(part of the InLOC Guidelines)

An introduction to the InLOC Guidelines

The meaning of InLOC

The name "InLOC" stands for "Integrating Learning Outcomes and Competences". InLOC offers a unified way of representing definitions both of intended learning outcomes – as used in learning, education and training – and of competences – as used typically by employers and those concerned with professional development. For readers who are not familiar with those terms and their background, please see the sections on Learning outcomes and Work competences.

InLOC aims to help enable services that guide people to and through learning into employment. It will support mobility by enabling links to be made between information about a learner's capability, employers' requirements and intended outcomes of learning opportunities.

As "InLOC" already stands for "Integrating Learning Outcomes and Competences", we use the shorter acronyms "LOC" to stand for "learning outcome or competence" and "LOCs" to stand for "learning outcomes and/or competences" according to context. Both "learning outcome" and "competence" are already a very well-used terms, with their own associated meanings. By bringing together both of these terms, "LOC" is intentionally wide in scope, and sidesteps some of the old arguments that have attached to the other terms. It could be said that the term "competency" was another attempt to establish a broad term, but "LOC" has the advantage of not being used before, and is therefore free of the connotations of the older terms.

For concise definitions of the terms "learning outcome" and "competence", please see the Terms and Definitions section of the Information Model.

Why should anyone be interested in InLOC?

The subject matter of InLOC is relevant, more or less directly, to a wide range of people. In the section following, each of the Stakeholder groups is addressed in turn, because the importance and relevance differs between different groups of people.

There is also a general point to be made, not to individual stakeholder groups, but about the human and technical systems as a whole that they participate in. First and foremost, there is a need for a general purpose interoperability standard that enables different software to work with the same competence structures, and one piece of software to work with any number of different competence structures. There are currently very few published specifications that deal with structures of learning outcome or competence information, and the ones that exist appear to be specialised for specific uses.

When this kind of standard is implemented and adopted, it will allow purchasers and users of relevant systems to be able to choose the system they work with, and the LOC structures they work with, independently. It will allow developers and vendors to develop software for one application area and use it in any application area. It will mean that people who develop frameworks or occupational standards can publish their structures in just one format, and all relevant systems will be able to process that.

The benefits that come from this will only be realised and appear clearly when substantial investment has been made in representing existing frameworks and occupational standards in this common format. When this has happened, many services will be able to spring up, all serving the needs of the various stakeholder groups. These are discussed in the section following.

With the right kind of policy and motivation, it seems likely that the appearance of a range of services such as is hinted at will in turn stimulate the production of many more frameworks and structures, thus feeding a "virtuous circle" of development, whose endpoint may hardly be recognisable. While there have been several initiatives to achieve goals in this direction, they have suffered from the lack of electronically published fully structured definitions and structures, which in turn is held back by the lack of a commonly accepted format for the full structuring of this information. This is exactly the gap that InLOC is designed to fill.

How can InLOC be understood?

The InLOC information model is necessarily quite general in purpose and broad in scope. This means that, inevitably, some aspects of the model will need more explanation that others. InLOC explained through example is the section that introduces the InLOC model to the general audience.

Some readers will have an interest in using the InLOC model to represent their own LOC information. The section How to follow InLOC takes the common features of existing information about LOCs, and explains more directly how to represent each feature using InLOC. This means that readers will only need to refer to the features in which they have an interest – the features of the information that they deal with. Extending InLOC then briefly points to how features not covered by InLOC may be added to the InLOC model.

Other readers will want to refer to LOC information from their information – for instance, if their information is about courses or other resources for learning, education or training. Referencing InLOC information outlines the approaches to doing this, though detail will depend greatly on what information is required, both for display to users, and for processing by ICT systems.

Integration with other European standards and processes

Integrating InLOC is the final section of these Guidelines, which will explain in more detail how the InLOC approach can be integrated effectively with Europass, with EuroLMAI (EN 15981, [EuroLMAI]), with MLO (EN 15982, [MLO]), and related processes.

Next: Stakeholder groups