The big changes are yet to come: how has digitalisation changed education providers?

As part of EPALE’s focus on digital adult learning, I listened to the podcast „How has digitisation changed adult learning providers?„.

To anticipate: The participants (David Mallows, Markus Palmen, Simon Broek) had a broad, forward-looking and consructive view on the topic. I enjoyed it!

I liked that right at the beginning it was emphasised that digitalisation is a reality. It is here and it cannot be stopped. It can have a positive influence on adult education because digitalisation opens up more possibilities for us and because offers can become more attractive. My impression was: It is not that Palmen and Broek do not also see problems; but these are not reasons for them not to deal with it constructively.

I found it very interesting that a distinction was made between educational offers where „only“ the way the content is provided has changed and offers or digital possibilities that bring fundamental changes for educational providers. Offers where only the way of „delivering knowledge“ has changed – the „old“ e-learning, if you will – hardly bring any changes for educational providers. (In Germany, the mere provision of teaching-learning material on online platforms was already anxiety-provoking for some education providers).

A major impact on education providers and adult educators is expected from artificial intelligence (AI) applications. AI will mature quickly and become more cost-effective, Markus Palmen predicts. A big task for education providers will be to understand and apply this new technology and to be able to filter out what the good AI education tools and opportunities are.

Education providers will also have to make other offers in the course of the profound changes (and AI is only one aspect of this). Participants need to be empowered to deal with new learning opportunities, possibilities and tools. But it is not about how to use the tools; they are getting better and better, so that the use is unproblematic for most people. So we don’t need computer, smartphone or tool courses but educational offers that show people how to learn with these tools and possibilities. The difference was important: being able to use a tool does not at the same time mean that you know how to use the tool for learning (and thus for your own development). And we adult educators also need to learn how to use technology for educational purposes; it is no longer enough to know how to use something.

Moreover, adult education will have to deal much more with what people want to learn and / or should learn. What skills and competences are needed or useful (type of skills that people need)? This was illustrated by the example of Facebook: Today, the ability to communicate on Facebook is also a skill that is relevant for work and the workplace. Many multinational companies use Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) for internal communication. And of course, applicants who can communicate successfully in such networks have advantages. (I would like to add: I also know smaller companies that use ESNs very successfully within the company).

If you want to get an overview of the – often very enlightening – EPALE podcasts, have a look here: https://epale.ec.europa.eu/en/blog/epale-podcast-series