HOW ADULT LEARNERS ARE CHANGING EDUCATION

Research and new methods in hungary, elte university

There’s no denying the education sector is changing. As continuous education becomes more important for working professionals keen to advance their careers, how people access education is undergoing a revolution.

The way adults learn is very different from the traditional route taken by young graduates fresh from school. Their expectations, motivations, lifestyles and experience are different for younger students. 

This brings new challenges to education providers in delivering and assessing education. At the same time, it offers great opportunities to innovate and reach out to a much wider potential student body. 

In this article, we look at the key ways adult learners are changing education. 

Shift in student demographic

People are now living longer and working well into retirement age. This means that there is a greater variety of learners wanting to upskill. 

In the EU, the number of teenagers is projected to drop slightly from 2015-2030. Education providers need to reach out to other cohorts in order to remain sustainable into the future. 

With almost more million adults having attended college without completing their studies over the past 20 years, there is an opportunity to re-engage these adults with education and grow the market. 

Four million of these adults have completed at least two years of college, making them more likely to finish their studies if they re-entered formal education. Already most learners in higher education are not aged 18-22 as might be assumed.

Differing expectations

Students entering further education straight from school might look forward to meeting new people and developing an active social life. 

They expect a variety of extracurricular activities, sororities and fraternities. Meanwhile, adult learners view education as a place for professional networking which may further their careers in years to come. 

In fact, 65% of adult learners say that they expanded their professional network through education. They are less likely to make extra-curricular activities a priority when it comes to choosing between course providers. 

Learning formats 

Convenience is an important factor in how adult learners choose education providers. Being able to fit in study around work and family commitments is crucial to their ability to undertake further studies. 

Online courses and virtual classrooms mean that learners save on the time and cost associated with travel. However, this needs to be balanced with the accreditation and recognition of the course. Adult learners choosing courses for continuing professional development will expect their new skills to be recognized within their professional sectors and across organizations. 

Continuing education may be motivated by a long-term goal of career advancement or career change. Testimonials from previous adult learners who have leveraged their education for career development can be a persuasive way to encourage adult learners to return to education or take further courses.

Experiential learning 

Experiential learning

Experiential learning may be more valued by adult learners who want to see how the learning applies to their existing real-life workplace situations. 

While school students may be more accustomed to a more passive form of learning for learning’s sake adult learners may be more likely to question how their new knowledge fits into to their professional lives. Course assessments can integrate learning into their workplace by using projects in the workplace to assess skills acquisition. 

ELTE University of Hungary has implemented competency-based education (CBE) for the past five years. Students earn college credits based on their demonstration of skills acquired rather than hours spent in the classroom. 

For a professional fitting further education into an already busy life, this option could be very attractive. Less time spent in the classroom away from work and other commitments may make accessing education more financially viable also. 

Course credits

Another approach to assessing adult learners is to give course credit through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). 

For a student with years or even decades of professional experience accelerating their path through education to graduation using their existing skills makes sense. It recognizes that not all learning takes place in formal education and that “on-the-job” experience should be valued alongside more traditional models of learning and assessment.

These developments can be used to tailor courses to reflect individual learners’ needs instead of a traditional of a one size fits all model. Education providers need to be responsive to the needs of adult learners. This should be reflected in timetabling classes, communication and use of technology. 

Adult learners are more likely to view themselves as partners in the learning process rather than simply recipients of learning.

Microlearning

Working professionals want access to education that can be applied to their role instantly so require bite-sized and relevant learning. Microlearning encourages learners to make learning habitual and track their progress as they go. 

It has the added advantage of fitting in around adult learners’ existing work schedules. The rise of the use of smartphones means that accessing microlearning can happen while on the move, commuting to work, between meetings or even while waiting to pick up children at the school gates. 

The success of the language app DuoLingo, with over 25 million users per month, demonstrates the public appetite for microlearning. 

Impacting cost models

Unlike traditional degrees, education that attracts adult learners is short, impactful and relevant. The cost needs to reflect this. While some adult learners may be fortunate to have employers footing the bill, others, particularly those seeking a change of career or re-entry into the workforce, will be paying their own fees. 

Beyond the fees, there are other hidden costs associated with further education, including books, travel and additional childcare costs. Unlike younger students whose college experiences are as much about socializing as education, mature students may be more results focussed and will want to see a return on their investment sooner rather than later. 

The University ELTE eVersity program allows students to take one class at a time, charges a standard rate for credit hours and includes the required textbooks in the cost. This allows students to budget for their courses and pay as they go. 

Technology is crucial

Technology is crucial

As digital technologies are now a normal part of the workplace, employees need to know how to use digital relevant to the role and for those that are comfortable with technologies expect it to be part of their learning experience. 

Technology underpins many of the aspects which make education more widely accessible such as certifications, CBE and microlearning. 

Conversely, developing supports for adult learners who are not digital natives or lack access to it will be required, especially if their recent work experience has not required much use of technology. 

Adult learning requires greater collaboration

In order to know what adults and working professionals require educators need ties to both industry and government. 

Developing partnerships between employers and educators will mean education tailored to the needs of the workplace. For adult learners, this reassures them that the courses they take are relevant and up to date. Buy-in from employers could have the added benefit for adult learners of accessing financial support to finance their studies. Creating links between education providers and industry can facilitate work placements for students and allows industry experts to contribute to developing course materials.

The South Korean city of Suwon with assistance from its universities, guarantees libraries within 10 minutes walk of every citizens’ home as well as learning facilities slightly further away at 20 minutes walk. Having access to education on their doorstep reduces two of the main barriers to further education, time and travel cost, opening education to students of all ages and income levels. 

The days where education ended when students graduated in their mid-twenties are long gone. 

Professionals of today recognize that lifelong education is crucial to both career and personal development. Continuing learning in adulthood has been shown to contribute to better physical and mental health, increase the likelihood of having higher paid jobs and more active citizenship. 

In order to thrive in this changing marketplace education providers need to put themselves in the shoes of their target customers, experiment with new ways of assessing students and giving them access to education in innovative new ways. By doing this they can broaden their appeal to a much wider market.

Basic Skills in Adult Education and the Digital Divide

Traditionally, basic adult education has had a particular concern with the skills of literacy and numeracy, seeing these as essential for entry to the world of work. Adult education teachers may therefore be reluctant to adopt ICT, unsure of the part it should play, and worried about the time it takes away from the development of those basic skills. As we enter the 21st century, however, ICT has already become a necessary and important component of adult education. Formal and non-formal education are being delivered at a distance via technology – particularly the Internet – with the promise that learning can take place at any time and in any place.

Adults in the United States with low literacy – and in other OECD countries and many developing countries – are heterogeneous demographically. Such individuals, like most adults, may have complex family, work, and social circumstances that cannot easily be put aside to permit education to take place. These factors add additional complexity to issues of instruction methods, learning strategies, and programme planning and management.

In this article we suggest that the digital divide among adults within and across many nations is likely to persist for some years, the adults concerned being probably more resistant to change than children and youth, who will be growing up within societies ever more permeated by new technologies. Furthermore, up to the present the vast majority of ICT investment in education worldwide has gone into children’s schools and higher education, without regard for the educational needs of disadvantaged adults. There are extraordinary opportunities for ICT to bring about significant change for adult populations with low literacy, especially since adult education is less hampered by rigid education systems, required curricula, and constraints on individual motivation.

We know that only a small percentage of those who could benefit actually enter adult education programmes. Improving the ways technology is utilised as a learning tool can make adult education more engaging and effective. Already ICT is providing additional opportunities to learn in less structured environments, such as independently at home or at libraries. ICT-based education seems to be ideal for giving additional educational opportunities to at-risk and disadvantaged adult learners. Most of the examples in this article are drawn from the United States, where the focus on new ICT for adults is relatively advanced.

https://www.oecd.org/site/schoolingfortomorrowknowledgebase/themes/ict/basicskillsinadulteducationandthedigitaldivide.htm?fbclid=IwAR0QJSsEJ5NanpDL3X_AlQA1zVFjXT_qp0gjNEtx52X1THCTQMbUzFO9veE

Benefits of Technology for Seniors

People often joke about how much easier it is for children to embrace technology than their parents, and there’s probably a bit of truth to those tales. After all, children don’t tend to worry about hitting a wrong button, and many young people seem to have an uncanny sense of what they need to do with a gadget in order to accomplish their goal. However, technology isn’t just for the young. It holds promise for people of all ages. While older adults sometimes resist using new advances, the benefits of technology for seniors are numerous.

Benefits of Technology for Seniors

Technology can be intimidating, frustrating, and intrusive. It can also open doors, support intellectual curiosity, provide increased safety, offer assistance, and simply be fun. Ultimately, it’s all in how you use it. Let’s explore the many benefits of technology for seniors.

Making Social Connections

There are countless technologies that help people connect with family, friends, and people with common interests. Seniors can use video chat services like Skype to see their grandchildren grow up when distance might otherwise make that impossible. Email will feel familiar to those who enjoy writing letters or cards, but it has the advantage of instant delivery. Social media options like Facebook and Twitter help people share thoughts, pictures, and news with just a few clicks.

Providing Mental Stimulation

Study after study suggests that learning new things and participating in activities that challenge the brain both offer some protection from dementia. Simply learning to use a new technology provides mental stimulation, and once someone has mastered a technology, they can often use it to find new challenges. Video games can provide hours of mental exercise, and the Internet delivers plenty of opportunities to explore new topics and delve deeper into areas of interest.

Increasing Safety

Have you ever had your vehicle break down on the side of the road? If so, you know firsthand that technology can increase safety by improving a person’s access to help. For some seniors, that might mean a cell phone that they carry with them on their travels. For others, especially those who live alone, it might mean a personal emergency response system (also known as a medical alert system) that allows people in trouble to request assistance from emergency responders with the push of a button.

Encouraging Exercise

How does technology encourage exercise? Many video games today prompt players to get out of their seats and use their whole bodies. For those who want something less competitive, the Internet offers access to a multitude of videos demonstrating an amazing array of exercise routines.

Helping with Health Care

Today’s tech can also make health care easier. Cell phone apps are available that offer seniors audible reminders to take their medications, reducing the chance for missed doses. In addition, many doctors and hospitals now have online programs that provide a place to keep up-to-date medication lists and health histories and offer easy access to test results. Using these programs lets seniors and their families keep needed health information at their fingertips.

Delivering Fun

Whether you like to socialize, enjoy challenging games, or thrive on learning something new, technology can help you do it. It offers fun at your fingertips and a world of possibilities. So if you’re bored and looking for something fun to do, explore your online options.

Learning to use technology can open doors and provide significant benefits for people of all ages, including seniors. Seniors who want to discover how to utilize new technology can often find classes at libraries, community colleges, and senior centers. You can also find tutorials online or ask a family member (such as a grandchild) for help. No matter how you learn about it, never underestimate the benefits of technology for seniors.

Life at Ljudska univerza Rogaška Slatina during Covid-19

We are facing certain times all over the world that have proven to all of us how important digital skills are in the modern world. Ljudska univerza Rogaška Slatina and its learners have been facing quite a lot of challenges in this area during the last two months. The main challenge the education organizers at the organization are facing is a different level of digital skills of their learners, which raises the question how to make learning opportunities equal for all, for those with lower and those with higher digital skills. Therefore, a lot of differentiation in education organization has been made and the lecturers are using various digital and other tools for involving as many learners as possible into educational sessions. The lecturers are using different online applications to carry out online group sessions and online classrooms for creating lessons and quizzes for the preparation for the final exam in the formal vocational programmes. At the moment, Univerza has also started offering online language courses. But the main challenge was keeping in touch with the members of the University for Third Age due to low levels of digital skills of senior participants. The problem is even bigger since their children and grandchildren cannot visit them to help them with setting up online tools and devices. Therefore, the contact is being kept with the help of ordinary phone messages and through exercise sent by regular mail, which enables equal treatment of all senior participants. So, everybody is doing their share to try to keep contact and to continue with the educational offer at our organization to learners of all ages.

March 2020 Project updates: Manual & 4TM

The digital@dults.eu project continues the implementation of its activities respecting timetable and deadlines set by the workplan; all the project partners are currently actively working on the translation and subsequently the fine-tuning of the “Manual containing comparative studies in Europe on methods of approach and teaching in the use of ICT for disadvantaged adults”, and preparing themselves to participate in the 4 transnational project meeting.

This manual constitutes one of the most important results of the digital@duts.eu project because it collects all the research work carried out in the previous months from the beginning of the project.

The German partner VHS SOB oversaw the selection and drafting of case studies of good practice across Europe on teaching methods for adults in ICT and methods of inclusion of disadvantaged adults. The manual will soon be uploaded on our website and will be accessible to anyone who wants to use it as a resource to expand their knowledge in this field.

In early April all the partnership should have met in Norway hosted by the partner TERRAMPACIS, but due to the current global health emergency situation it was decided by mutual agreement, to relocate the meeting on an online platform, giving still the consortium the opportunity to continue to work, meet even if virtually, to discuss the next steps in the implementation of the project activities.

IT

Marzo 2020 Aggiornamenti sul progetto: Il manuale e il 4° Meeting transnazionale

Il progetto digital@dults.eu prosegue nell’implementazione delle sue attività rispettando i tempi e le scadenze previste dal workplan; tutti i partner di progetto al momento stanno lavorando attivamente per la traduzione e successivamente la finalizzazione del “Manuale contenente studi comparativi in Europa sui metodi di approccio e insegnamento nell’uso delle TIC per adulti svantaggiati” e si preparano a partecipare al 4 meeting transnazionale di progetto.

Questo manuale costituisce uno dei risultati più importanti del progetto digital@duts.eu perché raccoglie tutto il lavoro di ricerca svolto nei precedenti mesi dall’inizio del progetto.

Il partner tedesco VHS SOB ha curato la selezione e la redazione dei casi studio di buone pratiche in tutta Europa sui metodi di insegnamento delle TIC rivolti agli adulti e i metodi di inclusione degli adulti svantaggiati. Presto il manuale verrà caricato sul nostro sito web e sarà accessibile a tutti coloro che vorranno utilizzarlo come risorsa per ampliare le conoscenze in questo campo.

I primi di Aprile tutti la partnership si sarebbe dovuta incontrare in Norvegia ospitati dal partner TERRAMPACIS, ma a cause dell’attuale situazione di emergenza sanitaria globale è stato deciso di comune accordo di sportare il meeting su una piattaforma online, dando la possibilità al consorzio di continuare a lavorare, incontrarsi anche se virtualmente e discutere dei prossimi passi nell’implementazione delle attività del progetto.

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