M.I. Dascalu1, C.N. Bodea2, R.I. Mogos2, I.C. Stanica1, G. Velikic3, M. Huemann4

1University Politehnica of Bucharest (ROMANIA)
2Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ROMANIA)
4Vienna University of Economics and Business (AUSTRIA)
New paradigms of learning have occurred as a consequence of the emergence of virtual reality devices, big data and cloud computing, sensory and ubiquitous technologies, semantic or social ones, which can increase education efficiency. It is believed that the current technological revolution and the emergence of big data influences and reforms the labor market, as the demand of highly competent people is increasing. Based on these facts, the model of a “smarter university” can be implemented as an e-learning platform for helping people acquire specific competences or for increasing employability. The development of e-learning doesn’t represent the ending of the traditional learning. E-learning should be embedded in the university ecosystem, by connecting it to the university’s learning management system. E-learning can be used in parallel with face-to-face courses, combining the tradition with the novelty. Also, nowadays, the learning process is continuous; therefore the term of lifelong learning (LLL) has been created. It refers to the permanent implication in formal and informal education, on a daily basis. Education and learning do not refer only to the formal schooling anymore – a person must acquire, evolve and maintain specific knowledge and skills to assure his self-education. Although LLL is known to have positive impact on one’s employability, its efficiency is hard to prove. Statistics related to graduate unemployment are considered indicators for quantifying educational efficiency. A platform which sustains LLL and, in the same time, connects its users with company and university environments would clearly show the efficiency of LLL for improving professional life of university graduates.

In order to check the feasibility of such an idea and materialize it in a concept, a regional study on Danube countries was conducted, within the framework of a joint education project: START-SoPI Project – “Feasibility Study on Implementing a Pan-European Social Platform to Support Lifelong Learning and Employability”. The project was partly financed by START – Danube Region Project Fund, while START was financed by the European Union and the City of Vienna. START-SoPI Project had partners from 3 countries from the Danube Region: Romania, Serbia and Austria. The research methodology of START-SoPI project was based on online questionnaires for students and professors (we had 391 validated questionnaires of students and 59 validated questionnaires of professors from various countries), structured interviews with companies’ representatives, students, professors and personnel from career development centers (we performed 21 interviews in all three countries) and a focus group organized in Serbia. Qualitative and quantitative analysis was done on the collected data, both proving the benefits brought by the implementation of a lifelong learning platform which connects companies, universities and students. Also, we proposed a model of the architecture and we performed the feasibility study of it.

The current paper presents the result of the START-SoPI project in the context of today’s social and economical challenges, describes in detail how the visibility of university graduates towards companies will be increased in a lifelong learning platform and underlines the advantages of such a platform for Danube Region countries.