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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



EPALE discussion summary: How can digital learning be used in the Upskilling Pathways initiative?

by Simon BROEK
Language: EN


As part of EPALE’s March focus on digital and e-learning, EPALE invited everyone to let your views heard on how digital learning can be used in the Upskilling Pathways initiative.

As a reminder, the Upskilling Pathways initiative aims to help adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent (level 3 or 4 in the European Qualifications Framework depending on national circumstances).

The three steps proposed in the Upskilling Pathways initiative are:

  • a skills assessment to identify existing skills and upskilling needs
  • a learning offer designed around this assessment
  • opportunities to have skills acquired validated and recognised

The discussion took place on 23 March 2017 between 14:00 and 17:00 CET and it covered two key questions:

  • How do we ensure that digital tools have a valuable contribution in providing basic skills for all adults (i.e. making Upskilling Pathways a reality)?
  • What is needed at the level of the adult learning professional, the institution level and the policy level?

In total, more than 200 comments were placed by numerous participants in what can be called a very lively debate. Below you’ll find my reflections on the outcomes of the discussion.


How do we ensure that digital tools have a valuable contribution in providing basic skills for all adults (i.e. making Upskilling Pathways a reality)?

Many participants provided examples of good practices in using digital tools in basic skills acquisition.

Using mobile devices for education:


There was a particular discussion on digital tools for those with disabilities.



Use of digital tools to support literacy training:



Other participants mentioned country-specific approaches for low-skilled adults:



And finally, some participants represented ongoing Erasmus+ project focusing on the topic.



The discussion also highlighted some success factors for learning:

  • relevant
  • tailored to life of the learners
  • individualised and not based on stereotypes
  • accessible (via own device/phone)
  • supported or provided in a blended way

Participants also agreed that professionals need to be qualified and have expertise in using digital tools.

Some contributions are worth-presenting here in full as well:




What is needed at the level of the adult learning professional; the level of the institution; the policy level to ensure effective use of digital tools?

Here the discussion moved towards what needs to be done at different levels to make better use of digital tools for basic skills acquisition.

We saw that many of the participants have clear ideas where there are challenges:

  • Digital is not for all (some might miss out if provision is primarily online). Policy makers need to be aware of this.
  • Professionals should be able to deal with digital tools
  • Digital needs to be used for quality reasons not out of efficiency reasons
  • All learning (also digital learning) should be attuned to individual needs
  • Intergenerational learning could provide an answer in the workplace

This is definitely not the end of this discussion but rather, the start of continued fruitful exchanges, either bilateral or on EPALE. I hope that this discussion adds to the knowledge base of all those involved in adult learning across Europe.

Simon Broek has been involved in several European research projects on education, labour market issues and insurance business. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and European Agencies on issues related to education policies, lifelong learning, and labour market issues, and is Managing Partner at Ockham Institute of Policy Support.

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