The loneliness of long distance guidance

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Pamela Andrew went from Tayside to Oslo in March to find out about the benefits and drawbacks of ICT-based careers education

Joining 13 other Europeans in Oslo to learn about "distance guidance" through the use of new technology interested me greatly, as I work as a careers adviser in a rural area where many people have trouble accessing careers services.

In Norway, information and communications technology is the main channel for general guidance. There is minimum face-to-face contact and no accredited training for careers staff. What is more, school careers advisers do not exist as this function is carried out by a teacher whose remit is counselling.

The teachers we met considered the system to be unsatisfactory, with pupils failing to receive impartial careers advice independent of the school. They were envious of the service provided by careers services in Scotland.

Older job-seekers use ICT to match themselves to vacancies, registering online and giving details of their interests, work experience and qualifications. This can be accessed on any computer linked to the Internet, and help is available from Norwegian job centre staff. The centre we visited in Oslo was so high-tech that it seemed to have achieved its aim of a paperless office. Better still, it was free of bureaucratic bumph.

The group was particularly interested in transnational websites intended to promote European mobility in education, training and employment.

Distance education courses are provided using the Internet, video-conferencing and interactive software, but the uptake has not been as high as expected. Research showed people did not like to study alone, so centres enabling them to learn online with others have been established.

Another problem early on was educating the staff of the institutions about ICT before introducing the public to the facilities.

The system's strengths include the accessibility of ICT, the co-operation between institutions and a willingness to learn from mistakes quickly, as happened with the learning centres.

We can also learn from its weaknesses, notably the lack of face-to-face contact with clients.

Pamela Andrew, e-mail on Estia project, www.estia.educ.goteborg.seMore on working or studying in Europe, www.rthj.hi.isotm

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