Confidence and choice remain barriers to EdTech for adults

To mark Lifelong Learning Week’s ‘Learning for the Future day’, Ufi CEO Rebecca Garrod-Waters presented the latest data from the Adult Participation in Learning Survey. This article first appeared in FE Week.

Male College students using a laptop to learn.

For 27 years, Learning and Work Institute’s Adult Participation in Learning Survey has provided insights on who’s learning and how they learn. With technology becoming integral to how we learn, this year’s survey explores how adults across the UK are using technology to support their learning.

Questions on technology were included as part of Ufi’s ongoing strategic partnership with Learning and Work Institute and the responses, from a representative sample of around 5,000 UK adults, show that technology and learning are deeply entwined. 95 per cent of adults report using technology in their learning across both formal and independent settings.

The benefits of using learning technology are also widely reported with 97 per cent experiencing benefits to learning with digital technology, including benefits that enable learning (e.g. at a convenient time, location, level or pace) and those that aid or enhance learning (e.g. making learning more interesting and engaging, and motivating adults to learn).

As the CEO of Ufi VocTech Trust, whose mission is to support the development and deployment of vocational technology for adult skills development, these results echo the impact we see in the projects we support. Learning technology is being widely used and adults feel the benefits of using it. I’m pleased to see the strength of positive impact reflected in the survey results and I am looking forward to celebrating some of these personal success stories at next year’s Festival of Learning Awards, including our new Learning with Technology Award, for which nominations open today.

However, the data also highlights that there is still much work to be done.

Confidence in using learning technologies remains a barrier to learning. While adults are confident using technology in their daily lives, this confidence reduces when using technology for learning, and drops further still when using technology for work. This drop in confidence is even more evident for adults who may be furthest from learning, as seen in the responses from learners who left school with no GCSEs and for those who are unemployed.

There is still much work to be done.

At Ufi we have seen how learning technology can have a huge positive impact on learner confidence and support skills development. As a sector it is crucial that we do what we can to ensure learners have the confidence to use it.

The data also reinforces the importance of using the right learning technology for a given learner group – something we see time and again with the learning technologies our grant funding and investment supports. Crucially, low levels of confidence were reported in using many technologies now commonplace across the skills sector. Fewer than half of the learners in the survey were confident learning with online video (48 per cent), video meetings (39 per cent) or learning platforms (31 per cent).

Technology may be a disruptor that allows us to do things differently, but when addressing the confidence and motivation of learners across a wide spectrum of geographies, subjects and skills, the key to progress remains in empowering people to take ownership of their own learning.

The Adult Participation in Learning Survey provides a valuable picture of the current state of learning and the use of learning technology in the UK. I hope it will also inspire action, bringing the sector together to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn throughout their lives, building a future economy and labour market where people aren’t just playing catch up but have the chance to thrive in new industries and sectors.

This cross-sector collaboration is already taking place and is gaining momentum, evident in this years’ Week of VocTech, which begins on Monday. This free programme of events and activities is focused on accelerating the development and adoption of digital technology for vocational learning, teaching and training, and inspiring action to transform the UK skills sector.

I would urge you to explore the programme, get involved and join the movement to get adults learning.

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