In collaboration with the City of Helsinki, Forum Virium Helsinki developed a new digital learning environment to increase employment, which was adopted by the City’s social services in January 2024. The testing and tendering of the platform were carried out with the involvement of long-term unemployed clients.
The new digital learning environment is part of the From Work Activities to Employment project, which increases the employment potential of unemployed people by strengthening the digital equality, participation and work life skills of Helsinki residents.
The learning environment makes it possible for residents of Helsinki who are unemployed, partially disabled or participating in vocational rehabilitation to develop their work life capabilities and skills online. The online environment offers social rehabilitation in a modern way.
The jointly developed content of the learning environment supports work life capabilities and digital skills. The remote work activities concept was tested in practice with 100 clients and 100 staff members in a pilot carried out in 2022–2023 as part of the DOT – Developing digital skills as part of work activities project. The pilot proved to be a positive experience for participants, as a result of which the concept was adopted as a continuous service that the City of Helsinki now offers to thousands of residents.
Learning work life skills in the Virtual Workshop
In future, all long-term unemployed residents of Helsinki participating in rehabilitative work activities will not only take part in traditional workshop activities, but also utilise the virtual operating environment of the Virtual Workshop. The online service allows users to assess their own skill levels and potential rehabilitation needs.
As of January 2024, the Virtual Workshop runs on Mediamaisteri’s platform, which is based on the Moodle learning environment used by many Finnish educational institutions. Every work activities client is provided access to the Virtual Workshop, and in the future every client will participate in at least one remote work activities day.
“Mediamaisteri’s learning environment is easy to use, as it allows content to be clearly structured under different categories. Meanwhile the task tools of the Virtual Workshop platform make the performance of tasks and the learning experience more interactive, supporting the agency and strengthening the digital skills of clients. The gamified nature of the varied content and tasks increases motivation and encourages clients to work on the platform,” says Team Leader of Virtual & Digital Services of Work Rehabilitation Units and the Virtual Workshop Evelin Vlahopoulou.
Client orientation creates more effective digital solutions
Work activities clients were involved from the outset in the testing, evaluation and selection of the platform to be procured. In the tendering procedure, candidates received the majority of their points based on the testing of their platforms.
“Usually in competitive tendering, the primary selection criterion is price. In this case, however, it was important to make sure before the selection that the platform was easy enough to use even for clients without prior digital skills,” says Project Manager Meri Vainio from Forum Virium Helsinki.
The procurement process was carried out with several clients participating in the tendering of both the pilot phase and the continuous procurement. During testing, these clients got to directly test the platforms involved in the tendering and score them based on their user experience.
“This was the first time that I was able to perceive my own strengths clearly. I feel that my mental well-being has also improved in many ways,” says one of the clients who participated in the pilot.
Courses and microdegrees to be offered in the future
In the future, the Virtual Workshop will also provide clients with opportunities to complete vocational education and training courses and identify their own expertise. Completed courses and certificates of competence earned from qualification units and smaller modules are saved in each client’s personal portfolio. The digital platform also enables the data to be digitally transferred from work activities to social workers and educational institutions.
“In contemporary society, digital skills related to technical competence, information security, communication and cooperation in digital environments are more important than ever for all of us,” says Manager of Adult Social Work Henna Niiranen from the City of Helsinki.
According to Niiranen, many people have fears, anxiety or misgivings about using digital devices and operating in digital environments, in which case it is important to offer experiences of success by taking small steps.
Photo: N2 Albiino, Helsinki Partners