Opinion – Digital learning and the way forward for informal education

Eliphas Shilongo

The challenges facing the education sector are myriad, but the pandemic has also prompted the adoption of digital learning techniques that help maintain a semblance of normality. From virtual classrooms, online exams and conducting assessments to monitoring the mental well-being of adult learners. It is recognized that the digital revolution has a double impact on adult learning systems and requires rethinking the way learning takes place and anticipating the removal of traditional mixed forms of teaching and learning. The international community recognizes that the application of digital technology in adult learning has the potential to increase access, quality, equity and relevance of learning activities in adult education and to respond positively to the industrial revolution, provided that certain conditions are met.

Furthermore, digital inclusion will strike a balance by examining the potential impact of technological trends on formal and informal education, it is confirmed that digital technologies, with their much-studied potential for innovation, can also introduce new dynamics exclusion and exacerbate the problems of marginalized groups, especially in the current situation of social distancing and online learning caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This article focuses on the digital inclusivity of adult learning, which can achieve inclusion of specific groups that are at risk of being excluded, such as women, the unemployed, offenders or prisoners, displaced persons and migrants after Covid-19. Digital interventions in the field of adult education are in high demand among current users to achieve optimistic results and mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed great disparities in digital access. It has clearly demonstrated that the lack of access to high-speed internet connections, internet-enabled devices and digital skills training disproportionately affects low-income adults and members of less privileged communities to provide and obtain the access to digital learning platforms.

Covid-19 has highlighted not only the need for a national role in expanding broadband access to all parts of the country, but also the need to invest in educational technology. Adult educators can clearly see the value of having a connected digital classroom in addition to the long-awaited face-to-face.

An online presence allows them to lessen their personal and social responsibilities while pursuing their studies. A fully integrated digital adult education framework would provide clear and well-articulated pathways and benchmarks for developing the skills and knowledge needed to achieve and maintain quality learning and teaching, and would make these services available to all adult learners who need it.

Digital platforms have often been the first to be deployed to enable adult learners to continue learning from home; indeed, they are generally the most effective learning modality for setting up and running certain forms of learning. However, they have the lowest range. In some regions, digital platforms reach less than 10% of the population. This is because they require electricity, reliable internet connectivity, as well as enough devices for adult learners in the household, especially devices with good features and capabilities, and a large enough screen size. Moreover, another element of the digital divide concerns the digital literacy deficit, an obstacle that can be even more difficult to overcome during this pandemic.

The role of digital technology could eventually serve as the oxygen that has permeated every aspect of our lives with the advent of Covid-19. As noted earlier, several organizations have transitioned almost entirely to distributed remote and virtual work, which is no exception to informal or formal education. Social gatherings use conferencing tools to sometimes include video and this could be equated with adult learning, digital technologies are taking on an even bigger role in social life and entertainment. Also, understand its role in learning, ranging from workplace and social conferencing and social media to the provision of streaming services in general. Online platforms could change the work of adult education promoters and learners affected by the pandemic. New standards may evolve regarding what is acceptable and what is excessive in terms of the use of various technologies or technology-based services, for example streaming services. More broadly, all relevant adult education actors need to deepen digital platforms for learning and simultaneously mitigate Covid-19.

*Eliphas Shilongo is an education and business management specialist, currently pursuing a PhD with a focus on digitalization of adult education at the University of Namibia. The opinions expressed here are his own. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

2022-06-10 Staff reporter

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