Accelerating Change in Adult Education - Digital Promise

Accelerating Change in Adult Education

November 13, 2015 | By

Recently, I heard about a program in San Francisco (a part of the Parents Partners program of Mission Graduates) that teaches digital literacy skills to low-income, mostly Latina moms by pairing them with technology professionals from Silicon Valley companies in one-to-one mentoring sessions. The program is 10 months old and immensely popular as these moms learn to use many of the same digital tools their kids are using in school. When asked what keeps them coming back, they point to how they feel good about developing new and useful skills they know will help them get jobs and build a better future.

As a technology professional and educator with lifelong experience working with adult learners, programs like these inspire me. They inspire me for the great things they are doing for adult learners; but more than that, I am inspired by the momentum I see. More and more, I see programs that offer digital learning opportunities to their adult students. And more and more, I hear the great things those students are getting out of those programs.

This is just the beginning. There is a convergence upon us — a convergence of needs, technology advances, and policy changes that make this an opportune moment to dive into the adult education market.

This week, we at Digital Promise are excited to announce a new publication that lays out that opportunity. Accelerating Change: How education technology developers can jump-start a new adult education market, written by David A. Deschryver of Whiteboard Advisors, is a primer for entrepreneurs and technologists who are exploring the possibility of serving adult learners. We commissioned the paper to be an accompanying resource for attendees at our nationwide Design Day for adult education, which took place November 18 in five cities. On this day, we gathered developers, researchers, and educators to explore ways to use technology to serve the learning needs of underserved adults.

With this primer, we sought to begin to answer several important questions that developers might ask when considering stepping into the market.

  1. What is the opportunity in the adult education market? It’s big. We lay out the pace at which emerging technologies have been adopted within our existing system of adult education and size up the opportunity.
  2. What does funding and purchasing look like? We explain the policies and funding streams that shape the market today, including emerging opportunities at the federal, state, local and philanthropic levels.
  3. Who are the adult learners and what are their needs? We spend a lot of time with this question, sharing perspectives from the field to help entrepreneurs understand the real-world demands of practitioners, and think about use-cases and solutions.
  4. What can we borrow from technology trends we see in other education markets? Trends like mobile learning, blended learning and micro-credentials have strong potential in adult learning and we discuss how to effectively use them in this market.
  5. What types of partnership opportunities are there? No one is in this alone. There are a lot of opportunities for innovative partnerships within the adult learning sector and we lay out ideas for many potential collaborations with both public and private entities.

The time is now to jump-start our efforts to use educational technology to serve millions of adults who are eager to learn. So I invite you to dive in! Read the primer, find your inspiration, and join us in this quest to develop high-quality digital learning solutions for adult learners.

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