills for computerized work.” Third Way NEXT.
Developing skills policies based on trends in task demands, however, has its own risks due to rapid
tasks and skills obsolescence (OECD, 2013a). The insights of the educational research community on the
definition and development of 21st century skills are important to bridge the gap between a task-based
approach and good practice examples. Yet, further research is required to map ICT tasks to the 21st century
The educational research community has pointed out the profound transformation from industrial to
knowledge-based economies and societies, whereby knowledge becomes central and needs to be
continuously regenerated by learning (Dumont and Istance, 2010). Students should prepare themselves for
jobs that do not yet exist, technologies that have not been yet invented and problems that are not yet
recognised as such (ibid.).
Workers in the digital economy should be able to generate and process complex information; think
systematically and critically; take decisions weighing different forms of evidence; ask meaningful
questions about different subjects; be adaptable and flexible to new information; be creative; and be able to
identify and solve real-world problems (Dumont and Istance, 2010, p. 23). These requirements do not
create a demand for new skills but rather increase the importance of some human competences that have
been valuable for many centuries (National Research Council, 2012).
While the process of identification of 21st century skills is still ongoing, researchers have developed
broad classifications that can be partially linked to a task-based approach. In particular, the National
Research Council in the United States has identified three broad domains: a cognitive domain, including
cognitive processes, knowledge and creativity; an intrapersonal domain, including intellectual openness,
work ethics and self-confidence; and an interpersonal domain, including teamwork, collaboration and
leadership. Interestingly, this classification corresponds to another strand of work by the OECD aimed at
identifying what skills are crucial for social progress and well-being (OECD, 2015i). According to this
classification, next to cognitive skills children should be able to develop social and emotional skills,
sometimes also referred to as “soft skills”. Social and emotional skills include working with others,
managing emotions and achieving goals.
The research literature argues that those are not endowments that children are born with, but rather a
set of malleable characteristics that can be developed and improved in an appropriate learning environment
(ibid.). Moreover, social and emotional skills should be developed alongside 21st century skills as they
contribute directly to their development. As an example, critical thinking combines a cognitive component
- the ability to reflect on information, with an emotional part – being open to unconventional thoughts
(OECD, 2015i). As an additional layer of complexity, skills such as creativity and social skills are difficult
to measure and consensus is yet to be reached on how they should best be fostered in formal education
(OECD, 2015i, 2015l).
OECD research also shows that higher use of ICT at work is associated with tasks that require more
interaction with co-workers and clients, more problem solving and less physical work (Figure 7). As ICTs
are reshaping business models and firms’ organisation, the skills required to perform these tasks become
more important.
Changes in the tasks set associated to increasing use of ICTs tend to be larger for people in low-skill
occupations than for those in middle and high-skill occupations. Therefore, the need for re-skilling is likely
to be bigger for those people that educational and training systems have more trouble to reach.
Figure 7. Correlations between daily use of ICTs at work and other tasks - by skill level
Averages across countries
Source: OECD (2016), Figure 14b.
Foundation skills
According to the results of the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) and the
Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), sound levels of foundation skills are a prerequisite for the development
of the skills demanded in the digital economy. Foundation skills refer to the literacy and numeracy
proficiency of students and adults, which are usually developed in early years (OECD, 2015j), most often
before entering compulsory education.
The PISA survey measures digital literacies as the ability to “evaluate information from several
sources, assessing the credibility and utility of what is written using self-established criteria as well as the
ability to solve tasks that require the reader to locate information, related to an unfamiliar context, in the
presence of ambiguity and without explicit directions”(OECD, 2015k, p. 91). In other words, digital
literacy can be seen as the ability to read and navigate autonomously digital content.
Evidence shows that the performance of 15 years old students in digital literacy is positively
correlated with their performance in reading (ibid.). At the same time further analyses of the browsing
behaviour of students reveal that among students of similar reading performance, the extent to which their
behaviour conforms to targeted navigation (“think before you click”) is associated with differences in
digital reading performance. This reinforces the idea that navigational skills have more to do with the
ability to regulate and monitor cognitive processes or with spatial reasoning, than with mere technical
aspect of browsing.
-0.4 -0.3 -0.2 -0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
Using skill or accuracy with hands or fingers
Working physically
Thinking about a solution for at least 30 minutes
Problem solving in less than 5 minutes
Negotiating with people
Persuading people
Planning activities of others
Organising own time
Planning of own activities
Advising others
Selling a product or service
Giving presentations
Training others
Information sharing
High skills Medium skills Low skills
Horizontal interaction
Client interaction
Managerial skills
Problem solving
Physical skills
Manual skills
Cognitive skills
The importance of foundation skills as a basis for the development of digital literacies is further
illustrated by the results of PIAAC in problem solving in technology-rich environments. The PIAAC
results reveal a positive association between problem-solving performance and literacy and numeracy. On
average across OECD countries, 83% of adults who are highly proficient in literacy (Level 4 or 5 in the
assessment) are also highly proficient (Level 2 or 3) in problem solving in technology-rich environments
(OECD, 2015a). While these high correlation levels may be partially explained by the nature of the
analysed tasks in the problem solving assessment, they still reveal a preponderance of literacy and
numeracy in serving as foundations for the development and acquisition of higher order cognitive skills.
Both PISA and PIAAC findings confirm the importance of foundation skills as a basis for the acquisition
of the skills that are and will increasingly be required in the digital economy.
In today’s societies even simple interactions and transactions tend to require writing and reading,
rather than speaking and listening only – e.g. asking information from a help-desk, making a professional
appointment, sharing information with team members, etc. (OECD, 2015a). Therefore, reading and writing
skills become increasingly relevant to fully grasp the benefits of technology rich societies.
Finally, foundation skills are a fundamental pre-requisite for lifelong learning. Pursing this idea, in
2006 Norway launched the Programme for Basic Competencies in Working Life (BKA) with the aim of
strengthening literacy, numeracy and ICT skills among the adult population (OECD, 2014b).
The changes in the demand for skills driven by the digital economy present two major challenges to
skills development. First, while there is awareness that the skills profile of citizens and workers will be
very different than in the past, the skills of the future are difficult to identify with certainty due fast
technological change in the digital economy. The second challenge is to ensure that, once changes in skills
have been identified, skills development systems adjust sufficiently fast to match new skills demands.
The OECD has developed a comprehensive Skills Strategy that helps countries identify the strengths
and weaknesses of their national skills systems, benchmark them internationally, and develop policies that
can transform better skills into better jobs, economic growth and social inclusion. The Skills Strategy
supports countries in adopting a systematic and comprehensive approach to skills policies that can:
Prioritise investment of scarce resources: Since developing new skills is a costly and long-term
endeavour, skills policies need to be designed so that these investments reap the greatest
economic and social benefits.
Combine short- and long-term considerations: Effective skills policies are needed to respond to
structural and cyclical challenges, such as rising unemployment when economies contract or
acute skills shortages when sectors boom, and to ensure longer-term strategic planning for the
skills that are needed to foster a competitive edge and support required structural changes.
Build a case for lifelong learning: By seeing skills as a tool to be honed over an individual’s
lifetime, a strategic approach allows countries to assess the impact of different kinds of learning –
from early childhood education through formal schooling to formal and informal learning later on
– with the aim of balancing the allocation of resources to maximise economic and social
Foster a whole-of-government approach: If skills are to be developed over a lifetime, then a
broad range of policy fields are implicated, including education, science, technology and
innovation, industry, employment, economic development, migration and public finance.
Aligning policies among these diverse fields helps policy makers to identify policy trade-offs that
may be required and avoid duplication of efforts and ensure efficiency. This may prove
challenging in national skills development systems where responsibility are shared across sub-
national levels of government, such as cities, regions and states.
Align the perspectives of different levels of government: With major geographical variations in
the supply of and the demand for skills within countries, there is a strong rationale for
considering skills policies at the local level. This would help countries to align national
aspirations with local needs.
Include all relevant stakeholders: Designing effective skills policies requires more than co-
ordinating different sectors of public administration and aligning different levels of government:
a broad range of nongovernmental actors, including employers, professional and industry
associations and chambers of commerce, trade unions, education and training institutions and, of
course, individuals must also be involved.
The Skills Strategy is built around three main policy levers: developing relevant skills; activating
skills supply; and putting skills to effective use (Figure 8). These three levers provide a useful approach to
address the opportunities and challenges for skill development in the digital economy.
Figure 8. The OECD Skills Strategy
Source: OECD (2012)
2.1 Developing relevant skills for the digital economy
Empowering individuals with the relevant skills for the digital world is key for them to fully
participate in today’s and tomorrow’s economic, social and cultural life. The evolving nature of the digital
economy requires individuals to rapidly adjust to shifts in skills demands and technology. A greater
emphasis should be placed in ensuring that individuals are equipped with strong foundation skills, higher
order thinking competencies as well as social and emotional skills to respond to greater levels of
uncertainty. In addition, digital literacy is essential to ensure inclusion in the digital economy and society.
Strengthening foundation skills
Improving foundation skills has been a major goal of educational reforms across many OECD
countries. The key objective behind these reforms was to ensure that all students leave compulsory
education with good levels of foundation skills. Several initiatives have targeted the promotion of Early
Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as a means to give a better start to children entering the schooling
system (OECD, 2015c). Poland, for instance, developed a national strategy in 2013 to bring participation
rates in ECEC (52% for 3-year-olds and 66% of 4-year-olds) closer to the OECD average (74% and 97%,
respectively). Australia deployed a National Early Childhood National Development Strategy (2009),
which raised ECEC participation rate in the year before school to 81% in 2012.
Over the past few years (2008-2014), many OECD countries have also started addressing these issues
from the perspective of fairness (ensuring that personal or social circumstances do not hinder achieving
educational potential) and inclusion (allowing each student to reach a minimum level of foundation skills),
which has resulted in policies targeting early school leaving and dropout rates, grade repetition, early
tracking and student selection (ibid.)
International research shows that participation in ECEC programmes can have a significant positive
impact on educational quality and equity outcomes. According to PISA, ECEC programmes help to
improve mathematics performances, even after controlling for differences in socioeconomic status (OECD,
Further policies aiming to strengthen foundation skills for all students have been centred on three
actions: to reduce students’ drop-out rates, to avoid grade repetition and to limit early tracking and student
selection (OECD, 2015c). Efforts to reduce students’ drop-out are part of the European Commission 2020
strategic framework for Education and Training, with an ad-hoc working group on early school leaving
(European Commission, 2013b). Previous policy experiences show that reduction of early school leaving
goes hand by hand with grade repetition avoidance.
Helping each student to achieve a minimal threshold of foundation skills may mitigate the impact of
socioeconomic status on digital literacies as “ what people do with media is more important than the
technologies and connectivity available to them”(OECD 2015d, p. 135). Indeed, proficient use of new
media still largely depends on individuals’ levels of foundation skills as well as the social and cultural
factor influencing their use (Livingstone and Helsper, 2007).
With an evolving definition of 21st century skills, OECD countries have experimented different
innovative practices in teaching and learning. The objectives of such experimentations have been broad in
scope but generally focused on a few underlying principles: the development of adaptive competencies
(OECD, 2010b) and the promotion of collaborative learning, with a particular attention to problem solving
(OECD, 2014c). Educational research has also undertaken evaluations of the benefit from the exposure to a
broader curriculum and the revision of teaching practices through metacognitive pedagogies (Mevarech,
Z., Kramarski, 2014) as well as of the role of problem-based learning in fostering problem solving skills
(Hoidn and Karkkainen, 2014).
Good practices at the school level
The complete mapping of 21st century skills onto learning objectives is a rare event, even in the most
innovative schools across the OECD area. The OECD Innovative Learning Environments project Universe
case inventory (OECD 2012) takes stock of an impressive number of innovative schools having introduced
some 21st century competencies in their curriculum. Some schools, e.g.: the North Union Local Schools in
Ohio, United States, and the schools in the “Call Them Emotions” project in Switzerland, centre their
pedagogies in the development of critical thinking together with social and emotional skills. Others, like
those in the Community of Learners Network in British Columbia, Canada, place collaborative learning as
a key distinctive feature of their pedagogical model (ibid.).
North Union Local Schools has initiated a Comprehensive Educational Academic Advancement
Programme which aims to meet the educational wishes of all students. Students are encouraged to take a
more challenging middle and high school academic course load to be better prepared to compete in the 21st
Century and to develop social and critical thinking skills. All students have the autonomy to develop an
individualised learning plan that meets their needs. A variety of advancement options are offered to these
secondary students, including: credit flexibility, flexible scheduling and extended school day options, on-
line and correspondence course offerings, dual enrolment and post-secondary educational options.
Swiss schools participating in the “Call Them Emotions project” focus on the promotion of life skills
and socio-emotional competencies, critical thinking and active involvement of the child. All activities are
followed by a discussion where facilitators ask children to share their understanding and evaluate their
learning. In addition, personal learning can be displayed trough paintings, role playing, oral
communication, and handcrafts (when appropriate). Formative feedback is granted, through discussions
with children and an analysis of the life experiences that children endure out of school.
Community of Learners Network Nanaimo Ladysmith is a ‘mini-network’ within the larger Network
of Performance Based Schools in British Columbia. The Network involves intensive collaboration on
applying inquiry methods. Flowing out of the Community of Learners foundation, there is an implicit
understanding in this learning environment that learning is a socially constructed process. Collaborative
learning is used to build in emotional safety and accountability for the learning. The project relies on an
extensive use of peer coaching/partner talk, multi-aged peer coaching, jigsaw structures and collaborative
inquiry projects (OECD 2012).
Additional pedagogical methods worth noting were developed by the Mevo’ot a Negev school in
Israel and the Lok Sin Tong Leung Wong Wai Fong Memorial School in Hong Kong where an attempt
was made to encompass most of the previously discussed 21st century skills.
At Mevo’ot a Negev, skills such as problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and communication are
at the core of instruction. The core learning process is projects-based learning, wherein learners carry out
projects in the frame of an extensive study unit around a specific problem; learners gather information, find
answers to questions and present their conclusions. Students divide into workgroups of 3-4 and then
examine, according to their choice, a topic or a sub-topic from the wider subject. During the project and at
the end of it they submit a public presentations on the subject learned in order to shed light on the insights
and understanding they have reached and which constitute the basis for the teacher`s evaluation (OECD
Good practices at the national level
At the level of national development skills systems, very few countries have developed strategies to
foster the acquisition of 21st century skills in formal education. However, the development of some skills,
such as critical thinking problem-solving, is entering the educational policy debate.
In the late 1990s, the Japanese government reformed the Course of Study, its national curriculum
standard to improve students’ engagement and motivation. The key rationale behind this reform was to
strengthen students’ ability to think critically and creatively, and to identify and solve problems
independently. The new curricula reduced the content load by about 30% to leave space to deeper learning
through classroom activities emphasising introspection independent decision making, and problem-solving
skills. The reform also allocated more time for elective offerings and introduced a new class period in all
schools, called “Integrated Learning”. In these classes, students engage in cross-curricular projects related
to the understanding of environmental, social welfare and health issues. Those classes provide them with
opportunities to practice observation and experimentation and to discover multiple solutions to problems as
well as draw connections to their own lives (OECD, 2014c).
Likewise, in 1997 Singapore launched a project to promote a sharper focus on developing thinking
skills which subsequently lead to revision in the curriculum with national examinations adjusted to give
greater importance to the assessment of higher-order thinking and problem solving skills. In 2009,
Singapore identified the most relevant 21st century competencies. Those were critical and inventive
thinking; communication, collaboration and information skills; and civic literacy, global awareness and
cross-cultural skills. The 21st century competencies framework now guides the development of the
national curriculum as well as school-based programmes to nurture these competencies. Interestingly, this
curriculum reform was accompanied by a wider effort across schools to harness ICT for teaching and
learning. Provisions from three waves of the ICT Masterplan since 1997 have enabled teachers to use ICT
tools that help students learn and work independently and collaboratively (OECD, 2014c).
A comparable effort to mainstreaming 21st century skills into national curriculum is taking place at the
regional level in Alberta, Canada. The starting point is somewhat different and reflects a collaborative
bottom up-policy design exercise. With a series of province-wide consultations starting in 2009, the
government developed a curriculum redesign project to include 21st century skills. Albertans voiced the
need for a transformation of the education system in order to help students engage in a rapidly changing
knowledge-based society. In this context, a framework for student learning was developed that identifies
critical thinking, problem solving and decision making as key cross-curriculum competencies (Alberta
Education, 2013a, 2013b in OECD 2014c).
This involved, for example, developing the confidence and skills in students to solve different types of
problems, which could be assigned to the domain of emotional competencies (OECD, 2015i); stimulating
the use of multiple approaches to solving problems; and modelling students’ ability to transfer knowledge
and experience gained in the past to solve problems and make decisions in the future. Proposals for further
collaborative curriculum development are under review and the new curriculum is expected to be launched
by 2016 (OECD, 2014c).
Good policy practices for the promotion of digital literacies
In a context of rapid technological progress not all citizens are likely to be able to keep pace with such
developments. As discussed in Section 1, there is evidence that large segment of the working population
may lack both generic and specialist ICT skills.
In many OECD countries, the promotion of digital literacies falls primarily in the hand of national
education ministries, which determine the extent to which ICT skills are included in the curriculum. The
introduction of ICT in curricula may be the result of broader national digital strategies as in the case of
Sweden and Spain, more recently. National digital strategies may take a different approach in engaging
young people with ICTs, as the example of the Informatik Biber competition in Germany shows.
In Sweden, education for ICT is integrated in curricula as a learning outcome: "every pupil, on
completing primary and lower secondary school, must be able to use modern technology as a tool for
knowledge-seeking, communication, creation and learning". The new Schools Act from 2011 introduced
new/revised syllabuses and a new curriculum for Swedish primary and lower secondary schools. The upper
secondary school has also acquired new syllabuses, and a new qualification descriptor has been introduced
for teacher and preschool teacher training programmes. The latest initiative ICT for everyone a Digital
Agenda for Sweden in 2011 reiterated that "Everyone of working age must have good digital skills to be
employable or be able to start up and run businesses"(Empirica, 2014b).
In the United States the Obama administration has recently launched the Computer Science for All
Initiative to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science (CS) in school. The
initiative will provide USD 4 billion in funding for states, and USD 100 million directly for districts in his
forthcoming Budget to increase access to K-12 CS by training teachers, expanding access to high-quality
instructional materials, and building effective regional partnerships. The initiative will also be supported by
the private sector with more than MSU 60 million in new philanthropic investments from companies such
as Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Last but not least, the initiative also recognises that
students must be equipped with strong computational thinking skills and the ability to solve complex
problems.(White House 2016)In Germany, the national digital agenda, Digital Germany 2015, aims to
promote ICT studies and career opportunities through the organisation of nation-wide ICT and engineering
related competitions. A notable example of this policy includes the yearly organisation of a national
computer science contest for school children called Informatik-Biber (2014). The competition is aimed at
students in grades 5-13 (age 10 to 15-16) and is held annually in November since 2007. It is funded by the
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It seeks to raise the interest of young students in
computer science, without requiring prior knowledge. In 2013 a total of 206,430 students took part in the
competition (IVI and Empirica, 2014).
Some OECD countries have implemented a number of policies to promote digital literacy and
inclusion for specific groups of the population who may lag behind (e.g. older people and women) to
ensure that access and use of digital technologies benefits all segments of the population equally.. Good
practice examples in this regard can be found in Norway (Box 1) and Portugal.
In Portugal, under the “National Strategy for Digital Inclusion and Literacy”, the “ICT and Society
Network” promotes digital inclusion and literacy of the population at large. The “ICT and Society
Network” is a multi-stakeholder national platform with more than 500 members that mobilises regions,
cities, municipalities, companies, government, academia, private sector, non-governmental organisations,
the media, educators, and citizens, for a pro-active participation in reducing the digital divide, namely the
population that never used the Internet.
Box 1. The national programme for digital inclusion in Norway
Access and internet use in Norway is among the highest across OECD countries. According to the Norwegian
Media Barometer 2015, 87 percent of those aged between 9 and 79 use the Internet during the course of a day. Use is
highest (99 percent) among younger users between 16-24 years old, while 52 percent of those aged 67-79 use the
internet any given day. According to the national statistics, weekly Internet use has also increased from 52 percent in
2010 to 62 percent in 2013 in this segment of the population. This development suggests that many older Norwegians
keep up with modern digital life and see the advantages of using new digital tools.
With these encouraging statistics Norway recently launched a more ambitious two years national programme
which aims at significantly reduce the number of citizen who are not familiar with digital technologies regardless of age,
gender, education, residence and participation in the workforce.
The programme is run by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation and enjoys the collaboration of big
players in the ICT industry. Thus far the programme has developed web based resources for educators and trainers in
digital competence. The programme arranges collaborative regional conferences across the country, to ensure close
collaboration and the sharing of resources between regional and national contributors. In addition, a magazine is being
developed to inspire elderly non-digital citizens to get involved in the digital world. Different grants are being
established to help develop local and regional educational initiatives. Plans are also on their way to develop national
indicators of digital competence and digital inclusion.
Source: Note from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation Department for national ICT policy and Public sector reform
The issue of gender disparity in technology access and use raise concerns, especially in countries such
as Sweden where the gender perspective is one key pillar for policy action. A major concern among
Swedish policy makers is the low female participation rate in the IT industry, which is the result of lower
enrolment rates in IT related academic courses for young women. As an illustration, in 2013 only 24
percent of women enrolled in IT related academic training, in comparison with 18 percent in 2003.
Moreover, forecasts from the Swedish Statistical Office (SCB) indicate that the percentage of women with
a technical qualifications in roles such as data specialists run the risk of being less than 20% by the year
Gender disparities in ICT related academic and professional careers are driven by a multitude of
factors including social and cultural norms, self-beliefs, anxiety and risk aversion which all play a role at
very early stages in life. According to the PISA study on average across OECD countries, less than 5% of
girls contemplate pursuing a career in engineering and computing. In virtually all countries, the number of
boys thinking of a career in computing or engineering exceeds the number of girls contemplating such
a career. In addition, PISA and other studies find that girls have less belief in their own abilities in
mathematics and science, and are plagued with greater anxiety towards mathematics, than boys – even
when they perform just as well as boys (OECD 2015p).
To challenge current beliefs, cultural and social norms hindering women participation in ICT related
careers the Swedish government has placed an emphasis at primary school level to support girls’ interest in
natural science mathematics and technological subjects. Moreover, a revision of the college level
technology programme will take into account the experiences of both men and women, and will challenge
current misconceptions and stigmas on women who choose technology as core subject. As an illustration,
the KomTek a municipal technology and entrepreneurial school, has been designed according to a “gender-
aware pedagogy” and has received support from the European Social Fund. Last but not least, future
awareness campaigns will also seek to address preconceptions about women in ICT careers, most notably
those associating women with careers to the “soft parts” of ICT (e.g. communication) than “hard parts”
(e.g. technology).
The European Commission has been at the forefront of policy initiatives action in addressing ICT-
related skills issues. In 2007, the Communication “e skills for the 21st Century” set the basis for its policy
action aiming to respond to the growing demand for highly-skilled ICT practitioners and to achieve digital
literacy for all citizens (European Commission, 2007).
The Communication has been followed by the institution of a broader EU-eSkills strategy which is
bearing a number of positive outcomes in the area of ICT skills development. The initiatives that stemmed
from the implementation of the e-skills strategy were financed by the Competitiveness and Innovation
Framework Programme (CIP), while the initiatives for 2014-2020 focus on small and medium enterprises
(SMEs) under the umbrella of the programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and
Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME). Future actions are planned to address the critical need for e-
leadership skills the focus on the promotion of professionalism for ICT practitioners; focus on the creation
of a larger talent pool of entrepreneurs, business leaders, managers and advanced users with a focus on the
strategic use of new information and communication technologies (European Commission, 2016).
Current initiatives are the "Opening-up Education" initiative to modernise education for the digital
age, the "e-Skills for jobs" awareness raising campaign on ICT professional jobs. The Grand Coalition for
Digital Jobs is a cross-European multi-stakeholder partnership that facilitates collaboration among
businesses, education providers, and public and private actors to reduce skills gaps by increasing the
number of training programmes and making the most of the job opportunities offered by digitisation in
Europe. So far, this initiative has been successful in attracting around 60 stakeholder pledges offering
training, apprenticeships, placements and carrying out awareness raising activities to encourage young
people to study and pursue careers in ICT. It has also raised political awareness and support for these
issues. In 13 Member States, national coalitions have been set up and more are planned. Some Member
States have also produced digital skills strategies.
The EU-eSkills Strategy has undergone a number of evaluations to monitor progress by each Member
State. In the period 2009-2013 the action focused on three pillars: digital literacy, professionalism for ICT
practitioners and e-leadership. The largest number of activities were registered in the cluster of
professionalism for ICT practitioners (Empirica, 2014a). In contrast, activities related to e-leadership,
including support for the acquisition of digital leadership skills among entrepreneurs, , were less frequent.
2.2. Activating skills in the digital economy
Rapid population ageing, high rates of youth unemployment and increasing dependency ratios raise
great concerns for the financial sustainability of social security systems and for intergenerational cohesion.
To respond to such challenges, OECD governments have put in place a number of initiatives to
facilitate labour market activation of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs),
and older workers who have spent a long period in unemployment. The rationales behind these policy
interventions are to confront immediate employment challenges through Active Labour Market Policies
(ALMPs) and reduce the risk of future skills imbalances through the use of forecasting instruments such as
Skills Assessment and Anticipation Exercises.
Active labour markets policies for the digital economy
According to the latest research (OECD, 2015f), the following three elements are fundamental to
smooth reinsertion into the labour market: motivation, employability and opportunities for training or
employment. Among the instruments available policy-makers to tackle long-term unemployment, recent
efforts have been placed on the implementation of Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs). ALMPs can
raise job seekers’ motivations by linking unemployment benefits to search efforts, improve employability
by providing counselling and training, and increase opportunities through job matching services (OECD,
Recent evidence suggests that ALMPs are increasingly diverse in nature, and their effectiveness
depends on a tailored approach to individual needs. Among ALMPs, job-search assistance and training
programmes are regarded as the most effective measures, , the former by helping job seekers to find a job
and keep it, the latter by upgrading skills of weaker target groups (European Commission, 2013a).
The diffusion of ICTs at work and the increase in the demand for ICT specialist, generic and
complementary skills have triggered a reflexion about the type of skills that ALMPs should help to
develop. For instance, the Austrian Ministry of Labour created a Special Committee on New Skills to
address this question (OECD, 2015e). In Portugal the “Digital Employability Strategy and Action Plan
2015-2020” was launched by the Portuguese Coalition for Digital Jobs.
At the European level, policy-makers have called for urgent action to support NEETs in their
transition to work, which translated into the adoption of a Youth Guarantee. The Youth Guarantee’s
objective is ensure that all young people aged under 25 receive a good-quality offer of employment,
continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving
formal education (European Commission, 2015b). Many Member States of the European Union have taken
steps to turn this European call into reality especially in regions where youth unemployment rates exceed
25%. In Spain, the Youth Guarantee included a focus on the development of ICT skills (Box 2).
Box 2. EU youth guarantee programme-fostering ICT skills? The Spanish case
Among the countries mostly hit by youth unemployment, Spain has been particularly adamant in adopting the
Youth Guarantee Scheme. It established a National Youth Guarantee Programme (Law 18/2014) between 2013 and
2016 with a financial support of approximately 3.5 billion from the European Union (Espana, 2013).
Through the programme the Spanish government put an emphasis on the role of ICTs in promoting economic
and social growth as well as on the importance of ICT skills for employability. The design plan of the initiative is
particularly concerned with “ensuring that efforts to improve talents and skills include ICT or digital training and raise
the category of vocational knowledge and skills, guaranteeing that study courses and ICT certifications are in line with
comparable international standards”. In addition, it puts greater importance on the role of ICTs in improving access
and integration into the job market of young people with disabilities or who have greater difficulties of access (ibid.).
The commitment towards ICTs is reiterated by national legislation. The Spanish Public Employment Service
launched a call for proposals with a total budget of almost €42 million for professional training activities and training in
ICT and language courses to be developed at the national level for young people registered in the Youth Guarantee
system (European Commission, 2015a).
The not-for-profit sector has been growing and increasingly engaged in training provision and labour
market integration initiatives. These initiatives are often launched by social enterprises with the support of
philanthropies, the European Social Fund and, in some cases, direct government co-sponsorship. The
rationale behind these interventions may stem from the need of an immediate response to skills gaps within
a specific sector requiring ICT specialist skills or, from a broader commitment to ICTs skills as generic
skills for employability, in the spirit of activating the supply of skills of disadvantaged groups in the
labour market.
The projects “e-skills for Women” in Luxembourg and Interface3 in Belgium are examples of this
ambition. They both target unemployed women from disadvantaged backgrounds and with the aim to
improve their employability through ICT training.
The e-skills for women project is centred on French speaking women aged 18-55 and consist of a
series of workshops where participants receive technical training on languages for web maintenance as
well as core competencies training on teamwork, personal branding and effective communication.
Participants are identified with the help of ADEM (Administration de L’Empoi), the national employment
The Interface3 programme offers a more comprehensive approach: IT technical training is supported
by mentoring and coaching on soft skills and core competencies, as well as French language courses for
foreigners (Interface3, 2014). The targets of the programme are young (18-30) unemployed women in the
Brussels-Capital region, where the combination of fast growth in youth population and low-skills
migration has contributed to increase unemployment rate to over 20% (ibid.).
In Ireland, Fast Track into Information Technology Ltd (FIT) works to the re-integration of long-term
unemployed into the labour market through ICT skills training (Box 3).
Box 3. Fast track to information technology (FIT), Ireland
Fast Track Into Information Technology Ltd (FIT) is an industry-led charity that works in close collaboration with
Irish government departments, national education and training agencies, local development and community-based
organisations. FIT provides ICT skills training at different level (at entry, intermediate and expert levels) to ensure it
outreaches to various segments of the Irish population. Central to FIT’s mission is the re-integration of the long-term
unemployed into the labour market through ICT transversal skills training that allows graduates to enter multiple
sectors of work including, but not limited to, the IT sector.
From a Skills Audit that it conducted in 2014 among some of the largest, but also small and medium sized
companies, FIT argues that 75% of immediate vacancies are for employees able to exercise skills at the competent
and entry levels, compared to 25% at the expert level (FIT, 2016). Qualifications for those competent and entry-level
opportunities can be acquired through formal vocational training. In addition, FIT reported that transition rates of FIT
graduates into employment or further education is at 70%
As a result, FIT launched its ICT Professional Associate apprenticeship style pilot programme offering a two-year
education based on 6 months of in-school training and 18 months of work-based learning. FIT works hand-in-hand with
some of the largest employers in Ireland to ensure that its programmes are up-to-date with the skills demanded by the
labour market. With over two thirds of participants coming from an unemployed or long-term unemployed background,
in its first year the ICT Professional Associate programme showed very promising graduate outcomes in terms of
transition from education to the workplace, or to further education.
Source: Fast Track into Information Technology (2016), Skills Audit 2014,
Skills assessment and anticipation exercises for the digital economy
The ability to assess and anticipate skill needs has become a prominent policy concern across OECD
and partner countries. Skills mismatch may lead to longer period of unemployment for job seekers and lower
productivity in firms while skills shortage may hamper economic growth. A number of employment plans
aim to address this challenge by promoting the collection and use of information on the demand and supply
of skills, the transportability of educational and occupational credentials, the up-skilling or reskilling of
new, unemployed and displaced workers and the promotion of geographical mobility (OECD, 2015e).
However, skills assessment and anticipation (SAA) exercises are instrumental to broader strategies
that tackle skills shortages as they present some limitations. Time constraints within the policy cycle may
restrict the policy relevance of the exercise to specific categories of education and training programmes,
most notably those with long training periods, restricted entry requirements, and particular geographical
mobility. In addition, a great level of coordination across stakeholders is required to ensure that the data
collection and use of skills information happens smoothly, given the highly complex nature of some of the
data-sources (ibid.). Finally, particular care is required in handling results. As noted earlier, skills
assessment and anticipation exercises do not attempt to predict the future with certainty or precision but
rather aim to be used as tools to help prepare or plan for future scenarios. As such, they should be seen as a
contribution to skills development policies and not as the exclusive input for workforce planning techniques.
The OECD (OECD, 2015e) in collaboration with the European Centre for the Development of
Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the International Labour
Organisation (ILO) has recently carried out a survey on the use of SSA exercises in its member countries.
The survey aims to identify effective strategies for improving skills governance and turning qualitative and
quantitative information on skill needs into relevant policy actions.
The survey shows that 29 out of 34 participating countries undertake some type of SAA exercises
However, important difference exists in the coverage of skills, the time span and frequency, the geographic
coverage as well as the methodology used. The latter varies from the approach of the Denmark Rational
Agent Economic Model (DREAM), based on computable general equilibrium model that can forecast
future skills needs over a 50-year horizon, to the approach taken by Industry Skills Councils in Australia
where current skill needs are identified assessed drawing from interviews or focus groups.
Skills assessment and anticipation exercises are being extensively used by public and social
organisations alike to inform policy design and action in the areas of labour markets and education. More
specifically, in the area of labour market policy SAAs are mainly used to revise design, and allocate re-
training and on the job training programmes as well as to inform the development of apprenticeship
programmes. In the realm of education policy the widest use of SAAs is made with reference to course
provision and funding decisions from upper-secondary education as well as for the update and revision of
competencies frameworks and curricula. In contrast, in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, skills
assessment and anticipation information is used to place occupations in high demand on special shortage
lists. Workers with skills required in those occupations do not have to be sponsored by an employer when
applying for a permanent visa (OECD, 2015e).
In a number of countries - Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy,
Norway, Portugal and Turkey - SAA programmes explicitly look at skills needs in the digital economy.
Skills needs are assessed in relation to changes in occupational structure, e.g. re-allocation of workers
towards ICT-intensive sectors, and in the skill requirements within occupations, e.g. increased use of ICT
at work (OECD, 2015e).
In Canada, occupations related to the digital economy are assessed as part of the Canadian
Occupational Projection System (COPS). In addition, the Canadian Sectorial Initiative Programme
monitors the development of skills with an impact on the productivity of the ICT sector, such as measures
of job readiness and career paths in STEM, and produces 5-year forecasts of ICT occupations.
Ireland, Austria and Norway have started policy level reflections on future skills needs. Ireland
established an Expert Group on Future Skills Needs that carried out a study on the future skills needs of the
digital media industry and was later included in the Ireland Action Plan for jobs (2014-2018). In Austria,
the national Public Employment Service established the Standing Committee on New Skills to anticipate
qualifications required in the medium term and take measures accordingly. Norway has commissioned a
study to forecast future supply and demand for advanced ICT competences up to 2030. The study recommends
the establishment of a regular monitoring system of supply and demand of advanced ICT skills.
2.3 Putting digital skills to effective use
Effective use of skills in the workplace is a key engine for labour productivity and economic growth.
Research based on the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) shows that the average use of reading and
writing skills explains a considerable share (50% and 44% respectively) of the variation in labour
productivity across countries (Quintini, 2014). As a result, lifelong learning, workplace training and continuous
professional development are key to ensure that skills are fully utilised and do not depreciate overtime.
Effective use of skills is a key challenge among OECD countries both for young people and older
workers. Evidence shows that young people entering the workplace make the least use of information
processing skills, including ICT skills, in comparison with prime age workers (Quintini, 2014, p. 30).
This evidence is at odds with the general opinion that young people are naturally well versed in online
skills (the myth of the digital native), as young people do not naturally or automatically acquire digital
literacies (Livingstone and Haddon et al., 2014). Instead, the evidence points at ICT skills acquisition
through use (OECD, 2015a). Indeed, there is a two-way relationship between proficiency in information
processing skills and the use of those skills: proficiency facilitates practice and practice reinforces
proficiency (OECD, 2013c).
The underlying mechanism of skills depreciation due to under or non-utilisation mirrors the same
principle, in that the skills stock of an individual deteriorates if not used - the so called “use it or lose it”
effect (OECD, 2015b). In addition, the diffusion of new digital technologies in the workplace makes the
skills related to previous technologies obsolete (IVI and Empirica, 2014).
This is of particular concern for elderly workers. Evidence suggests the elderly workers use problem-
solving skills less and are more likely to witness the obsolescence of some of their skills due to rapid
technological change (Schneider, 2005). This is not only limited to ICT skills but apply to a wider set of
skills (Behaghel, Caroli, and Roger 2014; OECD, 2015j). As a consequence, elderly workers are more
likely to experience long periods of unemployment, with severe effects on their health and well-being.
Workforce training for the digital economy
Mostly based on longitudinal datasets, several studies have documented the positive impact of
workplace or on-the-job training on individual labour market outcomes respective to wages, job security
and productivity at the firm level (OECD, 2015b). Training is often advocated as an appropriate policy
response to cope with the rapid pace of technological change that characterises the digital economy.
Training is believed to address skills obsolescence and depreciation and help ensure that the
workforce is resilient in an ever-changing environment. However, challenges remain vis-à-vis the training
participation gap that exists in most countries between the less-qualified and the more-qualified, prime age
and older workers, those in large and small and medium enterprises.
While workplace training emerges as key policy lever to maximise skills utilisation and ensure that
skills do not depreciate over time, an analysis of existing practices at firm level show that firms themselves
have great incentives to provide employees with continuous professional training if they want to innovate
and remain competitive in the market. Learning organisations adapt and compete through learning and are
more likely to innovate (Box 4).
Box 4. Innovative workplaces
In an effort to understand which working organisations leave their employees greater room to innovate and, as a
result, generate higher levels of innovation, an OECD study (OECD 2010c) looked at the European Working
Conditions (EWC) survey to understand the most prevalent forms of work organisation across the EU to determine
which of them could be defined as “learning organisations” as per their likelihood of being conducive to greater levels
of learning for the employee and the organisation itself.
The results show that organisations that rely on the expertise of individual professionals and fuse them in creative
project teams to create innovative projects on behalf of their clients, the so called “operating adhocracy” (Lam 2005),
are most likely to provide their employees with continuous professional development and training programmes. In
addition, organisations that delegate problem solving activities to a wide range of employees could be more successful
in both upgrading the competencies of workers and in transforming ideas into new products and processes (OECD
2010c, 51). Interestingly, learning organisation across the 27 EU Member States are a widespread phenomenon as
67% of firms in the EWC survey are characterised by high levels of autonomy in work combined with high levels of
learning, problem-solving and task complexity.
Source: OECD (2010), Innovative Workplaces: Making Better Use of Skills within Organisations, OECD Publishing.
Age biased technological change, workforce training and training obsolescence
The rapid pace of technological change combined with the long period out of formal education place
older workers in a particular need to update their knowledge and skills (OECD, 2015b). Continuous
training becomes therefore a key instrument to address older workers’ employability.
The empirical evidence shows firm-level training increases the share of older workers in employment
and reduces their turnover (Behaghel, Caroli, and Roger, 2014). However, these effects do not seem large
enough to compensate for the negative age bias associated with ICT sand innovative work practices (ibid.).
In terms of access to training about new technologies, elderly workers in low-skill occupations, e.g.:
clerks and blue-collar workers, seem to have less opportunities (Behaghel and Greenan, 2012) than elderly
workers with higher skills.
In ICT-intensive industries, the challenge of age-biased technological change is compounded with
faster obsolescence of ICT specialist skills. In response to such a challenge, some countries, like the
Netherlands, have already devised policies for the re and up-skilling of the older population in the IT sector
although measures of impact are not yet available (Box 5).
Box 5. The technology pact 2020 in the Netherlands
One of the main objectives of The Technology Pact 2020 in the Netherlands is to retain technology workers in the
ICT sector, and find alternative jobs for those workers with technology backgrounds that have been marginalised or are
at risk of being marginalised.
The Technology Pact 2020 has begun to deliver measures to re-skill technology workers and up-skill young and
unemployed technology workers. In 2013, industry partners from the technology sector signed an agreement, whereby
they established sector plans for the second half of 2013 with the aim of reducing the outflow of young workers and
recently unemployed by providing them with opportunities as qualified technicians through training and by upgrading
their skills.
The Technology Pact 2020 has also established another national measure to boost training and re-skilling
schemes for redundant technology workers aimed at finding them alternative jobs and providing them with professional
Source: adapted from: IVI, and Empirica. 2014. E-Skills: The International Dimension and the Impact of Globalisation (Final Report).
Supporting workforce training and digital leadership in SMEs
Ensuring adequate training is particular important for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). On the
one hand, SMEs lack sufficient resources to develop training programmes; on the other, training providers
have not sufficiently developed training content specific to the needs of SMEs. Some countries have
favoured the creation of multi-stakeholder consortia at the sector, local or industry level to share training
costs for the workforce.
Government intervention is also justified by the existence of market failures, as free-riding and
competition may reduce firms’ incentives to co-operate and invest in training (OECD, 2013d). Korea has
addressed the issue of SMEs workforce training with direct funding from the national Employment
Insurance Fund. Ireland has taken a similar approach with its state-funded initiative Skillnets (Box 6).
Box 6. Training programmes for existing workers and SMEs
All training programmes for existing workers in Korea are financed through the Employment Insurance Fund.
Most programmes comprise subsidies paid to employers who provide skills development programmes for their
employees. The government refunds training expenses to insured employers when they provide, either directly or
through outsourced providers, vocational training authorised by the Ministry of Education and Labour. A subsidy can
also be paid to cover training costs and minimum wage when an employer offers training leave to employees with one
or more years of service.
There are also a number of programmes to encourage SMEs to provide training to their employees. SMEs can
be reimbursed for all or part of the training costs for their employees who take part in authorised training programmes
to improve performance of “core tasks”, such as sales, marketing, production and quality management, human
resources and organisation management.
There is also support for groups setting up a “training consortium” to help provide vocational training to SME
workers. The government subsidises training expenses and facility and equipment expenses to the consortium, which
could be comprised of companies, employers’ federations, universities or other training providers. Around 250 000
employees from 120 000 SMEs participated in the consortium project in 2011, a very small proportion of all SME
employees in Korea.
Ireland Skillnets was established in 1999 to promote and facilitate workplace training and upskilling by SMEs. It is
the largest organisation supporting workplace training in Ireland. In 2011, it had 70 operational networks through which
it trained over 40 000 people for a total expenditure of EUR 25 million. It is a state-funded, enterprise-led body that co-
invests with enterprises, particularly SMEs, when they co-operate in networks to identify and deliver training suited to
their workforces. A network of SMEs, which are mostly sectorial or regional, is guided by a steering group of the local
enterprise representatives. The steering group gives strategic direction and guidance to a network manager who co-
ordinates all operational activity leading to the delivery of an agreed training plan with learning interventions suited for
the member company workforces. The national programme is coordinated by Skillnets Ltd., who contract with all
networks and provide programme support and monitoring to ensure the delivery of agreed quantitative and qualitative
target outputs. In 2011, 30 of these networks were located in Dublin, but were predominantly sectorial networks with a
national remit and company membership. 25% of all Skillnets member companies and 33% of trainees were Dublin-
Sources: OECD (2014), Employment and Skills Strategies in Ireland, OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation, OECD Publishing. and OECD (2013), Korea: Improving the Re-employment Prospects of Displaced
Workers, Back to Work, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:
Recognising the role of SMEs in driving economic activity in Europe, in 2013 the European
Commission launched the e-Leadership Initiative (IVI and Empirica, 2014) to foster ICT skills among
business leaders and promote e-leadership and digital entrepreneurship. The initiative seeks to equip
business leaders in SMEs with the right skills to lead multidisciplinary teams, develop new business
models and exploit new business opportunities through digital technologies.
As part of e-Leadership Initiative, the LEAD programme focuses on the development of business
skills for SMEs and start-ups who seek to exploit the business opportunities created by new technologies.
The programme accompanies business leaders in designing, developing and deploying new digital services
in areas such as cloud computing, mobile and social technologies as well as big data (Empirica 2015).
Governing skills systems for the digital economy
As digital inclusion is becoming less dependent on access to technologies and more on knowledge and
skills, digital skills have been recognised as key competence across OECD countries. Lack of agreement
on the definition of digital skills prevents alignment and coordination among stakeholders. Reaching a
common understanding on the definitions of digital skills is therefore a pre-requisite to effectively design
and implement skills policies for the digital world. A common understanding can facilitate policy
coordination across governance levels and may help managing private sector involvement in the design of
digital skills policies.
DIGCOMP, the EU framework for developing and understanding digital competence in Europe,
provides insights on what digital competences are, and what skills, knowledge and attitudes they may be
associated with (Box 7). The framework consists of five dimensions, based on findings from research, case
studies and multi-stakeholder consultations.
Box 7. Areas of competence, DIGCOMP Framework
The areas of digital competence captured in the DIGCOMP Framework are as follows:
Information: identify, locate, retrieve, store, organise and analyse digital information, judging its relevance and
Communication: communicate in digital environments, share resources through online tools, link with others and
collaborate through digital tools, interact with and participate in communities and networks, cross-cultural awareness.
Content creation: create and edit new content (from word processing to images and video); integrate and re-
elaborate previous knowledge and content; produce creative expressions, media output and programming; deal with
and apply intellectual property rights and licences.
Safety: personal protection, data protection, digital identity protection, security measures, safe and sustainable
Problem-solving: identify digital needs and resources, make informed decisions on most appropriate tools
according to the purpose or need, solve conceptual problems through digital means, creatively use technologies, solve
technical problems, update own and other’s competence.
Source: European Commission (2013), DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe,
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union
Several EU countries have integrated the DIGCOMP framework across different policy areas. In the
United Kingdom, for instance, Go ON UK, the UK’s digital skills charity working closely with the Cabinet
Office and the Government’s Digital Service, has revised its definition of Basic Digital Skills based on that
of DIGCOMP (Go on UK 2015). At the heart of Go ON UK’s concern is to ensure that everyone in the
country achieves the same minimum standard of digital literacy. Seeking alignment between Go ON UK’s
and the DIGCOMP framework has thus been seen as paramount to the conception of a reliable, common
measurement framework through which levels of digital skills can be determined.
As part of its Digital Agenda, Italy is evaluating the official adoption of DIGCOMP as an end user
competence (Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale 2015). The Agency for Digital Italy (AGID) is responsible for
achieving the objectives of the Italian Digital Agenda (developed in line with the European Digital
Agenda) and coordinating activities across the state, regional and local levels. One of its strategic axes of
work is to support the dissemination of digital literacy initiatives, including promoting the use of
innovative teaching technologies.
A number of regional initiatives have emerged in Spain. Within the framework of the Digital Agenda
for the Basque Country, the Government of the region launched Ikanos, a digital competency project,
whose main objective is to promote the adoption of DIGCOMP, new ways of learning and innovative
certification systems (Ikanos 2015). Ikanos implemented a free online testing tool and assessment reporting
on individual’s level of digital skills for employability based on DIGCOMP. In Navarra, the Department of
Education chose to use DIGCOMP as a key reference for strategic planning and wider policy support. In
Extremadura, the focus has been on teachers and supporting the implementation of a Teachers Competence
Portfolio based on DIGCOMP.
Despite giving rise to several initiatives scattered across the country, the DIGCOMP framework has
led the Spanish Ministry of Education to develop an overarching teacher digital competence framework to
provide guidance on areas of improvement vis-à-vis teaching methods, evaluation and accreditation
processes in line with the EU framework. However, significant research remains to be done to observe best
practice models, share guidance and avoid inadequate approaches to its implementation.
The engagement of the private sector in the implementation of national and international skills
development frameworks is crucial to ensuring that workers will benefit from the opportunity to improve
their digital skills. Several country examples show that meeting this aim often requires the creation or
identification of an institutional body that takes on stakeholder gathering, advocacy (awareness building)
and advisory functions both for the public and private sector (IVI and Empirica 2014). The Netherlands
provide an interesting case of the public and private sector coming together in a Working Group to
advocate the use of ICT skills frameworks.
Box 8. Promoting the use of ICT competence frameworks to the industry
In 2011, the Netherlands established a Working Group of which the principal function is to raise awareness on
the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) and promote its use in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Economic
Affairs is one of its founders and contributes to the implementation of the e-CF mainly through the Working Group.
The e-CF Working Group brings together a wide range of partners from the government, private sector and
education spheres. It is part of the Digitally Skilled and Digitally Safe Programme, a joint initiative by the Dutch
government and private sector actors, which has identified the large-scale adoption of the e-CF by the Dutch ICT-
labour market as a key priority. In November 2013, 21 Dutch organisations signed a covenant to agree on the use of
the e-CF in their recruitment and training activities.
In 2012, the Dutch government decided to integrate the European e-Competence Framework at the core of its
public sector iStrategy. A central element of the iStrategy was set as the implementation of a Quality Framework for
Information Management with a view to improve internal and external labour market policy and personnel planning in
The Quality Framework specified the required levels of knowledge and competence for all ICT-related job
categories and levels in order to harmonise the descriptions of the ICT career profiles within the Dutch public sector.
According to the iStrategy, the Quality Framework was introduced in 2012 for all matching and training operations, and
in 2013 a full range of training courses was made available for senior government staff.
The Dutch government and Nederland ICT, a trade association of over 550 ICT companies in the Netherlands
totalling 250,000 employees, signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to optimise the collaboration between the public
and the private sector. The agreement highlights the importance of retaining and improving ICT talent in the
Netherlands, and both parties agreed to use the Quality Framework for Information Management within the public and
private sector.
Source: IVI and Empirica (2014), e-Skills: the International Dimension and the Impact of Globalisation, Luxembourg: Publications
Office of the European Union
Building effective multi-stakeholder partnerships
Governments, training providers, employers and social organisations all play a part in the skills
development system. Multi-stakeholders partnerships not only contribute to build capacity but also to
promote a more inclusive and targeted approach to skills development. Such partnerships encourage
training provision that is more responsive to labour market needs, familiarise employers with vocational
programmes and qualifications and help vocational trainers to keep up-to-date (OECD, 2014d).
Sector skills councils have been established in several OECD countries (e.g. Ireland, Norway,
Portugal) with the ambition to bring labour market research and skills demand forecasting to light and
provide strategic advice on building skills through education and training and private sector involvement.
While some countries such as Canada (Box 9) have progressed in establishing ICT sector skills council,
mores systematic use of this approach may help reducing the imbalances in ICT specific skills demand and
Box 9. The Canadian ICT sector skills council (ICTC)
The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) is a not-for-profit national centre of expertise
for the digital economy. With the mission of strengthening Canada’s digital advantage in the global economy the ICTC
aims at fostering innovative Canadian industries through a talented and diverse digital workforce. The main focus
areas of the ICTC are research and policy advice on ICT labour market trends and ICT labour market intelligence as
well as workforce solutions for the ICT industry to manage digital talent across the country.
The research activities focus on providing real-time monitoring and forecasting of Canada’s ICT workforce
requirements and trends, impacting the ICT sector and other sectors of the economy. In particular ICTC provides
labour market’s monthly, quarterly and yearly snapshots of trends in the ICT sector as well as an outlook for the
Canadian workforce across 15 ICT occupations on a municipal and provincial level. Moreover, further research
activities investigate the impact of new trends such as automation and robotics on the overall economy.
ICTC’s engagement in workforce solutions seeks to help Canadian businesses to access the right talent with the
right skills needed by providing targeted solutions for recruiting, retaining and integrating women, aboriginals, youth
and internationally educated professionals into ICT workforce. In addition, the e-talent portal (
provides real time job insights on a provincial and municipal level as well as research, skills forecasts, wages,
demographics and available educational programmes.
Further initiatives pertain to the domain of digital competencies with online self-assessment tools and
programmes supporting the development of digital skills for non-IT professionals. In addition ICTC developed an ICT
competency profile where ICT stakeholders can customise job profiles according to the national standards of
knowledge skills and abilities.
As a multi-stakeholder platform the ICTC includes large network of industry, educational institutions, and policy
makers representing the digital economy in Canada.
Sources: ICTC(2016) Information and Communications Technology Council Annual Report 2014-2015 available at http://www.ictc- and
Digital technologies have fundamentally changed the way individuals access information and
elaborate knowledge. While raising the demand for new skills, they also create new opportunities for
education and training. This section examines the opportunities that digital technologies can open for
formal education and training as well as for informal and lifelong learning.
The pervasiveness of digital technologies in today’s lives has fed growing expectations on their
benefits for education and raises questions as to the reasons why these benefits have not yet fully
materialised. Paraphrasing Solow’s so-called “productivity paradox”, one can see computers everywhere
but in learning outcomes. The debate in the educational community is vivid. Many voices claim that ICTs
bring up a generational change of unprecedented nature, with far-reaching implications for education.
Others argue that digital media and connectivity has far more negative effects on the education of young
people than positive ones (OECD, 2012a).
The educational literature provides some insights as to why technology has failed on its promises in
radically improving education, pointing to weaknesses in knowledge management processes, teachers
training and incentives mechanisms (OECD, 2010a). At the same time, a growing body of research is
addressing these issues and providing evidence for the positive effects of ICTs in opening new forms of
learning for the 21st century.
Digital technologies facilitate personalised learning
Educational literature has identified learners’ prior knowledge as a key factor for effective learning.
Student-centred learning has then become a paradigm for new forms of learning, which are also facilitated
by the introduction of technology in the classroom.
The “flipped classroom” approach provides a clear illustration of how technology can build on
learners’ previous knowledge. In the flipped classroom direct instruction is partially replaced by video
lectures that can be played anytime and anywhere. The learner can thus decide when to stop or rewind the
lecture and focus on what he ignores or finds harder to harder to understand.
The classroom is “flipped” in the sense that the lecture builds up on a learner’ previous knowledge
and teachers focus on his/her doubts, concerns and misunderstandings. Time for teaching assumes a
different connotation as time is freed up from frontal instruction and mainly dedicated to interactive group
learning activities (Lowell Bishop and Verleger, 2013). This additional time can be used for more
innovative pedagogies, including project-based and inquiry-based learning which foster the development
of problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
As the flipped classroom approach is still in its infancy, there is a lot of experimentation and
uncertainty surrounding its applicability across a wider range of subjects and effectiveness in addressing
students’ needs on an equal basis. Recent evidence on the use of the Khan Academy (Box 10) suggests that
video lectures have been used for multiple purposes of which some go beyond flipping the classroom.
More specifically, Khan Academy resources were used as: a) an intervention for students who had
fallen behind their grade-level peers; b) an enrichment activity for advanced students, allowing them to
explore topics above their grade level; c) an accountability tool allowing close monitoring of student
progress on problem sets; d) a highly integrated supplemental practice activity, reinforcing skills recently
introduced in the classroom (Murphy et al., 2014).
Box 10. Freely available online resources for classroom instruction. The Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide a free world-class education to all, anywhere in
the world through educational videos released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, now backed up by a
learning analytics platform on its own website. Khan Academy offers more than 6 000 instructional videos and 100 000
practice problems covering the subject areas of mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, economics and finance,
among others.
It is in the process of developing structured learning paths following the example of the already existing Algebra
Mission. These predetermined paths are expected to facilitate more effective learning. The platform currently reaches
more than 10 million students per month and has 350 000 registered teachers from across the world. The Khan
Academy employs approximately 60 full-time and between approximately 40 to 70 part-time employees.
Khan Academy was founded after Salman Khan who, whilst trying to combine his fulltime job in the finance
industry with his commitment to helping his cousins in India with mathematics tutoring, decided to place his lessons on
YouTube. The organisation was incorporated in 2008 as a not-for-profit enterprise and was initially financed through
the founder’s savings. It later received a donation from a private investor and then larger philanthropic grants in 2010
from Google (USD 2 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (USD 1.5 million), which facilitated the setting
up of a functioning organisation. The translation and adaptation of Khan Academy’s content into Spanish was funded
by a large grant of the Carlos Slim Foundation in 2013 (Dolan, 2013).
Adapted from: Orr, D., M. Rimini and D. Van Damme (2015), Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation, Educational
Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Digital technologies help improve the quality and responsiveness of the teacher-student interactions.
Video lectures and similar technologies are particularly well suited for the use of real time formative
assessments, a system of interactive assessment of student progress and understanding. ICTs enable
instantaneous interaction and feedback between students and teachers. The immediate feedback it provides
allows teachers to personalise their instruction to the needs of individual students or to specific groups of
students (Kärkkäinen and Vincent-Lancrin, 2013).
Real-time assessments are often used as part of personalised learning experiences. “So Ms Cadwell, in
her own web browser, pulls up a dashboard where Khan Academy's software presents, through the
internet, the data the children are producing at that instant. She can view information for the entire class
or any individual pupil. Just then she sees two fields, representing modules, turning from green to red, one
for Andrea, the other for Asia. Ms Cadwell sees that Andrea is struggling with exponents, Asia with
fractions. “Instead of having to guess where my students have gaps, I can see it, at that moment, and I
walk over to that one student,” says Ms Cadwell, as she arrives at Asia's chair” (Economist, 2011).
Digital technologies foster collaborative learning
Recent findings from cognitive theories suggest that learning is a social process, whereby knowledge
construction by an individual occurs throughout processes of interaction, negotiation and co-operation (De
Corte, 2010). Neuroscience also shows that the human brain is primed for such interactions and that, while
self-study and personal discovery remain valuable, learning increasingly depends on interacting with others
(OECD, 2010b).
Digital technologies media facilitate learning through interaction and participation more than passive
consumption of information or knowledge (Ananiadou and Claro, 2009). In technology-enabled learning
environments, students work together (in groups) and/or interact with each other to enhance their learning
with the help of various technologies, often with facilitation from the teacher. When combined with other
learning approaches, technology-enabled collaboration can contribute to project, problem-based learning or
supplement face-to-face learning. Technology-enabled collaboration models may include in-built
assessment features which may also take into account team performance and/or collaborative activity
(Kärkkäinen and Vincent-Lancrin, 2013).
Collaboration through technologies can thus foster a wide array of skills needed for the digital
economy. Those include flexibility, cultural diversity, group work and interaction as well as higher order
thinking skills by posing more complex and challenging questions than the ones that are asked during face-
to-face interactions (ibid.). However, co-operative approaches still remain at the margins of school activity,
despite longstanding understanding of their benefits and significant evidence of their value (OECD,
Collaborative learning approaches are often experimented classes within the same school. A
remarkable example is provided by the Canadian Elementary Connected Classrooms project in British
Columbia (OECD, 2015n). In this pilot project three mixed-age classrooms (covering school grades 4 to 7)
from three elementary schools participate in videoconferencing, online collaborative work, online literature
circles, and exchange of student-created multimedia content.
Weekly videoconferences of the three classes are delivered by teachers focusing on their expertise and
interest and also manage a complementing online forum. Learners and facilitators interact through verbal
questions and sharing, sharing smart board work, and engaging in online forums and chat rooms together.
Moodle - a free and open-source software learning management system - has become a powerful
communication and sharing tool; students frequently message each other and their teachers, and engage
deeply in discussion forums. Participants also communicate by sharing the multimedia content created by
students and facilitators at each site (videos, photography, Prezis, multimedia presentations, etc.).While
learners mostly work with partners or groups at their home sites during videoconferences, many
opportunities exist for learners to collaborate and discuss during the project (Halbert and Kase 2013).
The Melbourne Royal Children Hospital in Australia offers an interesting example of the use of
technology for collaborative learning. The Hospital works in collaboration with young people, families and
schools to ensure that hospitalised children remains engaged in education and connected to their school
community throughout their recovery.
The pedagogies are focused on real-world complex problems and collaborative inquiry is facilitated
and encouraged through the use of shared learning spaces and ICTs. As example of collaborative learning
within the RCH is the Trans-Tasman Project where a number of students from different age groups across
the hospital worked together to gain an understanding of how the Christchurch (New Zealand) earthquake
affected the young people in that region. Assisted by the RCH Education Institute teachers, young people
across the hospital connected with a school in Christchurch which was affected by the earthquakes. These
students created a blog to facilitate input, voice and decision making about the project with the aim of
raising funds through the development and selling of wrist bands to benefit those affected (Zazryn et al.,
Online gaming has also proved to be a useful tool to fostering collaborative learning (Statista, 2015).
In educational gaming, students play with video games, interact with simulations or engage with virtual
worlds. In some cases, educational gaming may include collaborative project-based learning experiences
where students themselves become game designers and content producers (Kärkkäinen and Vincent-
Lancrin, 2013). For instance, the City Academy Norwich has used its Eco-Virtual Environment (EVE)
project to “engage students in an immersive virtual world to develop their collaborative skills,
communication skills and understanding of global energy challenges” (Box 11).
Box 11. Eco-Virtual Environment (EVE) of City Academy Norwich, the United Kingdom
The Eco-Virtual Environment (EVE) project of the City Academy Norwich, United Kingdom, is a virtual world
simulation focusing on environmental challenges. Students participate in the virtual world as part of a team and as
creators of learning materials. In the EVE project “students are presented with an island that has growing energy
demands”. They are then required to “specialise and collaborate in order to design an energy network”, while their
“decisions will have real-time feedback in terms of power, finance and environment”. The real-time feedback will then
guide students’ further decisions. With the teacher “in the driving seat”, the simulation is meant to be organic and
flexible. In terms of technology, the EVE project “looks and feels like a high-end computer game”.
Initial testing of the EVE project has suggested some positive impact on student communication and problem
solving, although the impact on student learning is still to be further investigated
Adapted from: Kärkkäinen, K. and S. Vincent-Lancrin (2013), “Sparking Innovation in STEM Education with Technology and
Collaboration: A Case Study of the HP Catalyst Initiative”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 91, OECD Publishing.
Digital technologies reduce time and space barriers
The use of digital technologies is often regarded as a way to facilitate and increase access to
educational resources. However, while Internet penetration in OECD countries has reached high rates
(OECD, 2014e) opportunities to level up access to education are yet to be fully exploited.
Virtual science laboratories have been flourishing in several OECD countries to provide virtual access
to real research facilities or to create virtual environments for research. The use of online laboratories only
requires access to the Internet and allows learners to access more experimental equipment than what a
single school can generally afford. In addition, virtual laboratories allow students to modify the condition
of the experiment and verify the results in line with the learning goals established by the teachers. The use
of online laboratories can be at least as effective in terms of learning as the use of on-site physical
equipment, and many resources are freely available on the web (Kärkkäinen and Vincent-Lancrin, 2013).
The iLab Network remote laboratory platform in Northwestern University provides an illustration of
the benefits of virtual laboratories. The iLab remote laboratories include student materials and assessments
and allow students to access experiments from any place at any time. As an example, the Radioactivity
iLab enables students to “remotely control a Geiger counter to measure radiation being emitted from a
sample of radioactive strontium-90” – with the actual laboratory equipment being located in the University
of Queensland in Australia. Its objective is “to allow students to observe and experimentally derive the
inverse square law”. Students’ skills in experimental design and data analysis are meant to be developed
with the help of an online “lab journal” providing them with “instructions, readings, and meta-cognitive
prompts”. The Radioactivity iLab experience is asynchronous – meaning that students’ experiments are
executed when the equipment “becomes available” (ibid).
Licensing regimes of the hosting platforms may provide a further layer of flexibility and adaptability
to the use of the virtual laboratory. With open licensing regimes, such as those granted to Open
Educational Resources and Open Software, available materials can be re-used, remixed and even
redesigned for different purposes. In this way, the benefit of using virtual laboratories can spread to a very
large community of users. These solutions raise high interest in countries like India, where fast
demographic growth is putting pressure on physical educational resources.
Another interesting example of virtual laboratory is the PhET interactive simulation environment at
the University of Colorado, which provides students with virtual access to equipment unavailable at their
local institution. The simulation environment consists of interactive, research-based simulations of physical
phenomena for elementary through to university students. The simulations have open licenses and are
presented as individual exploratory environments rather than courses, so that each computer simulation can
be easily integrated into various classroom activities and adjusted to the local learning context. The
National Science Foundation in the United States reported that PhET simulations have been used over
60 million times and are available in 65 languages with 22 full website translations (Ferrante, 2012). The
geographical and institutional reach of this initiative constitutes a remarkable example of how place
constraints can be overcome using digital technology and open licensing regimes (Orr, D., Rimini, M., Van
Damme D. 2015).
Digital technologies contribute to redefining some structuring characteristics of education: students’
proximity with one another and their teachers as well as the materials used. By removing the constraint of
place and time ICTs can help address the needs of those students at risk of exclusion from formal
education. The examples of Escola Móvel in Portugal and the Open College in Australia (Box 12) illustrate
how virtual classrooms and distance learning can address the educational needs of those who are unable to
attend regular classroom instruction. Similarly, digital technologies extend the reach of Higher Education
Institutions to groups who will be otherwise unserved. As an illustration the University of Saskatchewan’s
College of Nursing in Northern Canada provides a program of study targeted to Indigenous students who
are predominantly located in remote areas. The College uses a Learn Where You Live approach with the
objective to make nursing education closer to Indigenous communities. Using Remote Presence (RP)
technologies, the College provides students with access to highly qualified faculty, regardless of where
they are located. RP allows for real-time, interactive medical care between two places, such as a patient
and a nurse in one city, and a doctor in another.
Box 12. Distance schools
Escola Móvel in Portugal
Escola Móvel is a distance learning project which gives children and adolescents (aged 10-17, from grades 5 to
12) permanent access to a virtual, national curriculum-oriented learning environment. This project has been designed
and developed by the Portuguese Ministry of Education, and initially it sought to respond to the needs of students from
families of showmen and circus artists and workers who would have to change schools throughout the year - about
30 schools a year - as a result of their families' professional activities, leading to high dropout and failure rates.
In the course of 4 years this project has been broadened to include teenage mothers and students over 15 who
have repeatedly failed to complete compulsory education. Curriculum design, instruction and assessment are adjusted
to the students' specific interests and learning needs. Escola Móvel seeks to prepare students for the challenges of the
digital age by combining the use of technology with the development of different literacies - basic (language and
numeracy), scientific, visual, artistic, multicultural - through the subject areas. The development of metacognitive and
interpersonal skills occurs both within virtual interactions (online chats and forums in subjects/subject areas, tutoring
and cross-curricular areas) and face-to-face interactions (four attendance weeks a year and individual tutoring).
In school year 2007-2008, 95 students attended Escola Móvel, out of which 82 concluded the school year with a
success rate of 91,5% (including results in Portuguese and Mathematics national examinations). The remaining
13 students redirected their options to professional courses and training.
Open access college in Australia
The Open Access College is a government distance education institution offering all levels of school education to
learners who are unable to attend a local school or access the curriculum in their own school. These students may live
in a remote location; experience medical or psychological health issues; be restricted in their choice of curriculum;
come from families who travel or are based overseas as a result of work commitments; be currently incarcerated in a
penal institution; or, have been excluded from their local school.
The organisation of learning at the Open Access College shows innovative learning methods to cater for
distance education learners at the Middle School level. Those methods include:
Formalised half-hour long telephone or online Centra sessions with individuals or small groups conducted
up to 7 times per week.
Specialised resource materials provided for individual and group work in the form of on line integrated
learning programs, internet research guides, and customised/personalised learning materials such as
DVDs, CDs and activity kits.
Face-to face workshops, mini schools, visits from teachers, camps and excursions.
Sources: OECD (2013), Innovative Learning Environments, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing.
Digital technologies are changing expectations on the teaching profession
Teachers and pedagogical leaders play a pivotal role in facilitating the integration of digital
technologies into the classroom. Evidence from the latest round of PISA shows that most of the variation
in ICTs use during mathematics instruction depends on teachers or student-specific factors rather than on
school policies (OECD, 2015e). In addition, the use of computers during mathematics instruction is the
result the national curricular approach to the subject, whereby an applied approach to mathematics
instruction is more likely to lead to higher levels of computer use (ibid.).
Interestingly, PISA findings suggest a positive correlation between the quality of pedagogical
practices and the use of ICTs in mathematics instruction. Students who use ICTs during mathematics
lessons tend to describe their teachers as using effective instructional strategies and behaviours, such as
structuring practices (e.g. setting clear goals, asking questions to verify understanding), student-oriented
practices (e.g. giving different work to students who have difficulties or who can advance faster, having
students work in small groups), formative assessment (e.g. giving feedback on strengths and weaknesses),
and cognitive activation (e.g. giving problems that require students to apply what they have learned to new
contexts and/or giving problems that can be solved in several different ways). As a result, teachers who
embed in their practices pedagogies to foster deeper learning and the acquisition of 21st century skills are
more likely to use ICT for those purposes (OECD, 2015k).
According to the survey on the teaching profession (TALIS), the use of ICT for project or class work
is less frequent than for other teaching practices. On average, only 37% of teachers report frequent use of
practices involving ICT (OECD, 2014f). The use of technologies in the classroom may be hindered by two
factors: a shortage in ICT-related school materials and the lack of adequate teacher professional
Between approximately 30% and 40% of principals surveyed in TALIS report that lack of ICT
infrastructure hinders the capability of their school to provide quality instruction to, at least, some extent.
According to the same survey, over 56% of teachers report moderate or high professional development
needs with regard to the use of new technologies in the workplace. The co-presence of these two elements,
adequate materials and sufficient training is essential for the successful mainstreaming of ICT in the
classroom. While the growing availability of cheaper technology is likely to address the issue of ICT-
related materials shortages, it cannot automatically address the challenges of teacher professional
As discussed in the literature, skilful teachers are a prerequisite for the implementation of a
challenging curriculum that stimulates higher order learning (Darling-Hammond and Post, 2000) and the
development of 21st century skills. New instructional technologies can help, but three decades of research
have shown that technology alone does not facilitate new forms of learning. Digitally savvy teachers
remain critical to seize the learning opportunities created by new technologies (Atkins, Roberts, and
Higdon, 2013).
Policies that address teachers’ professional development needs in ICT
In-service training for teachers is considered as a professional duty in about a half of all European
countries, but, in practice, it is optional in many of them. Teachers’ involvement in professional
development greatly varies across countries in content, methods and duration (OECD, 2014f). Therefore,
integrating ICT training into teachers’ professional development becomes a more challenging task, unless
it is part of a broader effort to promote ICTs in schools.
Strategies of this kind have been implemented in a few OECD countries, including Chile, Korea, Italy
and Spain. For example, as part of the Italian National Plan for Digital Schools in 2012, INDIRE, the
national board for educational research and teacher development supported a digital school plan with
dedicated training offers and resources for self-training. In addition, France, developed a new
competencies framework for ICT skills for teachers called C2i2e, which will ultimately lead all new hires
to gain ICT proficiency within 3 years after integrating the profession (Box 13).
Box 13. Policies to promote teachers’ ICT professional development
Providing training resources, the case of Italy
INDIRE (formerly known as ANSAS) develops content for teachers’ professional development with the aim of
stimulating innovation in teaching and learning, of bridging the distinction between formal, non-formal and informal
learning environments, and, in a lifelong learning perspective, of reducing the distance between pedagogical practices
and everyday life” (ANSAS 2012)
INDIRE has a rich resource bank for professional development related to the use of ICT in schools, including
over 1 400 text or multimedia resources (of which over 10 hours of video tutorials), many of which introduce subject-
specific uses of ICT. Training is often in blended (face-to-face and online) mode, combining preparatory face-to-face
sessions with online activities and materials that are specific to subjects and grade-levels but also linked to curricular
contents and distance tutoring.
From school-year 2012-2013, INDIRE enriched its training offer with the new DIDATEC training. DIDATEC
supports teachers in integrating ICT in subject pedagogy, and will be initially offered at base and advanced level in four
southern regions (Campania, Calabria, Puglia, Sicilia). These regions are part of the Programma Formativo Nazionale
2007-2013 that is supported by regional cohesion funds from the European Union. The aim of the DIDATEC training is
to strengthen ICT skills among teachers to improve the quality of teaching and learning (ANSAS 2012)
Teaching workforce - mastering of ICT competences
Since 2010, France is looking to formalise ICT skills training for all its teachers and training professionals via the
creation of a certificate on the use of digital technologies and the Internet (Certificat et internet de l’enseignement
supérieur de niveau 2 “enseignant”, C2i2e).
The C2i2e certificate validates professional competences in the pedagogical use of basic numerical technologies
and technology tools, which are today recognised as central to the exercise of their functions. The training leading to
the acquisition of the C2i2e certificate is open to all people studying towards a degree in the teaching profession, as
well as any postgraduate student (Bac +5) and already established teachers and trainers.
Some of the skills targeted include the use of digital tools for research purposes, to foster team work and
encourage student networks, to improve pedagogical methods and ensure the effective evaluation and monitoring of
students' ICT skills competences in school.
Obtaining the certificate is not a pre-requisite to the successful completion of one’s teaching degree. However,
the Ministry of Education is expecting that all teaching student candidates and graduated teachers obtain the certificate
within three years of graduating, thus aiming for its future teaching workforce to become a master of ICTs.
Sources: and Avvisati, F. et al. (2013), “Review of the Italian strategy for digital schools”,
OECD Education Working Papers, No. 90, OECD Publishing, Paris,
Alternative measures to promote ICT professional development for teachers include non-monetary
incentives. As an example, fellowship programmes such as those pioneered in the United Kingdom can
provide recognition for lead teachers in ICT without introducing permanent and formal leadership
positions. In addition, state funded competitions such as the Chilean ENLACES can provide incentives to
teachers to reflect and elaborate strategies on how to best integrate ICT in teaching processes. Likewise,
prizes have been awarded to innovative teachers who integrate ICTs into their daily practices. Those prizes
have often been supported by with large private institutions such as the Telefonica Foundation and Intel
(OECD, 2012b).
ICTs to support professional learning communities
Alongside professional development in a formal setting, establishing communities of practice among
teachers can help them improve their teaching practice and overcome individual challenges (Vieluf et. al. ,
2012).The rapid expansion of ICTs and social media has allowed teachers to gather into virtual and
physical professional learning communities. In these communities, teachers can share access to learning
materials, learn about good practices in teaching and learning, have the videos of their classes observed
and commented by colleagues as well as exchange ideas on online forums according to their field of
Some of these communities function as proper social networks for teachers. Edmodo is one of those
social learning platform where educators are able to manage their classrooms and assessments and share
lessons and tips with each other. Similarly, is a professional social and learning network for
educators, decision-makers, and influencers. EdWeb can be used to create a personal learning network or
professional learning community to make it easier to collaborate, share ideas. In addition, the platform
provides free professional learning programmes and personalised training. Other platforms such as
Edutopia have an explicit goal to showcase evidence- and practitioner-based learning strategies that
empower teachers to improve education through teaching 21st century skills such as critical thinking,
problem solving, communication and collaborative learning.1
Perhaps the most comprehensive and diffused teachers’ platform is TES, the world’s largest online
community of teachers with 7.9 million registered users2. TES provides a dynamic global marketplace in
which educators can discover, share and sell original teaching materials; a lesson-building product where
those resources can be freely integrated and implemented; and Wikispaces, open classroom management
platforms that facilitate student-teacher communication and collaboration. Originally born in the United
Kingdom TES has kept its focus on professional development opportunities for teachers and includes a job
market platform and prebuilt teaching solution to schools as part of its services.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for lifelong learning
In addition to revisiting the teaching profession, digital technologies open up opportunities for self-
directed learning and continuous professional development. In particular, Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOCs) appear to be well-suited to respond to the need of updating competencies in a lifelong learning
perspective by overcoming time and resources constraints. As a result, online resources can offer a partial
solution to the challenges of skills development, activation and effective utilisation.
Increasing connectivity and broadband capacity have reshaped the image and appeal of distance
education. While its origins dates back to more than a century, distance education has evolved together
with technology, from radio through television up to the Internet. Online education has slowly but steadily
increased in popularity by mainly targeting continuing education and professional development and as a
second best solution to provide access to an increasing demand for higher education. In the last five years,
online education found its peak moment with the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
MOOCs are fully fledged courses of lectures available online to serve a wide variety of purposes.
With MOOCs, the term ‘massive’ clearly implies a significant scale. Coursera, one of the leading
educational platforms, has now reached approximately 17 million people while enrolments in EdX peaked
to 5.3 million in June 2014. In 2013, 7.8% of Internet users in the European Union followed an online
course against 6.9% in 2009. Across the 26 OECD countries on which data is available, 7.6% of people
followed an online course, with peaks of 16% in Finland and the lowest levels in Austria, Czech Republic
and Poland (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Individuals who participated in an online course
Source: OECD (2015o)
However, these numbers do not say the extent to which MOOCs contribute to student learning or
skills development for it is known that on average only 5% of no-fee participants in EdX in complete these
courses (Ho et al., 2015). These high dropout rates can be explained by several factors; learner’s
motivation to start a course, incentives driving completion as well as the inherent difficulties that
completing a MOOC may entail. As an illustration, educational research has shown that self-regulation
skills which are particularly important for online courses, do not simply emerge from studying on line but
are a precondition for effective self-directed learning (Orr, Rimini and Van Damme, 2015).
With less than five years of history, it is too early to determine the success or failure of MOOCs. Even
the most consolidated providers continue changing their services in order to reach broader audiences and
ensure long-term financial sustainability. Udacity, the first MOOCs provider, was also the first to shift
from a student to a corporate -oriented model, whereas edX has kept its focus on their original mission of
expanding access to knowledge. To better understand how they can address education and labour market
challenges, it may be useful to classify MOOCs according to the main market they serve (Table 1).
Table 1. Classification of MOOCs by market served
Major players Primary “Customer ”
Academic platform providers Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn Independent learners and Academic
New corporate courseware
providers, Skillsoft, Udemy Corporate training departments
Continuous professional
development providers Udacity, FutureLearn Lifelong learners/corporate training
Public Employment Services Pôle Emploi France Temporary unemployed and job
Learners taking part in MOOCs provided by academic platforms such as Coursera and EdX are driven
by diverse motivations and incentives. Some may enrol a course out of personal curiosity for a specific
subject, some may want to deepen their knowledge or strengthen their skills in a specific domain and
others may enrol to prove their interest and knowledge to the eye of a current or potential employer
(Zhenghao et al., 2015) .
2013 2009
The latest demographic trends collected from EdX paint a picture of an average learner3 who is highly
educated (69% with a Bachelor degree) predominantly male (78%) and in 29% of the cases American (Ho
et al., 2015). On average among the participants 17% explore more than half of the course content and 8%
earn a certification (ibid.). The majority of learners took part in Computer Science courses (36%) followed
by STEM (26%) and Humanities (21%). Across disciplines it is interesting to notice that computer science
and STEM courses were mostly serving younger, male, international and less educated population whereas
Humanities had a more gender balanced, older and educated population.
The main motivations for Coursera’s learners to complete their course appear to be to improve their
current job or finding a new one (52%) and to seek to achieve an academic objective (28%) (Figure 10).
Looking at outcomes, 26% of those with professional ambitions found a new job while only 3% obtained a
salary increase or a promotion after the successful completion of the MOOC. Among the educational
benefits, only 12% of academic seekers actually completed prerequisites for academic programmes while
64% gained essential knowledge for their study field (ibid.).
Figure 10. Reported educational benefit from completing a MOOC
Survey of Coursera’s learners
Source: Zhengao et al. (2015)
The demographic characteristics of the first cohorts enrolled in MOOCs have prompted providers to
rethink their models. Among the big platforms, Udacity took the strategic decision to re orient its business
model towards professional development.
MOOCs have the potential to address many shortcomings of workforce training. Firstly, they avoid
the cost of setting up expensive training boot camps whose effects are limited in time. Secondly, semi-
synchronicity allows learners to go through the materials at their own pace while motivating them to
collaborate into reaching a common learning objective. Lastly, certificates allow employees to demonstrate
the acquisition of specific skills (Meister, 2013).
Keeping the workforce up-to-date with technological change and new skills demands is a key priority
for both policy makers and the private sector. Companies have started using MOOCs for training their
workers and provide them with incentives for self-directed skills development. Google, for example, has
enrolled its employees in Udacity’s HTML5 course while Tenaris, a large player in the steel industry,
teamed up with edX to expand its existing training programmes delivered through Tenaris University to
nearly 27,000 employees worldwide (EdX, 2013). In contrast, McAfee adopted a flipped classroom
approach to overhaul the new hires’ initial boot camp programme.
Several companies are also using MOOCs to incentivise their employees to keep their skills and
knowledge up to date. As an example, Deloitte encourages consultants to sign up for Coursera courses on
corporate finance, financial markets and the energy industry (Deloitte 2015) while Yahoo reimburses
software developers and engineers for participating in verified Coursera’s MOOCs. MOOCs are used in
this equal spirit also by International Organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF. The World Bank
partnered with Coursera to build courses on education, health and climate change for its partners and
technical experts in developing countries (ibid.). The IMF is working with edX to educate government
officials around issues of public debt and financial policy making (Coughlan, 2013).
Employers’ engagement with MOOCs goes beyond workforce training purposes. Employers have
acknowledged that MOOCs could serve as a powerful instrument to secure the next generation of talents,
in particular with respect to the needs of the ICT industry. The example of the Open Education Alliance
(OEA) clearly illustrates the point. The OEA is a joint venture between Udacity and major software
companies such as Google, Facebook, ATandT and Nvidia, and set to teach students and workers relevant
skills to find a job in the industry in order to make high quality education available, and to connect learners
with opportunities in industry.4
With the courses provided in the OEA, learners can take part in Nanodegree programmes whereby
courses are aligned to meet the curricular requirements and skills that are highly in demand across the ICT
sector. To incentivise students’ buy-in a recent campaign is offering a 100% tuition fee refund, should the
student not be hired within 6 months following the end of the programme5. In addition, many ICT
companies have paid major MOOCs providers to match them up with high performing students who may
be a good fit for their company (Deloitte, 2015). Consequently, MOOCs degrees designed in collaboration
with employers have a high potential to facilitate students’ school-to-work transition into the ICT industry.
With the ambition to facilitate the reinsertion into the labour market of the long term unemployed the
French Public Employment Service, Pôle Emploi, has recently launched a MOOCs platform that provides
professional orientation courses to help job seekers build their value proposition to potential employers.
(Dauvergne, 2015) The platform offers 4 courses aiming at empowering job seekers with tools to prepare
their professional project, organise the job search and select job offers matching their profile and
aspirations, prepare a CV and cover letter as well as mock interview. As of May 2015, more than 14,000
job seekers subscribed to the platform (ibid.).
Data driven innovation in teaching and learning
Online resources such as MOOCs, together with digital administrative records, enable the collection
of data about virtually every aspect of the educational enterprise, from the incidence of a certain type of
error in a mathematics assignment to the expenditures of national administrations on schools subsidies. As
in other industries, stakeholders in education and training have started to elaborate strategies to leverage
big data.
In the case of MOOCs, most of the foreseeable benefits concern the improvement of personalised
learning experiences via gradual and iterative product and process enhancement. At the same time,
effectively using the data collected via learning management or longitudinal information systems may
address some educational systemic challenges such as monitoring and evaluation as well as school and
system management.
The popularity of MOOCs has made a high volume of learner data available for analytical purposes.
While some MOOC data is comparable to data coming from the classroom, the platform records capture
every mouse click, video player control use, and every submission to the platform (O’Reilly and
Veeramachaneni, 2014). As a result, the recorded detail of behaviours in a MOOC vastly exceeds what is
recorded in conventional settings and enables a more granular understanding of learners’ behaviours. In
turn, large sample sizes allow confirming hypotheses about how learning takes place and existing learning
styles In addition, they can expose effective ways to teach and learn and shed light on how to help students
who make mistakes.
More specifically, predictive data analytics can predict students’ performance by looking at student’s
interaction with peers and the teacher. Prediction models can also tell which students will be likely to exit
the course before completion. Real time monitoring of collected data can provide intelligent and immediate
feedback to students in response to their inputs to improve their performance and may also recommend
new courses based on their interests to avoid misguidance in field choice ((Sin and Muthu, 2015).
Other predictive analytical models could estimate the skills acquired by the learner during the course.
MOOCs can thus be used as a tool to improve student guidance and performance. An experiment used log
students’ log files to measure error and progress rates. In another experiment, a software was designed to
recognise learners’ facial expressions to predict their engagement, frustration and learning outcomes while
taking the different modules of the course (Grafsgaard et al., 2015)
Predictive analytics can offer a partial solution to one of the central concerns for MOOCs, the very
low levels of completion rates. In particular, learning analytics techniques and educational data mining
allow for an analysis of the low level trace data regarding students' interactions with a course and with
other students. From this kind of low-level structured data, it is possible to automatically infer higher level
student behaviour (e.g. dropout) in order to inform educational decision-making (e.g. intervention).
Leveraging big data in MOOCs ultimately translates into adding instruments to improve course content,
student retention and the level of personalisation of the learning experience.
Other untapped resources of data in education are those contained in learning management and
longitudinal information systems. The data contained in these resources span from student assessment and
achievement data to system level data on national expenditures in education. With such breadth and depth
these systems have the potential to inform systemic improvements and policy decision in a number of
educational situations including resource management, evaluation and funding priorities. In addition, from
an e-government perspective, the availability of these data greatly improves transparency and
accountability in education thereby enabling parents to make more informed choices for the future of their
Longitudinal information systems, whereby students are tracked individually and over time, may
provide policy-makers and educational researchers with broad avenues for research to analyse the
determinants of student success as well as the effectiveness of educational interventions and reforms
(Vincent-Lancrin and Gonzalez-Sancho 2015) . Additionally, data collected from longitudinal information
systems can support schools self-assessment initiatives and strengthen public accountability by informing a
better contextualisation of school performance. As in the case of MOOCs, longitudinal information system
can drive personalised learning by identifying individual learning patterns to tailor instruction and
reconcile it with the overall classroom learning objectives.
As an example, since 2012 the Teacher to One: Math (TtO) model was implemented in eight schools
of Chicago, Washington DC and New York to tailor instruction to individual needs. The programme
assesses students’ skill levels on a daily basis and uses algorithms to target content delivery and assign
students to varying instructional modes. The model relies on data from continuous formative assessment to
identify individual learning gaps in maps describing progression in skills.. The generated data can be
pulled together and analysed to understand personal learning patterns (ibid).
The integration of such system with other data sources on teaching practices and other educational
variables can open up numerous avenues of research and exchange of good practices. In a more widely
adopted system of this nature teacher could collaborate and identify more appropriate teaching practices,
share experiences through social networks and inform decision on curriculum design at school, local and
national level.
Fulfilling this potential hinges on the capacity of teachers and school leaders to make sense of the vast
amount of data provided by the system. Although it may be unrealistic and unnecessary to expect all
teachers to become well-versed in data analytics, there is still a need to provide adequate training to a few
teachers or school leaders in each educational establishment. Indeed, teachers require training in digital
technology as much data analysts need to stay up-to-date stay with the fast developments in big data
(OECD, 2015m)
A good practice example comes from the Netherlands where a Datateams procedure has been
developed to use data for school improvements (Vincent-Lancrin and Gonzalez-Sancho, 2015). According
to this approach, teachers, data experts and school leaders attempt to address specific school problems and
use data to solve them. The collaborative procedure has proved effective in increasing teachers’ data
literacies and skills for data use (ibid).
Longitudinal information systems raise many privacy issues as educational data are particularly
sensitive in that they provide information about children, without them having awareness or control in the
process. The exposure of personal data at an early age may be conducive to situations of cyber-bullying,
fraud and other related internet risks affecting young people (Rimini and Howard, 2015). Policies allowing
for restricted access to specific categories within school administration offer a partial solution but, at the
same, limit data use. Moreover, concerns are sometimes raised with regard to bad use of data, whereby
failures in earlier years of schooling could prejudice further educational and professional opportunities
(Vincent-Lancrin and Gonzalez-Sancho, 2015).
While a wealth of data is produced daily in education, information may not be always available due,
for instance, to incomplete digitisation or limited interoperability among different applications. Building
partnerships and trust for data sharing and data use is therefore crucial (ibid). Such partnerships should be
established across the different agencies and institutions at local, regional and national level and may lead
to establishing formal procedures. Last but not least, the spill-over effects of releasing educational data to
wider audiences, including the business sector, should be taken into account when considering licensing
regimes for non-sensitive information. Openness in data generated in the public sector can fuel greater
levels of innovation activities by the business sector (Box 14).
Box 14. Open data strategies: The United Kingdom case
In June 2012, the UK Cabinet published its open data white paper, which set out how the government intends to
put data and transparency at the heart of public services. The white paper is integral to the full commitment to make
open data an effective engine of economic growth, social well-being, political accountability and public service
improvement in the United Kingdom. In order to frame a feasible public sector implementation plan for open
government data, the paper highlights that following two years of the centre of government leading the initiative,
government departments are expected to take a greater role in driving efforts forward. Therefore, alongside the white
paper, each government department published their first open data strategy.
The Department of Education published its Open Data Strategy in 2012 where alongside the objectives of
increasing transparency and accountability an explicit point is made about the necessity to opening up the market for
innovative products. Shared data standards are an important underpinning to a more transparent system, and help
save money because they allow for greater competition in the supply of services and systems to schools (DoE 2012)
Adapted from: OECD (2015), Data-Driven Innovation: Big Data for Growth and Well-Being, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:
The ability to track individuals from early childhood to the labour market opens up a range of
possibilities for gaining better insights on school to work transitions. While to date longitudinal
information systems are seldom capable to deliver such services, they will be fully able to do so when
appropriate data sharing agreements will connect schooling with labour market data. As noted during a
recent OECD –CERI workshop on longitudinal information systems, integrating data on personal learning
trajectories and labour market needs could improve study design programmes and talent management by
government and business officials (Vincent-Lancrin and González-Sancho 2015).
Digital technologies and the labour market
In addition to their benefits for education and training, digital technologies ICTs can also help to
identify emerging skills needs, evolving demands and potential skills gaps by providing real time
intelligence on the labour market. Workers, firms and policy-makers can monitor changes in occupational
demands and adjust their strategies accordingly with potential benefits with reference to school to work
transitions and labour market reinsertions. Moreover, digital technologies can help Public Employment
Services facilitating the exchange of information about employment opportunities and produce efficiency
gains by serving larger audiences at similar or lower cost.
With an increasing number of vacancies going online, the amount of data concerning labour markets
is on the rise paving the way to important avenues of research on labour market trends. Innovative
businesses are ready to jump on such data goldmine to create services for intelligence and analytics and
better match demand and supply to the benefit of jobseekers and employers. In this relatively new field a
number of private firms like Burning Glass and Jobfeed and a few National Statistical Offices have started
to collect and to analyse online job postings to compile statistics on online job vacancies.
Online job vacancies have the potential to improve the analysis on labour markets in a number of
fields. These may range from a detailed description of the skills required to fulfil specific roles, to the
analysis of shifts in skills demands for those very roles as well as shifts in job profiles based on a large
range of job requirements related to skills, education and experience. In addition, real-time data can
provide evidence of skills gaps across economic sectors at local, regional, national or supranational level.
By analysing job seekers profiles and job postings it becomes possible to identify career paths across
professions. Moreover, by looking at career paths, employers can better understand skills supply chains so
that their job openings can be better planned.
The analysis of online vacancies can empower policymakers and other stakeholders with a better
understanding of newly emerging profiles which may not necessarily be reflected into occupational
standards, despite increasing in demand. These new professions are essentially driven by technology and
call for a set of skills that are not typically included in traditional academic courses. To illustrate, analyses
performed by Burning Glass on the US labour market have revealed the emergence of a new kind of hybrid
jobs blending technology with marketing which are typically advertised as User Experience Designer or
Product Manager roles (Burning Glass, 2015).
These roles require a combination of programming skills and skills commonly found in design, data
analysis, and marketing. In a 12-month period (April 2014 – March 2015), more than a quarter million
advertised job postings in the United States sought this kind of hybrid talent (ibid.). These roles in many
cases do not typically align well with established higher education programmes and, as a result, concerns
regarding the existence of skills gaps are legitimately raised. Arguably, the kind information emerging
from the analysis of job vacancies can contribute to multi-stakeholder discussions on skills and inform
policy decisions.
The intelligence gathered through online vacancies can provide a better understanding of career paths
within and across industries, as illustrated in Figure 11. This type of information can be beneficial to
jobseekers, professionals, employers and policy makers alike. It allows job seekers to plan their career
projects by giving them an overview of what their career may look like once a certain step is undertaken. It
may help professionals to better plan their career evolution by showing them what skills are required to
progress to a more senior position. Moreover, it can help employers in their talent acquisition decisions
such as whether to open a more junior post and provide the candidate with additional training or directly
look for someone with a senior profile.
The example in Figure 9 illustrates common pathways to becoming a network administrator. As
displayed, people with different job profiles can aim at the role, providing that they acquire the described
missing skills. The process can be also reverse engineered by looking at the different professional
development options that a worker may pursue. The worker may benefit from a clearer picture of the
potential earnings, the training needed and may better assess his or her bargaining power at the negotiation
table, depending on the specific overall occupational demands.
Figure 11. Network administrator career pathways (2015)
Common pathways into network administrator roles
Source: Accenture et al. (2015), based on Burning Glass data
From a more systemic perspective, the analysis of online vacancies can offer an instantaneous picture
of existing skills gaps. A recent analysis of the United States Labour market conducted by Burning Glass
looked into the existing gaps in STEM professions (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Skills gaps in STEM professions (2014)
Source: Burning Glass. 2014.
The analysis revealed that, in 2013, there were 5.7 million total postings in STEM fields in the United
States. Of those, 76%, or 4.4 million, require at least a bachelor’s degree (BA) and 41%, or 2.3 million, are
entry-level jobs requiring less than 2 years of experience.
Calculations comparing graduation rates and online vacancies also illustrate the presence of severe
skills gaps. According to the study, in 2013 there were 2.5 entry-level job postings for each new 4-year
graduate in STEM fields compared to 1.1 postings for each new Bachelor graduate in non-STEM fields. In
addition, STEM jobs were offering substantial salary premium. The average advertised salary for entry-
level STEM jobs requiring a Bachelor’s degree was 26% higher than for non-STEM jobs. However, the
salary premium for jobs not requiring a Bachelor degree was even higher for STEM jobs with a difference
of over USD 10 000 equal to a 28% premium (Burning Glass, 2014).
While significantly revealing in terms of skills gaps, the use of data from online vacancies presents
some limitations for policy-making. The rapid pace at which technology advances combined with business
cycle fluctuations may change the economic scenario affecting the labour market. This has important
consequences on how real time data can be used to define education and training policies whose effects
will be visible after a significant time lag. As a result, real-time data from online vacancies should be
handled in a similar spirit as the one driving the discussion on Skills Assessment and Anticipation
exercises. Namely, to develop re-skilling training programmes and inform education, migration and labour
policies (OECD, 2015e).
Public Employment Services are increasingly making use of digital technologies to facilitate the
exchange of information on employment opportunities and act as job-brokers for the unemployed (OECD,
2015g). Compared to private employment agencies, PES are requested to gain an additional level of trust
from employers who sometimes believe that jobseekers referred by the PES are less motivated and
trustworthy as they appear unable to find a job through regular market channels. In addition, employers
suspect that the PES hide important information in attempting to reintegrate an individual (ibid.).
An alternative approach to circumvent this information asymmetry problem has been championed by
several OECD countries who decided to run completely open vacancy database to complement private
sector offering. In some countries, the PES online vacancy databases have established strong positions and
now are the single most used vacancy platforms. For example, in Sweden the ratio of vacancies notified to
the PES database to total new hires in the labour market was 44% in 2013, and in Germany around 50% of
all vacancies are reported to the PES (ibid.).
Box 15. Example of labour market information tools in OECD countries
Canada Job Bank
The Canadian job bank website ( is administered by the Government of Canada and
provides information in French and English on jobs, career paths, employer resources and job market trend nationally
as well as provincially. By the virtue of including postings from some private sector job boards, the job bank could be
considered as an open vacancy database. The homepage interface provides a search function to look for jobs in
specific locations, functions to set up job alerts, analysis of top advertised jobs and job search safety tips. Employers
as well as jobseekers can create a personal account that keeps track of their postings or searches. Career paths can
be explored according to occupation, education attainments, wages, outlook and skills. The job market trends are
updated constantly with news feeds (OECD, 2015h).
Swedish Platsbanken
In Sweden the Platsbanken job bank is run by the national Public Employment Service (arbetsformedlingen) and
has more than 1,7 million visitors every month. The platform contains around 1.045 000 job announcements and
covers the majority of job vacancies in the country. Platsbanken is available as an app for smartphones. Under the tab
Yrke och framtid (Occupation and Future) a section contains information about most occupations, what are the
educational criteria to qualify for them and what prospects they offer. A career guidance section explains to the job
seeker how to write a cv and cover letter. (
Publicly funded online job portals have thus proved their effectiveness in a number of OECD
countries (Box 15). The impact of digital technology in helping PES deliver their services is not limited to
online vacancy databases as IT systems continuously improve and increasingly allow routine tasks to be
automated. In this context, PES are concentrating more on front-line services and may free up additional
resources to address the needs of those most in need.
In an attempt to reduce costs the Dutch Public Employment Service developed a wide range of digital
services to cater to a larger number of jobseekers in a more efficient way. These include a new profiling
tool called “work explorer” which determines the probability that a jobseeker will resume work within a
year, an e-coaching plan which automatically delivers action plans and matched vacancies to the jobseeker
and monitor his or her response, as well as a range of technologies supporting counselling to monitor job
search and CV effectiveness. These technologies can be used to effectively address job seekers’ needs
during personal counselling interviews (OECD, 2015f, p. 149).
The pervasiveness of digital technologies in daily life is fundamentally changing the way individuals
access and elaborate knowledge. Individuals have to process complex information, think systematically
and take decisions weighting different forms of evidence. They also have to continuously update their
skills to match rapid technical change at the workplace. More fundamentally, in order to seize the new
opportunities that digital technologies are opening in many areas, individuals have to develop the right set
of skills to make a meaningful use of these technologies.
The OECD Skills Strategy provides a useful approach to inform the policy discussion on the
opportunities and challenges created by the digital economy for skills development. The OECD Skills
Strategy help countries assessing strengths and weaknesses of their systems in developing relevant skills,
activating skills and putting skills to effective use.
In addition to digital literacies and ICT-specific skills, the identification of the skills relevant for the
digital economy and of the strategies to develop them is entrenched with the notions of higher order
thinking, communication and social skills. While OECD countries have not yet developed systemic
policies in this sense, a great deal of experimentation is taking place in of them.
Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and Open Educational Resources (OER) modify learning
methods and give access to quality resources to a larger population over more flexible hours. The use of
digital technologies in formal education and vocational training has the potential to improve learning,
although the outcomes depend on the capacity to link these tools to effective pedagogy. Big data analytics
can also complement labour market information systems with a more timely and precise monitoring of
changing skills demand to adapt skills development and activation policies.
Seizing the educational opportunities from digital technologies requires a process of institutional
learning, where actors are given sufficient scope to experiment with new tools and approaches and
systematic assessment of outcomes leads to select the most effective practices. Barriers to access have to
be addressed, as well as existing concerns about quality and status. To meet the challenges for education
and training specific to the digital economy, the OECD approach could be further developed with a focus
on “Skills for a Digital World”.
This approach consists of three main steps:
First, identify more precisely the kind of skills required in the digital economy, through the
definition of an agreed framework for digital literacy, further cross-country analysis of existing
datasets and the development of new surveys.
Second, examine how these changes may translate into curriculum reform, teacher training and
professional development.
Third, leverage ICTs to improve the access to and the quality of education and training, e.g.:
through online courses, new learning tools at school and adequate recognition of skills acquired
through informal learning.
1 See here for
2 See here for
3 The statistics refer to the subset of population who have registered and have been exposed to the content of
the course.
4 See here for
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... On this subject, Poumay et al. (2020) confirmed that along with students' interaction and discussion with peers and lecturers, the reflexive phase can also be beneficial for developing self-regulation in learning. Rimini and Spiezia (2016) reported for the OECD that the fundamental skills for coping with the current dynamic and digital world, as well as the labour market, included self-direction. Self-directed learning is a concept related to one's cognition, metacognition, self-direction, and self-directedness. ...
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Education is the key to economic, social and environmental progress, and governments around the world are looking to improve their education systems. The future of education in the 21st century is not simply about reaching more people, but about improving the quality and diversity of educational opportunities. How to best organise and support teaching and learning requires imagination, creativity and innovation. Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials that make use of tools such as open licensing to permit their free reuse, continuous improvement and repurposing by others for educational purposes. The OER community has grown considerably over the past 10 years and the impact of OER on educational systems has become a pervasive element of educational policy This report aims to highlight state of the art developments and practices in OER, but also to demonstrate how OER can be a tool for innovation in teaching and learning.
Foreword: Open educational resources (OER) are rapidly becoming a major phenomenon in education across OECD countries and beyond. Initiated largely at the level of institutions by pioneers and technology advocates, the OER community has grown considerably over the past ten years and the impact of OER on educational systems has become an issue of public policy. The open education community is increasingly well organised and enjoys support from various institutions and foundations. National governments have developed, or are in the process of developing, open policies to support access to and use of OER. It is the task of the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) and the OECD Directorate for Education to help policy makers and other stakeholders to confront challenges and benefit from new developments in the educational domain for better policies on improving teaching and learning. This report follows earlier work by CERI on OER, which resulted in the publication Giving Knowledge for Free in 2007, and an OECD country questionnaire on OER-related policy and activities in 2012. It seeks to provide a state of the art review of evidence on OER practice and impacts, and evaluate the remaining challenges for OER entering the mainstream of educational practice.
This paper explores the link between skill and qualification mismatch and labor productivity using cross-country industry data for 19 OECD countries. Utilizing mismatch indicators aggregated from micro-data sourced from the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the main results suggest that higher skill and qualification mismatch is associated with lower labor productivity, with over-skilling and underqualification accounting for most of these impacts. A novel result is that higher skill mismatch is associated with lower labor productivity through a less efficient allocation of resources, presumably because when the share of over-skilled workers is higher, more productive firms find it more difficult to attract skilled labor and gain market shares at the expense of less productive firms. At the same time, a higher share of under-qualified workers is associated with both lower allocative efficiency and within-firm productivity - that is, a lower ratio of high productivity to low productivity firms. While differences in managerial quality can potentially account for the relationship between mismatch and withinfirm productivity, the paper offers some preliminary insights into the policy factors that might explain the link between skill mismatch and resource allocation.
What does redesigning schools and schooling through innovation mean in practice? How might it be brought about? These questions have inspired an influential international reflection on "Innovative Learning Environments" (ILE) led by the OECD. This reflection has already resulted in publications on core design principles and frameworks and on learning leadership. Now the focus extends from exceptional examples towards wider initiatives and system transformation. The report draws as core material on analyses of initiatives specially submitted by some 25 countries, regions and networks. It describes common strengths around a series of Cs: Culture change, Clarifying focus, Capacity creation, Collaboration & Co-operation, Communication technologies & platforms, and Change agents. It suggests that growing innovative learning at scale needs approaches rooted in the complexity of 21st century society and "learning eco-systems". It argues that a flourishing middle level of change around networks and learning communities provides the platform on which broader transformation can be built. This report is not a compendium of "best practices" but a succinct analysis presenting original concepts and approaches, illustrated by concrete cases from around the world. It will be especially useful for those designing, researching or engaging in educational change, whether in schools, policy, communities or wider networks. "The OECD’s ILE work has mobilised and generated profoundly important knowledge about the nature of learning and opened understandings of learning environments within and beyond school. The ILE Framework has already proved to be an invaluable tool for the emerging future of learning leadership and systems development." Professor Michael Schratz, Dean, School of Education, University of Innsbruck, Austria; President of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) "Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of learning. Schooling Redesigned summarises beautifully one of the OECD's most fascinating projects - an attempt to look at the DNA of innovation in schools. Using a global range of actual examples it describes the conditions that education systems have to create if children and their parents, teachers and communities are to feel confident and optimistic about the future. For teachers, the messages are inspiring. Education systems have to focus on enhancing teachers' capacity and motivation. Standardisation cannot do that. Its messages to the profession and its organisations are profound. Teacher unions are, can and should be at the centre of creating the conditions for innovation." John Bangs, Special consultant at Education International; Chair of TUAC’s international group on Education, Training and Employment Policy
Conference Paper
Affect plays a central role in learning. Students’ facial expressions are key indicators of affective states and recent work has increasingly used automated facial expression tracking technologies as a method of affect detection. However, there has not been an investigation of facial expressions compared across age groups. The present study collected facial expressions of college and middle school students in the Crystal Island game-based learning environment. Facial expressions were tracked using the Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox and models of self-efficacy for each age group highlighted differences in facial expressions. Age-specific findings such as these will inform the development of enriched affect models for broadening populations of learners using affect-sensitive learning environments.
Erik de Corte describes a progression in which earlier behaviourism gave way increasingly to cognitive psychology with learning understood as information processing rather than as responding to stimuli. More active concepts of learning took hold ("constructivism"), and with "social constructivism" the terrain is not restricted to what takes place within individual minds but as the interaction between learners and their contextual situation. There has been a parallel move for research to shift from artificial exercises/ situations to real-life learning in classrooms and hence to become much more relevant for education. The current understanding of learning, aimed at promoting 21st century or "adaptive" competence, is characterised as "CSSC learning": "constructive" as learners actively construct their knowledge and skills; "self-regulated" with people actively using strategies to learn; "situated" and best understood in context rather than abstracted from environment; and "collaborative" not a solo activity.