I’m pretty excited today that I can officially announce that we’ve been successful in our bid to Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) to run a pilot that will explore and (hopefully) begin to remove the barriers that have held back the adoption of digital technology in the adult or community learning in the UK. As a great believer in the importance of lifelong learning – particularly for hard-to-reach communities – and of course a passionate advocate for the power of digital tools, you can guess I’m pretty excited about this!
Despite the huge advances in technology we’ve seen in recent years, and its widespread adoption by huge numbers of people, and the positive impact it has on the wider education and learning sector, the Adult and Community sector has lagged behind. Learning is traditionally delivered face-to-face, with use of digital tools to support learning few and far-between.
The R&D project will examining the broad range of factors (technological, institutional and pedagogical) that contribute to success in digital learning. We’ll then go on to develop an alpha version of a platform with and for people in the sector – tutors, volunteers, and learners – to create, share and manage interactive learning content online. With loads of conversations and work with users, and loads of testing and iterating.
My real aim for the pilot is that once that hard research work is done, this is something we can scale up nationally, to have a huge impact on the way that community learning is delivered in the UK.
I’m pretty convinced that technology can lower the barriers people face when accessing adult and community learning, as well as attracting more non-traditional learners – for example people from more deprived communities or people who haven’t had a good experience of education or learning in the past. Using digital tools, and thinking more innovatively about the way community learning is delivered will help people stay connected to their learning whatever might happen in their life – which could be incredibly powerful. Now it’s the job of the pilot to prove it.
It’s just the start of this journey, and I’m really hoping we can shake up the informal learning world, reach many more people, and make learning more relevant to more people. Will we disrupt adult and community learning? I hope so.