In this guest article Tom Kenyon - Head of Programme, Learning Society at the RSA - shares his thoughts on the RSA's Strategic Partnership with Ufi and our joint work to explore how technology and place-based approaches can best support adult learning for work.
The RSA’s Cities of Learning programme aims to support place-based learning pathways for adults and young people, particularly those that haven’t thrived in traditional educational settings.
The programme design is built on research that shows that the best way to support learning through life is to ensure there are visible opportunities that are easily accessible to all learners, that all learning (formal, non-formal and informal) is recognised as valuable, and that learners have the tools to see routes where they can progress their skills as part of a community.
Our Strategic Partnership with Ufi enables the RSA to increase its impact in two important ways: firstly to improve our understanding of learner confidence and motivation, and also to understand the barriers faced by learners who haven’t thrived in traditional settings.
This insight will help us better design products, policies and programmes to meet the needs of learners, not just the skills demands of industry.
Secondly, we are working with Ufi to develop and prototype new ways to promote learning ‘inclusion through digital’ within the Cities of Learning network. This means that we can explore new partnerships in place (with organisations like Online Networks and WEA) to promote different forms of learning that meet the needs of excluded communities. We aim to provide devices and data to access free online learning materials, but also human support and mentorship to help peer-groups use digital tools to meet their goals. These pilots give us a new model within the Cities of Learning network of using this amazing community of learning-focused places to test innovations in adult learning.
Over the last year the RSA has conducted a wide literature review on lifelong learning and interviews with leaders in inclusive adult education. Since partnering with Ufi we have added to this research with a national survey on confidence and motivation in learning and hosted a series of qualitative focus groups to explore learner motivations and barriers in more detail. We aim to publish these findings, including a series of learner personas to inform our further work, in late June 2022.
These personas will also feed into the design of our ‘inclusion through digital’ pilots that we intend to run within the Cities of Learning network in Cambridgeshire and Bradford. These are still in early stages of development but are building exciting momentum with new partners.
Working in Strategic Partnership with Ufi, and within the themes laid out in their 2021 VocTech Challenge White Paper, has given the RSA’s work in lifelong learning the support to become more focused on learner needs and more free to innovate in the spaces between in-person and digital delivery of learning opportunities. It’s exciting to work closely with them to promote a vision for lifelong learning that benefits people, place and planet.