ASC Praktijkleren in the Netherlands works to advance information, communications, and technology (ICT) skills in students through vocational education. The organization’s goal is to prepare students for professional careers in these fields by providing coordinated training and resources. They offer master classes in topics such as Docker, Linux Essentials with SUSE, Azure, and the Internet of Things. The services they offer, however, also benefit teachers and training centers through standardization, resource sharing, and collaboration.
In this article, we talk with ASC Praktijkleren’s Hans Blankendaal, who is also a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of LPI, to learn more.
FOSSlife: Please give our readers a brief background of Stichting Praktijkleren. How did this organization get started and why?
Hans Blankendaal: Stichting Praktijkleren is the Academy Support Centre (ASC) in the Netherlands that promotes up-to-date ICT skills in education. Stichting Praktijkleren is a national foundation with 43 academies as members, and it delivers materials for 4,500 teachers and 60,000 students. It came about in 2006 through the initiative of several regional training centers. As of 2018, the activities of the former Netherlands Academy Support Centre have been transferred to Stichting Praktijkleren and continued under the name of ASC Praktijkleren.
Generally, ASC Praktijkleren supports regional training centers in the field of in-school and out-of-school work-based learning. In collaboration with the teachers at these training centers, Stichting Praktijkleren develops examination products and vocational learning materials and provides support for both students and teachers in the form of advice and mentoring, training, workshops, and conferences.
FOSSlife: Why is open source important to the organization?
Hans Blankendaal: Open source is important because students that are entering the IT labor market will need expertise in open source to be successful in their jobs. Open source is everywhere, and that's why we help schools integrate courseware and certifications related to open source into the curriculum that is related to the ICT Qualification Framework of The Netherlands.
FOSSlife: What do you see as your biggest success? Can you give a specific example?
Hans Blankendaal: The general success of Stichting Praktijkleren is that all the schools for vocational education in The Netherlands are now members of our foundation. In the past, every school developed its own exams and learning materials. Since this structure of membership, the schools have asked us to provide them with exams for the qualification structure. This approach saves time for individual academies and also helps them deliver inspection-proof exams, so they don’t have to worry about that for themselves.
Another success has been getting schools enthusiastic about academy programs and certification related to open source. During the past two years, we saw growth in the total number of academies that joined the programs of SUSE, LPI, and Red Hat.
- Creating partnerships with a lot of vendors because every school makes its own choice related to that. By partnering with SUSE, Red Hat, and LPI, we can provide them a solution that fits best with their open source wishes.
- Implementing a new portal for the distribution of our learning materials, which makes it possible for teachers to share their materials and connect with other teachers. There is also the capability to share courseware from vendors through that portal.
- Updating the blueprint – Providing information for teachers of how certifications are related to the qualification framework (on the right, you can see the vendors and clicking on them leads you to views on how open source is related to the qualification framework).
FOSSlife: What is your biggest challenge? Or, what do you see as the biggest obstacle to open source education and adoption?
Hans Blankendaal: Our biggest challenge is getting all the teachers involved with our new platform – getting them to share materials. In the past, the biggest obstacle for adopting open source has been the lack of knowledge about open source. Through the partner programs, we managed to train teachers about open source, and once they are trained, they can introduce the materials to their students
Another challenge is to get more schools involved into the academy programs of the open source vendors. We want the schools to share their materials, as well as the open source materials that they've made themselves.
FOSSlife: Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your organization, and how have you addressed those challenges?
Hans Blankendaal: Of course it affected our organization, for example, by not being able to visit our members/academies. Related to the development and distributing of exams and learning materials, there wasn't a problem, because we already had a platform for distributing those materials.
During this period, we acted on helping our members in the organization of education in corona time, including new ways of organizing exams and developing alternatives that are still inspection-proof according to our ministry’s requirements.
FOSSlife: What are the organization's plans for the future?
Hans Blankendaal: We are a center of expertise related to practice learning, primarily focused on vocational education. We want to evolve from an organization that develops learning materials and training and examination products into an organization that is a partner for our members to help and advise them in building the curriculum.
Next to that, a lot of educational issues still need to be addressed (a new qualification framework, for instance). We also want to combine learning materials. For example, we have learning materials but our partners (vendors) also have them. Why should we invent things when good alternatives are already available that would suit the curriculum?