I am Brigita Tivca, the director of The Dobele Adult Education and Entrepreneurship Support Centre. The Adult Education and Entrepreneurship Support Centre has been implementing adult education in the county for 26 years. I have been with EPALE for almost as long as I have been working in adult education.
Digital skills and foreign language knowledge are vital for organising today's adult education
The Adult Education and Entrepreneurship Support Centre has been implementing adult education in the county for 26 years. As for many people in Latvia, the health crisis caused by Covid-19 imposed significant changes on our daily routines in Dobele. Employees and also adults who continued to be educated over this time quickly acquired and developed their digital skills by familiarising themselves with the online environment of Zoom, learned to present themselves in the online environment, and to design video reports as well as acquire other necessary skills.
Many of us had to change our attitude and learn new things through digital technologies. But we adapted rather quickly. We also learned to organise lessons in a 40-minute format, which is the maximum time that you can use Zoom for free. For adults, training continued during the state of emergency. The feelings at the time were as if someone had thrown us into a cold shower and we had to deal with the shock. We managed. We quickly acquired the digital skills we needed and now we know that training can be organised in this way as well. The distanced learning was funded by the municipality as well as by European projects that the Centre is involved in. The farmers engaged in biological farming were also trained in how to use Zoom.
I predict that it is likely that this autumn, The Dobele Adult Education and Entrepreneurship Support Centre will also run part of our trainings remotely by using digital technologies, but on-site trainings will return as well. Neither Zoom nor any other digital platform can replace the face-to-face environment and its impressions or exchange of experience, which is only available on site. Moreover, if practical skills are needed, it is not possible to train them in the digital environment.
Adult learning habits 10 or 15 years ago and today
As in other sectors, there have been, of course, rapid changes in the adult education sector in recent years. Learning methods, content, and learning patterns have changed over the years. Competition among teachers has also increased, so adults have the option to choose the teachers who contribute to increased quality during training. We have observed that, when participating in training, adults who are learning increasingly appreciate the time they have spent and the skills they have acquired. Those people who want to learn and do so have become more demanding about their teacher’s professionalism.
Two more specific trends in today's lifelong learning environment, which we did not think about 10 or 15 years ago. Distance or remote trainings play a particularly important role today. Their numbers have risen rapidly. Accordingly, as the form of training changes, learning methods, work tools and interaction are also changing. The other point to note is that it is impossible to do virtually anything without knowing foreign languages. Undeniably, the knowledge of foreign languages opens up opportunities to participate in conferences, seminars or trainings in any country. Foreign languages are also vital for the trainers to feel the world's breath and development trends, improve their professionalism and acquire a broad and modern vision of the world.
These days, when organising adult learning, we must simultaneously provide for three components. First, accurately explore the needs of the learners. Second, create a very useful and high-quality curriculum. Third, find a professional teacher and funding to cover it all. But, most important of all, win mutual satisfaction.
While the first step is obvious: we understand that the knowledge we provide to people is essential and necessary. The other steps are being addressed in different ways at our Centre for Adult Education and Entrepreneurship Support: by writing and implementing projects as well as by informing and convincing politicians about the importance of our work. Each situation is different, so the approach to each situation will vary as well. There is no uniform recipe that suits all.
Three skills that every adult needs
- To be aware of one’s own personality and develop the skills that bring us joy in the world where things and values are changing.
- Not to be afraid of the constant change and sometimes discomfort.
- To be able to motivate ourselves.
Three values that are useful for everyday work which I recommend to every educator of adults:
- Always start by finding a common understanding with learners about things they need to know and learn.
- Try to explain complex things as simply as possible and always illustrate their applicability in daily life.
- Feel the audience. Try to take pleasure from what you are doing. Never be arrogant.
[The story was written down and summarized by Kintija Bulava, EPALE Latvia]