The fruitful integration of technology and education has redefined the learning approach for K-12 and higher-ed. But when it comes to adult learning, ed-tech surprisingly falls behind in bringing changes to the pedagogy. There is a shortfall of ed-tech tools designed especially for this cohort & very few existing tools are customized to serve adult learners.
In 2017, the U.S. had over 36 million people with lower than normal work skills and over 25 million were devoid of high school degrees. Some of them lack basic math and English skills while others need to learn new competencies to keep up with the requirements of their job. One must also keep in mind that this cohort has a more demanding schedule and only a limited time to dedicate towards academics.
With such a large, untapped market in need of quality tech, reinventing ed-tech for adult learners is the need of the hour. Educators need to employ technology that can drive personalization and give these learners the right tools to put them on a path for success.
Identifying ‘opportunity areas’ for ed-tech
A new report funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education and produced by Luminary Labs explores how technology could make an impact on adult learners. Here are 5 key areas to focus on:
1. Aiding the instructor for better utilization of time and resources
It is important that ed-tech tools free-up time and resources for educators to focus on the different needs of different students. Tools like AI grading, used for checking test papers, can not only save instructors’ precious time but can also create a pattern of correct and incorrect responses. This will help the educator to identify the problem areas and address them effectively. Other tools like learning maps help instructors guide students based on their level of understanding.
2. Flexibility to handle the ebb and flow of life
Since most of the adult learners have busy domestic and work lives, conventional methods of attending classes at brick and mortar schools do not work in adult education. According to a survey, 54% of adults with no high school education have smartphones. Thus, it becomes imperative for Ed-tech to use tools like video conferencing, mobile lessons, AI-enabled chats, etc. that provide the flexibility to students to learn remotely in their own time and pace.
3. Capturing the learner’s attention
Every adult learner has an objective that they wish to achieve through education. If the curriculum is not aligned to their objectives, they are bound to feel uninterested. To capture and retain the learner’s attention, mobile games, as well as computer games, can be used to simulate the real-life application of skills. Family-friendly interfaces that allow their tech-savvy kids to aid them in learning could be a great motivating factor. A well-defined LMS that provides all the information at one place could play a role in retaining learners' attention as it simplifies their learning process.
4. Creating a support system
A well-connected adult learning community can motivate students to learn as a group. If an individual is invested in the group, he/she is more likely to be involved with learning tasks in hand. Tools like discussion boards, Facebook groups, group chats can be vital in developing a support system for adult learners. Collaborative learning tools that allow problem-solving as a group can transform the landscape of adult education.
5. Help to implement the learning in real life
By developing the curriculum that closely resonates with real-life application of skills, one can empower the learners to apply their attained knowledge in real situations. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality tools provide immersive learning by giving hands-on experience to students. Open Educational Resources that are dynamic unlike textbooks, should be used to impart on-the-job knowledge.
While some of the ed-tech solutions listed above can be expensive and time-consuming to develop, a few others can be implemented easily at lower costs. All the stakeholders need to be on the same page for ed-tech to effectively impact the adult learning industry.