Getting from Enthusiasm to Effective Technology Implementation in Adult Learning

This week’s post is by Patti Constantakis, Ph.D., Director, Digital Promise Adult Learning Initiative. 

The following is based on our most recent research report, Integrating Digital Tools for Adult Learners: Four Critical Factors.

Technology can be a powerful tool for improving access to learning for the 36 million U.S. adults who lack the basic literacy, numeracy, and job skills necessary to find well-paying jobs and navigate public and social systems. Technology can help create personalized pathways to support learning differences and open up a world of digital information and resources that form the gateway to today’s job market.

Despite all of this promise, adoption and implementation of technology in adult education is nascent. But according to two recent Tyton Partners studies (Part I and Part II), demand and enthusiasm are increasing for education technology among adult education program administrators and educators.

Signs of this enthusiasm can be seen across the country as programs and individual instructors experiment with incorporating digital tools into their teaching. In addition, developers are beginning to consider ways to leverage their products for adult learners.

Yet, in general, adult education programs still lag behind their K-12 and higher education counterparts in incorporating technology.

If we believe in the potential of technology to bring quality digital learning opportunities to this underserved population, what can we do to accelerate adoption? How do we bridge the gap between enthusiasm and effective implementation?

For our latest report, Integrating Digital Tools for Adult Learners: Four Critical Factors, we worked with 14 adult education program administrators and instructors to try to answer these questions. Their insights led us to identifying four factors that adult education programs and product developers should focus on to effectively implement technology in the adult learning classroom:

  1. Support Multiple Implementation Models – Allowing for varied blended learning models is critical with adult learners, as there is no one way to meet the differing needs and levels of these learners.
  2. Use Data – Knowing how to use and analyze learner data is key to understanding where individual learners are struggling in order to provide personalized learning experiences.
  3. Support a Rich Technology Infrastructure – Thinking long-term and considering the infrastructure that is needed to create a flexible, rich, anytime, anywhere learning environment is also important for these underserved learners.
  4. Support the Evolving Role of the Instructor – Supporting this shifting role goes beyond just product training. It requires opportunities to develop ideas, strategies, and resources, then to try them out, reflect, and adjust.

We invite both educators and developers to consider these factors moving forward. The potential for technology to provide low-skilled adult learners access to more individualized learning opportunities is there. But to really accelerate the adoption of technology across our adult education programs will take effort and commitment from program administrators, educators, and product developers to create and support those experiences.


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