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EPALE discussion: the future of adult learning

On Wednesday 8 July 2020, starting from 10 a.m. CEST until 4 p.m., EPALE will be hosting an online discussion on the future of adult learning. Let’s discuss about  the future of the adult learning sector and the new challenges and opportunities. The online discussion will be facilitated by EPALE Expert Gina Ebner, Secretary-General of EAEA.

Online discussion future of adult learning.

On Wednesday 8 July 2020, starting from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. CEST, EPALE will be hosting an online discussion on the future of adult learning.

  • How do you imagine the future of the adult learning sector in the next five or ten years?
  • What do you think will happen – and what would you like to happen?
  • What new challenges and opportunities will emerge?


We invite all members of the EPALE community to share their ideas about the future of adult learning with us: ambitious or cautious, optimistic or worried.

Share your experiences, tips, case studies and good practices with the EPALE community! 

Please join our online discussion, facilitated by EPALE Expert Gina Ebner, Secretary-General of EAEA.


Comments will be open on 29 June so participants can introduce themselves or post their comments in advance.

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Die Erwachsenenbildung wird in Zukunft noch mehr an Bedeutung gewinnen, da Spezialisierungen in den Berufsbildern noch stärker im Fokus stehen werden. Die akademische Grundsausbildung allein reicht nicht aus, um auf dem Markt bestehen zu bleiben. Aktuelle rechtliche, wissenschaftliche und politische Entwicklungen sind Herausforderungen, die man mit Fortbildungsmaßnahmen meistern kann.

Die Pandemie hat uns unfreiwillig aufgezeigt, dass man auch von zu Hause aus online an Weiterbildungsmaßnahmen teilnehmen kann. Wahrscheinlich werden Online-Angebote weiterhin stark gefragt werden. Allerdings erhoffe ich mir, dass Präsenzveranstaltungen stärker im Vordergrund stehen werden.

Die globale Vernetzung von Weiterbildungsanbietern bietet neue Chancen und Möglichkeiten, um das Angebot zu verbessern und bedeutet für die Lernenden auch einen Mehrwert an Informationen und Qualifikationen.

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In these times of change, it is difficult to predict what changes in education will occur in the next 10 years. But I suppose that most of the educational institutions will switch to online learning with the digilization of educational material. There will be no more unnecessary printouts and paper training materials. In my opinion, the transition to online training solves two problems at once. Firstly, it is easier for the teacher to control the behavior in the class, children do not ride on chairs, do not interfere, do not distract and do not create chaos. Secondly, the transition to digital educational materials is a step towards saving natural resources. I myself really enjoy teaching online, I find only pluses in this.

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In these times of change, it is difficult to predict what changes in education will occur in the next 10 years. But I suppose that most of the educational institutions will switch to online learning with the digilization of educational material. There will be no more unnecessary printouts and paper training materials. In my opinion, the transition to online training solves two problems at once. Firstly, it is easier for the teacher to control the behavior in the class, children do not ride on chairs, do not interfere, do not distract and do not create chaos. Secondly, the transition to digital educational materials is a step towards saving natural resources. I myself really enjoy teaching online, I find only pluses in this.

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In our technology age, adult learning opportunities are becoming increasingly important. It is accessible, but there is a need to provide significant support for the acquisition of digital skills by older people, at a time of rapid change, as adults are able to acquire and develop new skills in order to compete in the labor market. Older people are scared of technologies and they refuse to use them. We need to show them, that technologies are not the monsters and they can help to easier our everyday work. Especially in teaching, there are lot of older teachers who needs to learn work with technologies.

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I totally agree.  We must embark in adult learning programmes where the 60+ cohort are acquainted with new technologies to create new opportunities in these difficult times.

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Mūsu globālajā laikmetā pieaugušo izglītošanās iespējām ir arvien būtiskāka nozīme. Tā ir pieejama, bet jāsniedz būtisks atbalsts digitālo prasmju apguvei gados vecākām personām, la laikmeta straujo izmaiņu tempos, pieaugušie spēj apgūt un attīstīt jaunas prasmes, lai spētu konkurēt  darba tirgū.

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Papildus izglītošanās, mūsdienās, ir nepieciešama, it īpaši pieaugušajiem. Pasaule mainās tik strauji, ka pieaugušie, un it īpaši senjori, nevar nosekot līdzi visām izmaiņām. Bet, biezi vien, pieaugušiem vai nu nav laika, vai nav vēlmes, vai nav informācijas par vispārīgām izglītošanas iespējām. Šim nolūkam ir pieejama mājas lapa, kur ir pieejami vairāki kursi, dažādos priekšmetos, profesijām un valodās, kuri ir domāti tieši pieaugušajiem. Pieaugušajiem ir jāatgādina vai jādod iespēju uzzināt par izglītošanās iespējām.

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Adult learning in the future: better, faster, more. Learning as an adult has never been easier or more accessible. With technology making distance learning a very real and affordable prospect, people are becoming ever more in control of shaping their own careers. The trend is leaning far more towards vocational learning becoming more and more desirable – both for employers looking to fill skills gaps and for learners looking for a profitable and stable career. Adult learning is also becoming inescapable. The landscape of work life has changed. It’s now essential to keep upskilling to keep up with how quickly technologies and practices change.
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Dear all,
thank you so much for your contributions, which have made a really lively discussion! Both EPALE and EAEA will continue to work on this topic, so do keep up with the activities.
Hope to talk to you soon again,
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I’ve tried to select some ideas of my colleagues and here is a summary as a contribution.
From ACEFIR team we want to share with all of you a few of our concerns on the specific topic of DIGITALISATION , ie ONLINE LEARNING & COMMUNICATION related to the FUTURE OF ADULT EDUCATION, 
 First PROS & CONS according to our own experience in Catalonia:
 - Pros: 
Without the possibility of online learning and communication in Catalonia the Academic Schoolyear would have ended in February. 
So at least some of us have been able to continue learning in other conditions 
- Problems: 
Learners without technology (device or connection) 
Learners who do not know how to use technology 
People who don’t know how to take advantage of technology effectively 
 Then how we see it for the next three years: 
-Take Political Action because Technology (connection & the necessary equipment) needs to become a universal good the same way electricity and water are. 
-As teachers, we must provide students with the minimum knowledge necessary to use these technologies. 
 -Avoid fashions and teach what is considered essential 
-Accompany students in making them learn how to take advantage of the benefits of technology . 
. Reinforce Teacher Training Offer 
we agree that Digital Training is one of the key points, but we have to think first about the Teachers who have found themselves unprepared to face the present situation. 
. Think about the support to the elderly 
 Most of them unprepared for this Digitalized World, which has been suddenly imposed by the pandemic . 
.Training people in Critical Thinking 
Without a critical thinking mindset, it will be very difficult to improve the quality of our life and work. People need to be taught how to distinguish fake news. 
So we believe that Critical Thinking is also an outstanding key point in the Future of AE. 
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hopefully  i believe that the 75% of adults could attend safely  most of their  educational aspects  through  technology which i believe that is going to be more advanced than in our days 
i wish that everybody could have a chance for adults education and especially senior citizens ,but because miracles take a little longer let's all of us get together to materialize good ideas and countries with more wealth and progress help the ones that though their putting a lot of effort cannot invest in money and time as much as other countries .
Step by step and with a lot of hard work   the problem with adult education in pour countries should be minimized
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Let me focus on just one area: basic skills. We face the problem that many people who actually need some support in the fields of reading, writing, calculating, financial literacy do not attend courses in adult education. How to reach these people through easy low-barrier service? So if you ask what I would like to happen – more / better targeted approach to these people because basic skills enable their participation in society. 
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I believe adult learning will be much more digital in the future. And this can be a great opportunity to engage and motivate much people to keep learning. it will happen very fast, much much more than we can imagine because technology changes are accelerating too quickly.
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Probably what WILL  Education and training will be a very strong digitalisation of learning processes. But teachers, trainers WILL be essential to try to correct inequalities created by digital gaps. What WILL be appearing in 10 years, it will be new methodologies of digital learning, where processes will have more interactions between lerners and trainers.
What I would LIKE is that the crisis of CORONAVIRUS  revealed the importance of Humans, and of social responses to an exterior problem. Then I'd LIKE that this dynamic will not desappear to favour as in the ancient times the role of economye and market. The health crisis revealed  the necessity to put human being in the centre of our social and civil life. I'd LIKE that we are not coming back to our errors : one market creating inequalities. And education , training in the centre of human processes for a better life
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Let's move to the last part of the discussion: what will happen to adult learning and education in the next 10 years? I would like to ask you to consider two aspects: what do you think WILL happen? What would you LIKE to happen? We can then see how close our wishes and visions are to the reality that we imagine
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In our work society, performance counts more than experience. You engage yourself in deep learning, but what matters is not effectiveness, but cheating. So, what is happening now will be twice as much in the future. Secondly, abroad experiences for aged adults should be really guaranteed as well as for young people. Of course, terms of appliance should be different. Thank you so much
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I think here is a negative trend in Europe that most governments have given up the idea of Educatio for All and this means that sources and resources of inclusive tools and measures are melting which would enable vulnerable groups of adult to participate in learning for jobs, for example, and thereby strengthen ther social status.  
I would like to see the EU to reconfigurate its policy on Adult Learning and support a wider spectrum of actions from basic skills development to VET, from second chance schooling to university lifelong learning and from promoting reading books both in traditional forms or through digital devices. EAEA and EPALE can do many things to campaign on this! 
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I think in 10 years organizations will take more care in mapping hard and soft skills of their employees and collaborators, in order to deliver learning contents which on one side can increase resilience and adaptability levels of organisations themselves on the other side contribute to personal development and increased individuals wellbeing. What I wish instead is that a growing number of adults understand how important is to access to continuous learning, be aware of who they are and where they want to go (within 2 - 5 - 10 years) and autonomously build their learning path, integrating personal and professional goals.
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Hopefully we will not return to the dominance of analogue offers. The pandemic has shown in some places what potential the digital space can offer and under which conditions digital learning spaces can simplify and support learning.
an exchange of information on the success factors of good teaching in the digital world would be an important step towards the further professionalization of digital learning opportunities.
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What will happen:There will be less money available for adult education.There will be funding especially for vocational education / training for the labor market. What would you like to happen:Learning should be seen as an important competence (also at the political level), which serves personal and social development to the same extent.I would like to shift the focus from 'learning certain skills' to 'self-learning competence'. And all learners should have uncomplicated opportunities to make their competencies visible.
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1. Knowledge is everywhere and always available and the amount is increasing
2. The network-society will grow, with more people working at home. 
3. From adult education towards network-learning: social learning in communities of practice supported by learning environments varying from pictures, youtube videos, MOOCs, webinars, online discussions, and of course meeting each other. Meeting places to learn can be everywhere in will be informally lead by the CoP
4. More and more activities that require Skills will be taken over by machines and robots
5. The labour market will be harder to deal with. It will be a competence-market with the competence suppliers (person, ICT program, robot) and the competence-demand (all activities in life: at home, in learning environments, for work, for hobby,..)
6. Fewer jobs, especially for low-skilled and elderly. Special attention will be given to work-life balance and guidance
7. The changes will go faster and will be irregular: work-security is getting lower
8. the too slow change of personal and societal mental models
and most important:
9. Less funding for education, training and support services such as career guidance and counselling, as we still have to deal with and to recover from Covid-19 (still ongoing), in the middle of an unprecedented economic crisis and have to pay the next 10 years the bill (in money and in-kind) for dealing with all the crises.
1. learning, playing and working becomes a continuity from birth till death  
     (a deep wish, while I´ve seen too many examples of 
       - how education has killed creativity, innovation, resilience, 
       - how people have de-learned to PLAY, 
       - how more youngsters have become individualists/narcists)
2. sustainable self-management of competences: everybody becomes
3 a continuous flow/change of work activities in which the moment of ´retirement´ becomes unimportant for learning, will be part of the continuous change
4. Prepare people (make them competent) for a smooth transition from human work/education towards cooperation between man and intelligent and collaborative machines
The policy has to change from supporting education and learning programs (supply-driven) towards programs for "communicative self-steering" in the development and applying of competences and transfer the ownership to them (demand-driven)
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Many of you have already mentioned the social and communal aspects of adult learning and education. Learners attend also in order to meet other people, to become part of a (learning) community, to get and to give support. Where do you think are we going in this respect? Will this become more important? Less? What should we as adult educators do?
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I think learning communities and learning together will continue to be important. However, there will be noticeable changes: Many people will teach themselves small units of knowledge alone. For example, technical functions (as you, Gina, told it with your camera), questions about software use ... topics that have clear questions and therefore clear answers.
But especially with larger, more complex learning topics, holistic learning and the joy of learning together will continue to exist.
However, there will also be changes here: There will be more learning online and we will have to pay much more attention on the joy of learning. So far, in digital learning we have been looking very closely at the learning process, how we present content well, how we activate participants and also how they can work together. We look little at the big picture. We design the learning process, but not the break times, we do not encourage normal break talk, which often shapes the atmosphere and the sense of community in face-to-face courses. If we want to maintain and promote the social aspects of adult education, we still have a lot of work to do. Being close and having a community is also possible online, as shown by social networks and my own e-learning experience (I made great friends online). But to achieve that we need a different view: people should be the focus, the learning topic only brings them together.
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I think you tube is not a good tool. In fact, it's very "old fashion". You listen, you see, but there is not interaction. Then if you want learn in a very descendant way it's ok. You receive as learner information. But I think that we need to find new methods to put the learner in the center of the learning process. That invariable definition of learning is important
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I do agree with you, generally! But let me take an example, where I used YouTube myself: I bought a new camera and was interested in some features that I did not know how they worked. A YouTube video of half an hour helped me understand it. For a technical explanation, where I did not really want interaction, this was perfect
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I agree. Yesterday I repaired my Roomba  with the help od tutorial on YouTube. I did save money, however I simply solved  an urgent  issue rather then actually learning something new. No matter how modern or popular it is at the moment, no guarantee for quality learning.  

We simply have a new, different  medium of information, that does not allow for student  or teacher feedback not the interaction.  

Teaching and learning have had the same theoretical base for a  long time.

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My imagination of adult education in 10+ years: Every employee should be entitled to use 5 working hours per week to learn whatever comes into mind - collaboratively or individually, online during the working day or offline in courses and seminars.
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Some companies have tried this already, with great success. It's wonderful idea and truly instills the idea of learning for expanding interests (not necessarily what's necessary or useful for the job). The transferability of skills is often overlooked and maybe this finds a bigger echo if something like free learning time was implemented.
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I would like too. I do learn by myself for  my public administration work, but in spare time and for my personal  fulfillment. Still nowadays mayors prefer executors than thinking subjects.
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TV and videos have already been mentioned. In a recent discussion with colleagues, YouTube was brought up as a learning opportunity. Some people said that YouTube will replace a lot of more technical training (especially for younger people comfortable with the medium, who will go directly to YouTube rather than look for a course).
What do you think? 
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lots of adults have recognised the benefits from on-line structures where different kind of knowledge-transfer can be achieved! For example, Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc hahve enabled many people to combine sound, picture, text, live communication with recorded contents, etc. I think it is useful to some extent, but we need to promote learning in real communities to break down skills shortages, inequalities, alienation and prejudices to rule much of our communications and connections. Instead , learning may help, as Maximilan has clained, to overcome illiteracies, being underskilled or excluded. We still have to collect and share good practices through EPALE and make decision-makers at EU Council level that this is the most challenging times when adult learning has to be developed for/by European citizensd for those three Cs Maximilian correctly underlined!
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Her's what I thought we would still do in the afternoon: we now spend another hour or so discussing the topics and issues that have come up. For the last one / two hours I would like us to use our imagination (together with experience and knowledge of course ;-) - adult learning and education in 10 years or even later. 
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We know some experiences in France for "old learners", especially retired people. One mutual dedicated to people who was working in the field of education create groups of retired persones who meet about cultural projects, exchanging experiences. Associations in the field of non formal education organise also activities for retired people. In rural areas, you have what we call "club du 3ème âge". But in general it's more leisure time activities, and not trainings. In training 2 experiences : Université du temps libre (it's close to study circles in Sweden) or "université populaire" where courses and trainings are organised (some of them for retired people). Some of them are presented in EPALE
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Hi folks, when we talk about the future of adult learning we have to talk about digital literacy. The digital literacy debate is not new. And yet it is still relevant. We need new (or better: contemporary) formats in adult education to provide teachers and learners with learning spaces to develop these competences. I think both DigCompEdu and 21st Century Skills have already laid a good foundation on which we can build. Blended learning formats can be such learning spaces. Blended Learning is well known, but the challenges of a contemporary design are still relevant. Do you have any experience with (social-)blended-learning-formats, best practice or lessons learned that you want to share here?
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We have bundled our experiences from a state project with the design and implementation of social-blended-learning formats in a small brochure. It is published under CC-BY-SA license, but unfortunately only in German. Of course it can be transferred and translated. So feel free to use and distribute it.
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The development of qualifications of adult educators through establishing the international network and to enable comparison between countries, ensuring the flow of information about adult education, including raising awareness by the INTALL, is truly impressive. I mean, this implementation could be a catalyzer to mobilizing the adult educators for better. On the other side, Generally, I agree with Balázs Bánk Németh on Collaborative actions, between universities and adult education organizations. However, adult education is multilateral and covers the whole community, therefore this collaboration should be between all parties as interdisciplinary. 
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Dear Sadife,
Thank you for your comment! I totally agree with you on your remark, I do think adult education is a good platform foe higher education to collect and share with a number of stakeholders and partners in the development of adult learning! This is the same with representative organisations of senior citizens, with who we can improve intergenerational learning based on their work and experience.
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Collaboration is one of the most important competences for the shaping of digital transformation and thus for the future of adult education. Together with the other three Cs - communication, creativity and critical thinking - it should in future be included to a much greater extent in the learning objectives of adult education events. 
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