Envisioning the future: digitally empowered adult education trainers in a post-COVID world!

While we wait for official data and statistics from DESI, the Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission, we can all easily agree that two main issues will arise from this pandemic which will radically affect the way in which we deliver education in the post-COVID era. (1) The failure of the actual Internet infrastructure to accommodate the higher demand for bandwidth during the current coronavirus quarantine period and (2) the exceptional increase in consumption by digital contents across all types of traditional and new Internet audiences.

Indeed, although both elements mentioned above present a number of challenges at both the technological and social level, they could also help us to adapt and respond faster to the digital transformation, thus generating countless opportunities also in the field of adult education. Therefore, with the potential eradication of the current technological and psychological barriers preventing many hard to reach target groups from going digital, we need to start thinking about how to enhance the role and profile of trainers and professionals/volunteers who provide educational and orientation services to the adult population.  

Of course, a systemic approach to such a relevant topic can only be guaranteed and made sustainable by formally engaging the national education authorities in the implementation of large-scale initiatives. One such initiative is being promoted by the Erasmus+ Open Call on “European Policy Experimentations in the field of Education and Trai...”. The call recognises four Priorities, equally divided into two Categories; the first invites high-ranking public authorities to propose innovative policy experiments for Digital education and competences (Priority 1) and Teaching and teachers (Priority 2).

As we look forward to discovering and following the projects that will be funded by the Erasmus+ programme, we would like to learn more about the good practices carried out by the EPALE members in the field of digital empowerment of adult education teachers and trainers. Our first step to doing so sees us present a list of possible specialist areas that can play an important role in the future of adult education.

Interactive digital contents design

All educators should become autonomous in developing new educational contents which interactively engage learners through digital learning environments. Many online softwares and tools are readily available and easily allow novice users to create their own digital resources and activities. One we would like to present to you is H5P.org(link is external), an open source plugin for existing publishing systems that allows you to create and share HTML5 Content and Applications. With many different examples and tutorials(link is external), you can find the resources and design that suit you best, either directly through WordPress, Moodle and Drupal sites, or by integrating them with Canvas, Brightspace, Blackboard and many other VLEs that support LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integration.

Civic/social hacking facilitation

It is proven that hackathons represent a great pedagogical tool that supports the combined development of digital and transversal skills of all participants. However, a truly successful result can only be achieved when the process is facilitated by a mentor who has skills in communication and mediation strategies, and a good understanding of how digital innovation can have an impact at a societal level. This is a skill that becomes even more important if hacking is adopted as a permanent project-based learning methodology, as opposed to a way of organising an event, enclosing open-schooling practices and civic engagement of adult learners. A great example of social hacking is the upcoming #EUvsVirus Hackathon(link is external), hosted by the European Commission, which will take place on 24, 25 and 26 April. It focuses on approximately 20 imminent coronavirus challenges including the rapid production of equipment, the scaling up of production capabilities, and the transfer of knowledge and solutions from one country to another for rapid development and deployment across the EU Single Market. #HacktheCrisis #EUSolidarity #StrongerTogether #TogetherWeCan

Educational data quality management

Last, but by no means least, it is fundamental that those who are actively involved in the organisation and provision of adult learning become familiar with Artificial Intelligence tools and frameworks, so as to ensure the constant and correct collection of high-quality data and their exploitation for the enhancement of adult learning design, provision and assessment. Indeed, AI should not be seen as a threat to the role of the adult educator, but as a technology which helps to design and facilitate interactive learning environments by supporting learning and the design and implementation of tutoring systems by adapting instructions according to the students' level of knowledge. Research in this field will continue for several years, but educators should start to get ready, perhaps by taking advantage of Elements of AI(link is external), a series of free online courses created by Reaktor and the University of Helsinki.

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