A European project gets underway to improve the “soft skills” of doctoral programmes

Video gamEs foR Skills trAining (VERSA) is a project led by the Postgraduate and Doctoral School of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, and in which two other universities from the Aurora network are also taking part: the University of Innsbruck and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The Ibero-American Knowledge Foundation is also participating

This Tuesday the first meeting of the European programme VERSA was held with the students who are going to take part in this project based on games, particularly commercial video games, to improve the so-called soft skills of doctoral students. Taking part are 160 doctoral students from the three universities that are also members of the Aurora Alliance and who have already responded to an initial questionnaire about the skills they have and the ones they want to work on. On this basis, personalised training pathways are set up with the videogames they will need to play if they want to work on particular soft skills.

Every participant will take part in at least three training modules: creativity, critical thinking, solving complex problems, cognitive flexibility, managing people and/or teams, time management, decision taking and setting objectives. They will play each of the videogames selected for at least 12 hours per module over the two or three months that each module lasts. Their evolution in the skill they have decided to improve will be automatically monitored. So at the end of the project – which has a duration of two years – they will be able to check whether they have improved in these general competencies. The project is based on studies published in scientific journals that demonstrate the usefulness of games for improving certain skills.

The aim of VERSA is to supplement current skills training for doctoral students so that they can improve their employability and commitment to the industrial sector. It responds to the challenges of the innovative training of doctors by using a methodology involving online training and videogames developed by the Ibero-American Knowledge Foundation (GECON). The games focus on soft skills, those personal qualities and characteristics related to the social and emotional perspective that are essential for finding work and which go beyond technical training.

Among others who took part in the meeting were the rector of the URV, María José Figueras, the general secretary of the Aurora network, Kees Kouwenaar and the Vice-rector of doctoral education and director of the Postgraduate and Doctoral School, Josep Ribalta, who explained the project, the objectives and how it was to be carried out. During the event, the eight videogames related to the eight skills were also revealed. They are: Portal 2, Cities: Skylines, Anomaly 2, Train Valley, Fallout Shelter, Minion Masters, Gems of Wars, Alien Swarm Reactive Drop.

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