Continuing Education

Report: It's Time for Ed Tech to Tackle the Adult Learner

Report: It's Time for Ed Tech to Tackle the Adult Learner

The education technology segment does a poor job of addressing the particular needs of the adult learner. These are individuals who want to earn a high school diploma, move into college, get additional training or get a job in the first place. They may need help with reading, writing, speaking in English or doing math. And it's a population that comes with "huge variance" — in ages, ethnicity, language skills, work experience and family situations. Members of this group confront constraints in their schedules and how much time they can dedicate to learning. Owing to this diversity of circumstances, educators face an uphill battle in being able to personalize learning experiences in ways that could help their students. But technology could play a role.

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 for adult learners. The intent is to push investors to fund development of technology that could be used by the adult learner community. Five "opportunity areas" are covered in the report:

  • Supplementing instructors, tech specifically to save them time and effort, such as the use of adaptive features that can lead individual students through content at an appropriate pace and "live" assessment tools to help instructors monitor student progress and pinpoint areas where tailored response would be useful;
  • Designing "for life," tech intended to make course attendance more viable, such as the use of mobile tools that use text reminders and video conferencing software to replace face-to-face interaction;
  • Engaging learners, to keep their attention and retention, such as the use of gaming to perk motivation and "family-friendly interfaces," which can turn learning into a family activity that incorporates help from children;
  • Building the community, to foster collaboration that leads to student success, such as the use of Q&A message boards and online social groups or group chat tools; and
  • Making connections, to link students' personal experiences to their learning content, such as through virtual reality and augmented reality, which can simulate experiences that couldn't otherwise be offered.

"With the right attention and funding, investment in the development of digital tools and technology solutions can not only tap into an underserved market, but also radically transform the experiences of adult learners and educators in math and beyond," the report suggested.

This is the second of three reports undertaken by Luminary for the federal agency. The first report highlighted the challenges in serving the needs of adult learners through technology. The series is overseen by LINCS, a. U.S. Department of Education resource to provide course content, policy guidance and other materials for adult education.

The report is openly available on the LINCS website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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