The modern face of adult learning

We’ve just launched a new report into informal adult learning, and how it has changed, which I think makes some really interesting reading. You can take a look at it on our website.

I’ve seen first hand just how big the internet can make people’s lives. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people in centres who have picked up new skills online, or had the world of learning brought alive to them. My own nephew even learnt to play the piano on Youtube, which would have seemed fairly unbelievable only a few years ago.

The great thing is, this research shows that very informal learning is taking place all of the time on the internet – people are watching videos on Youtube that teach them how to change a washer on their tap, they’re finding information about the history of their local area – and best of all they’re connecting with others who’ve got similar interests, and they’re sharing their findings pretty widely too.

What this research shows to me is that our old definition of ‘informal learning’ is a bit defunct. Only 25% of people are classing themselves as having taken part in informal learning, but 58% of people have used the internet to discover more about a hobby and 42% have watched a video online that taught them something new. We often think of men as being somewhat forgotten in the informal learning area, but they’re embracing it under the new definition – they’re even participating in online discussion groups more than their female counterparts.

The research also fits in with my new favourite stat. According to NIACE’s Annual Participation Survey, only one in three people have done any learning since they left school. Ofcom’s 2011 report, however, asked people about the things they are doing online – and revealed that 73% of people are learning online.

To me this presents a huge opportunity – and having just supported one million more people to get computer and internet skills, we can help many more to open up new worlds through learning online. That’s why I’m delighted about the eReading Rooms pilot I blogged about recently. I’m pretty sure we can bring the huge power that the internet has to the hardest to reach people in some of the most deprived communities in the country, to ensure they don’t have to miss out on the online learning revolution. Watch this space for more!

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