EPICA INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH - Torunn Gjelsvik
ICDE Secretary General
Could you briefly describe your role as Secretary General of ICDE?
My role as Secretary General is to lead the daily operations of ICDE, which are carried out by our small secretariat in Oslo, Norway. This includes the day to day management and all legal and financial matters of the association in accordance with the policies defined by the Board and the mission and aims stated in the ICDE Constitution. My role also involves following up of the latest developments in the field of open, flexible and distance learning and engage with members, partners and stakeholders from all world regions within our field.
ICDE being the coordinator of the EPICA Initiative, what do you consider the main benefits for your organisation being a highly active part of it?
The main benefit of EPICA resides in the various European-African collaborations that were established in the frame of this project. The network developed within the consortium, including the other institutions represented by the members of the External Advisory Board, is wide and covers many countries in Africa and Europe. In itself, this constitutes the greatest benefit for ICDE.
Now that EPICA is reaching its end, how would you say it has contributed to decrease the skills gap between university graduates and the labour market? What would you say are the main contributing factors of EPICA to overcome this disparity?
EPICA being a development project and given the durable impact of the Coronavirus crisis, it is a bit early to state that the project has already contributed at addressing the skills gap between graduate students and the labour market. What can be said, however, is that EPICA definitely helped understanding the realities and the challenges of addressing these skills gaps. Within the project a consequent amount of work has been invested in researching and analysing the pedagogical requirements for an ePortfolio. I would therefore argue that this understanding acquired by the consortium is the main contributing factors as of today for addressing this disparity.
From your point of view, which sector (academia, businesses or individuals) will benefit most of the EPICA results?
Once the situation will allow the proper launch of the EPICA ePortfolio I believe that students will be the main beneficiaries, then ultimately Academia. On a larger scale, local businesses would be able to benefit from the commercialisation of the ePortfolio. Should the ePortfolio develop into a successful network, many other sectors could subsequently benefit from this online platform.
How, in your opinion, does having an ePortfolio benefit a student and graduate and how is it different from a CV or a graduate certificate?
The particularity of the EPICA ePortfolio is that it is skill-based. Skills that can be validated by lecturers, university professors, academic staff or even other students. From this angle we can understand how students may highlight their accomplishments in addition to their degrees and by doing so increase heir employability. This system - similar to the so-called “micro-credentials” - is online and interactive allowing multiple skills recognitions. If I may use a metaphor to illustrate this it is the similar idea as of the blockchain technology, where multiple actors recognize the veracity of one item making it more secure and reliable than a piece of paper where ultimately a student can write whatever he or she wants.
How, in your view, will employers benefit from receiving access to an ePortfolio?
Potential employers could obviously value such a tool in order to help them with their recruitment processes by easing the identification of qualified students. It could also ease the review process of applications by filtering certain skills through the platform. Ultimately the EPICA ePortfolio has been designed from the beginning for the benefit of both students and employers.
What do you think are the most crucial coming steps that need to be negotiated for a successful implementation of EPICA’s strategy, such as overcoming technological requirements, increasing the visibility of the initiative, improving funding, etc.?
The most crucial step forward is to overcome the current restrictions set up due to the COVID pandemic crisis. The work of the project has been impacted in that regards as our initial strategy was to identify local businesses to commercialise the ePortfolio towards universities. Unfortunately, these have been either closed or severely disrupted in their operations forcing us to reassess our strategy. The positive aspect of the current situation is that the field of Education has been forced to increase its digitalization speed, and there lies our optimism.