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21st century skills for vocational technical students; a high-tech approach

Project Number: 409-15-209

Project Manager: prof. dr. Ton de Jong
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Tel.: +31-53-4893613

Project website:


Our society needs a continuous and substantial influx of highly qualified vocational technicians. Along with their traditional professional skills, in the modern workplace these technicians need additional skills that prepare them to be reflective and collaborative problem-solvers with a broader view than just their specific expertise (T-shaped professionals; National Academy of Engineering of the National Academies, 2005). In this proposal we aim to examine how technology (virtual labs, cognitive tools, learning analytics) can be used and combined with teacher interventions to actively shape this desired type of vocational technician. The proposal therefore addresses questions from the NRO call on how 21st century skills are acquired, how new instructional methods and technology can support this acquisition process, and the need for teachers to integrate 21st century skills training into their classes. 

Problem definition and objectives

This project centres on the acquisition of 21 century skills in the context of inquiry learning with virtual labs for students from vocational technical education. The key goals of the project are a) to understand the process of how 21st century skills are acquired and to develop a set of dedicated digital tools to support students in these skills and to assess the effectiveness of these tools; b) to develop a set of learning analytics techniques to inform both students and teachers about relevant aspects of the learning and collaboration process; and c) to prepare teachers for an active role (in combination with technology) in guiding students towards acquiring 21st century skills. 

Project duration: 1-10-2015 / 1-10-2019

Project budget: 760 k-€ / 600 k-€ funding / 160 k-€ co-funding

Number of person/months: 1344 pm

Project Coordinator: UT

Participants: UT, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Deltion College, ROC Twente, ROC Graafschapcollege, ROC Aventus, TechYourFuture and Thales Nederland BV.

Involved groups: Instructional Technology