MobileBE - Examples of good practice (IO-1) - Example SE01
Online courses in the folk high school tradition of collaborative studies
Sweden has for decades been known for being a rather homogeneous and equal society. However, in recent years the socio-economic gaps have widened, and more people, especially young people and recent immigrants, do not feel that they can take part in all society has to offer. In spite of the fact that both upper secondary education as well as university studies are free of charge in Sweden, and it gets more and more important to have a good education, some people and groups tend to drop out of school early. This means that they do not get the chance to have a more well paid and interesting job, in line with their interests and true capabilities.
The main general goals of Västerås folk high school are to build up formal knowledge equivalent to the upper secondary school, inspire participation in cultural activities, make our students more interested in contributing to society, and enable personal development. In the end, all these are means to strengthen and develop our democracy. However, since Sweden is a vast country with quite a few people settling in rural areas with few possibilities for attending adult education, there is also a need to study at a distance course. Thus, your place of residence, and also for example your family situation or health issues can prevent you from attending our school and our regular classes in Västerås, and some students have a personal preference for distance studies as well.
The possibility for a second chance in the education system is vital, as well as a need for alternatives to the traditional way of studying at upper secondary level in the traditional youth schooling. These alternatives may include other means as well as different working methods and pedagogic views. It is a challenge for the school to combine folk high school courses and distance studies, since the methods developed at folk high schools are based on a high degree of collaboration and discussions, in which the students are supposed to share their previous knowledge in the group and to a great extent learn from each other. Therefore, it is essential to find a good a learning platform and suitable methods, which allows collaboration of various kinds.
Target group, recruitment, motivation
Everyone who is 18 years old and above is welcome for an interview. You can study 1-3 years with us depending on your previous studies at this level, but not less than a year to get an exam. We also prefer students who will put their focus on their studies, and not for example juggle with a full-time job at the same time, even if it should be possible to keep a part-time job as an option or a complement to receive study loans. You need a computer with WiFi and basic ICT experience to manage.
We register about 90 online students a year. Some of those are young parents with small children at home, some have been unemployed for quite a while and have been recommended the course from the employment agency, and others have a diagnosis with for example attention deficits that makes it hard for them to attend a normal class. In addition, some of them just prefer this kind of course for personal reasons.
Our assessment is based mainly on previous studies at upper secondary level, and personal references complete the picture, for us to know if our course is suitable for this particular student. Since online courses do demand a certain level of study discipline and organization of one’s own work, it is important to find out if the potential student is aware of the challenges ahead, and is capable and willing to take them on.
Validation of learning outcomes
The students get an exam equivalent to upper secondary school, which make them qualified to apply for university. In addition, they get an assessment of their capability of (further) studies, where we judge their knowledge, level of ambition, organizations skills and social skills, the latter meaning ability to collaborate, share knowledge and support others in their studies. This folk high school assessment means that when applying for university, these students will compete only with other students from folk high schools in a selection group of their own.
Effects – short term/long term
Apart from the formal exam, which enables the student to apply for a better job or a university course in accordance with their interests, we also see great effects on the personal level. After having met and collaborated with so many people from all over the country, with different views and values, students get not only increased knowledge, but also the ability and perhaps most important of all, the courage to make their voice heard and influence and improve their own lives as well as the society around them. They have gained self-confidence and strength, and most often feel more included and better integrated in our society.