R. Kauppinen, M. Drake

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
VR (virtual reality) is a trending technology, for example, in entertainment and design. The use of VR has been explored from educational viewpoint in, for example, aviation and engineering while much of the current research focuses on medicine. In education, VR is also a promising tool for competence recognition, since it provides a way to create virtual twins of the real-life environments, objects, and people as well as of the person whose competences are recognized. This way, it is possible to show and recognize the competencies by doing tasks where the competencies are actually applied.

Here, we explore the possibilities of VR in competence recognition for immigrants since they have a significant role in maintaining an adequate level of Finland’s working-age population but have a considerably low employment rate. Our focus here is on restaurant work, since that has suitable entry level positions for immigrants, but also specific requirements related, for example, to hygiene. The work has educational relevance in vocational education, since the results from both the competence recognition and the VR implementation can be used in, for example, teaching hygiene requirements or designing related competence demonstrations.

We present a VR based competence recognition model that can be used in employing or educating immigrants and discuss what kind of competence recognition model best serves companies in finding the suitable persons. We also describe a prototype VR implementation based on the model. Our intention was to develop the model and the implementation in co-operation with companies and immigrant organisations from the start. Hence, we selected a user-centric living lab ecosystem as our method, since it aims to innovate new products or services in co-operation with end users, citizens, companies and researchers with a rapid development cycle resulting in a prototype being available for testing within a short time period.

In our setting, we had a restaurant company and two immigrant organizations involved. We developed the model in co-operation and based on literature and other material such as hygiene requirements and existing work on competence recognition models. The model identifies three levels of competence. For each level, restaurant work related VR tasks can be defined and implemented to recognize related competencies. Of the three levels, the implementation discussed is based on the second level and recognizes comprehension on hygiene related concepts. The implementation was tested in two sessions where 24 immigrants in total filled out a questionnaire. The sessions were facilitated and observed, so observation was also used.

The results show that the model is feasible, and it is possible to implement the VR tasks based on the model that are relevant in recognizing the competencies in the restaurant field. It is also possible to apply it in other fields. The experiences from the testing sessions were very positive and, for example, the immersiveness of the implementation was considered an advantage. However, both the model and the implementation require further development. For example, the model should have a more detailed measurement of competencies. Also, there are competencies that are relevant across different fields, so the extent of the field independency in the model should be investigated. Implementation-wise, other fields and the levels of the model should be covered, and usability can be improved.