Supporting adult educators in becoming ambassadors of digital transition

The DigitALAD project aimed to support adult educators in becoming more digitally competent and confident, and to develop quality resources for adult education staff to use in their daily practice.

“The DigitALAD project came at the right time, since we realised the benefits of digitalisation. The timing has been right due to the pandemic and the “violent” remote learning that came into our lives. We know there is a great need for digital skills, and adult education classes have been frozen during the pandemic,” says Demos Michael from CARDET, Cyprus, one of the project partners.

This is undeniably true. As all teaching had to be moved to virtual spaces, adult educators frequently found themselves out of depth. Inadequate equipment, issues with connectivity, but most importantly a lack of confidence in using digital tools or facilitating interactions in a virtual environment: throughout the pandemic, many have expressed their need for more support.

The kick-off meeting of the DigitALAD project took place in Nicosia, Cyprus, in January 2020.

Quality and problem-solving at the heart of the project

Although the DigitALAD project kicked off a few months before the pandemic entered our lives, the results that were foreseen proved to be particularly relevant in the difficult times of online teaching. More specifically, project results include a handbook for adult educators, based on the Digital Competence Framework for Adult Educators (DigCompEdu), and an e-learning space, in which they can assess their own competences and try out new tools.

“The project will enable educators to grab the problem and improve the quality of their teaching, and so it should support the learners. It also totally enters the logic of lifelong education,” says Annika Ribordy from the Swiss Federation for Adult Learning.

The use of DigCompEdu throughout the project is particularly useful, as it provides a transparent and comprehensive reference frameworks against which adult educators can follow their progress. “It is researched-backed and presents a total of competences which are necessary for the adult educators, as well as educators of any age,” comments Demos Michael. “Considering that there is no standardised education for the digital skills training, this project can prove to be especially beneficial for information, searching digital tools, and for organising relevant training.”

DigitALAD training materials have been implemented in partner countries with success. Participants of the DigitALAD training programme have appreciated the opportunity to access high-quality materials free of charge. Project results indicate that quality of offers and policy support for professional development of adult educators in the area of digital competence still leave much to be improved.  Although there are diverse tools available, many adult educators have not been introduced to them or do not think of them as useful for professional purposes.

Adult educators as ambassadors of digital transition: the way ahead

“As in all countries, and substantiated by the literature in adult education as well, adult educators sustain both personal as well as contextual situational barriers to embracing opportunities for professional development,” commented Professor Marcie Boucouvalas, Professor of Human Development and Adult Learning and Human Resource Development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and member of the Adult Education Hall of Fame. Professor Boucouvalas had been interviewed by the Greek partner, University of Aegean, in the framework of IO4: Policy recommendations.

As the transnational policy recommendations report shows, more needs to be done to ensure that all adults have access to high-quality learning opportunities, including adult educators. More investment in non-formal adult education, focusing not only on equipment but also on adult education staff, is crucial to achieve a digital transition that does not leave anyone behind. A holistic approach to learning is also key in ensuring that technology is not an end in itself, but a tool to make learning more accessible. Adult educators need support to be able to participate in professional development and to act as ambassadors of the digital transition. The complete transnational report, including policy recommendations, is now available.

DigitALAD: Preparing Adult Educators for a Digital World was an Erasmus+ KA2 project which started on 1 November 2019 and will close on 31 October 2021. The project was coordinated by the University of Latvia and includes six other partners: University of Aegean (Greece), Centre for Advancement of Research and Development in Educational Technology LTC  – CARDET – (Cyprus), Rural hub  (Ireland), INNOVADE  (Cyprus), JAITEK Tecnología y Formación (Spain) and the European Association for the Education of Adults  – EAEA (Belgium).