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

As part of EPALE’s March focus on digital and e-learning, we would like to hear your views on how digital learning can be used in the Upskilling Pathways initiative.


As part of EPALE’s March focus on digital and e-learning, we would like to hear your views on how digital learning can be used in the Upskilling Pathways initiative.

The discussion will be moderated by EPALE’s Thematic Coordinator for Learning Environments, Simon Broek. Don’t miss this opportunity to share with the EPALE community your experience, views and questions about digital learning.

The discussion took place on 23 March 2017 at 2:00pm CET and we covered the following broader questions:

  1. 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)?
  2. What is needed at the level of the adult learning professional, the institution level and the policy level?

**This discussion has now beel closed.

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Hi Sonila, I have been impressed by the Open University (Northern Ireland) which has asked several deaf professionals to take part in a short online course and keep personal diaries on their learner needs. The underlying principle is that "success" is dependent on meeting the individualised needs of learners. In other words, deaf or other learners with disabilities should not be labelled as groups with identical needs. They are each individuals and any learning contract should take account of that. Good practice! 

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Dear Simon, Thank you for this question which allows me to bring some additional information. In the CLEA training courses, digital is both a learning object and a training tool for other basic learning: reading, writing, counting, and publishing and sharing ...

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I am Sonila Limaj, my interest in today´s discussion is because of two reasons: 1. I am the EPALE National Coordinator for Albania 2. As director of the National Agency of Vocational Education and Training, I struggle with the issue of upskilling adults for the labor market. And upskilling for the professional world builds upon basic skills. Digital tools represent opportunities and challenges in this respect.

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As part of my research, I am conducting observations during language courses (Dutch) for newcomers in Belgium, at the centers for basic education. Some of the centers and teachers integrate ICT in the language courses. Most of those newcomers already possess some 'basic digital skills', for example in using their smartphone to connect and communicate with family and friends all over the world. But by integrating ICT in the language courses, the adults also learn how to search for information online, how to navigate a computer, a website, ... What struck me most is that the adults are extremely motivated by these exercises which combine language and digital skills acquisition. ESPECIALLY, when the exercises are relevant to their daily life practices and are tailored to their needs. Some examples: using google to check the weather forecast, not only in Belgium, but also in their 'home country' or searching for plane tickets in order to visit their family. So what are success factor in implementing digital practices?

  • Relevance
  • Tailored to meet their personal needs
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Hello everybody! My name is Veronika Tuul, I’m from Estonia, I’m EPALE ambassador.

I think one of the success factor is the practical support for adult educator. In my opinion, the adult educators are left alone with the urge to use technology in learning, but I think most probably they need practical help. Some organisations (more in educational sector) use instructional designer and educational technologists for that. These professionals help with the technology but also with the learning designing. Use of technology is not up to readiness to use technology, but also the new approach to learning – how to wider the learning using technology.

I think we must take actions to raise awareness of the instructional designers also in adult education. 

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Thank you for the focus, Simon.

One example that comes to mind is a particular app that was created in Sweden for children on the first grades of elementary school. It allows them to start writing before they have done learning how to read. The app was adapted in Norway for use with adults in need of initial literacy training (less politically correct: analphabets), and it has had incredibly good results. Adults CAN as a matter of fact acquire basic digital competence while they are on their first steps of the literacy continuum. And once they have learnt that basic digital competence there are many other apps they can use to enhance ALL their basic skills, including what my Norwegian colleagues call "everyday apps", apps developed for everyday needs, which can also be used for learning.

Will post some links here in a sec!

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... what the app does is to allow adults to practice their very first steps in reading. The method does rely only on one of the methods used to teach children to read (letter combination, not visual "grasping" of a complete word), and that is probably the most usual way adults use for that first encounter with the process of reading.

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In the Netherlands, the most comprehensive platform for basic skills acquisition through digital tools is

It has a wide range of programmes which include exercises to practice all kinds of basic skills. The aim is to support adults to gain confidence in using the basic skills and to re-gain the join in learning

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I am part of the German EPALE-Team. I am also part of the German National Coordination Point of The European Agenda for Adult Learing (NCP EAAL). With the NCP EAAL we did a conference at the beginning of this month with the topic "Basic Skills in Digital Change".   

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Sorry I'm a bit late - I'm Gina from EAEA and resposnible for the theme of learners' support in epale.

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I am Céline Cocquyt, researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). My research interests go out to adult (basic) education, the implementation of ICT-practices in adult (basic) education, and the effects on social inclusion of adult learners. Looking forward to the discussion! 

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My name is Brian Caul, EPALE ambassador, Chair of CRAICNI and a volunteer with Action on Hearing Loss (Northern Ireland). In the last few days, I have published a two part blog on "E-Learning and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners".

I do hope that members will comment on the challenges in the blog, both for educators and organizations for people with disabilities. As we "upskill" our digital and e-learning abilities, it is vitally important to take account of the needs of people with disabilities. I would love to hear from anyone with ideas or indeed innovative projects which are relevant to these challenges. 

My concerns about enabling equality of opportunity in accessing e-learning really apply to a wide range of potential learners with disabilities, whether they be deaf, hard of hearing, visually impaired or who have difficulties in manual dexterity. 

Please engage with me in this discussion. All ideas welcome. 

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Thanks Brian,

I agree with your point that we need to take in account the wide range of learners and considerable individual needs regarding access to tools and services. This includes basic access to the internet: In a recent Ofcom report in the UK one in five people with disabilities still lack internet access; older people, and those with disabilities or low incomes are still facing online barriers. Despite an increase in individuals with disabilities using smartphones and tablets up to 57% (2016) this is considerably fewer than individuals without disabilities. It is evident we need to consider the initial access available.

There is an interesting blog post by Lisa Featherstone on JISC that may have already came across: ‘How can you make resources accessible for those with disabilities?’ It was interesting to see the short video on ‘Accessing Text’ – conveying information other than by text. There are many best practices that providers can take on board to make there learning environment more inclusive and plenty of digital tools to support them. An example could be by installing and supporting accessible content creation tools like Xerte Online Toolkits which allow tutors to create visually rich learning resources.



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The first topic to touch upon is the following:

How do we ensure that digital tools provide a valuable contribution in providing basic skills for all adults (i.e. making ‘upskilling pathways a reality’)?

I would like to ask you to focus on the following aspects:

  • What are examples of quality use of digital tools for basic skills acquisition?
  • What are success factors?


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I'm a dean of Digital Competences Faculty at Utena Third Age University, Lithuania. For many years, I work in digital competences development field as training process organizer and computer literacy trainer.  

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I realize I haven't answered to the last question for the introductions. 

I am by no means an expert in pedagogical use of ICT, but I did start working on that theme about 25 years ago and feel quite passionally that our sector has been incredibly slow in embracing the possibilities that digital tools offer for our different target groups. 

We have rested on the excuse that the infrastructure was too costly. The development in recent years has almost completely destroyed that excuse... Mobile devices are more and more affordable. We simply need to learn how to use them wisely!

Looking forward to this discussion!


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Indeed - using them wisely is a point that's often overlooked! There's a great potential in mobile devices for education, but little is said about what using them actually entails. This is also why at EAEA we joined a project that aims at raising awareness of how to safely use mobile devices. It's called "Smart Generation" and we have just finished working on a pedagogical model - the partners are now starting the testing phase.

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Yes, there are many possibilities using mobile phones. This issue is important, and the level of discussion should be raised in each country. I think the citizens are not aware of all advantages for learning this way.
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I totally agree! Based on my research, I can say that 29 out of 30 interviewees have a smartphone available. So why not use these devices more for adult education and adult learning? Let's develop a blended learning approach in which face-to-face moments are supplemented by personalised and interactive mobile learning. Interaction, online or face-to-face, is key!

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Hi Graciela,

Apologies all for being late on the conversation!

Just a thought I wanted to share in response to your comment:

In the UK the office for National Statistics in 2016 published statistics on internet usage amongst adults in Great Britain. In 2016, 70% of adults accessed the internet ‘on the go’ using a mobile phone or smartphone. Mobiles and smartphones continue to be the most popular device to access the internet. With this in mind and in relation to your comment it is also important to understand what activities are undertaken when accessing the internet using mobile phones and smartphones.

Of the internet activities surveyed in 2016, the most popular activity completed online by adults was sending/receiving emails (79%). Around 65% of adults aged 16-24 uploaded content created by them to a website (highest percentage by age group) with less than 20% of those aged 65+ doing the same activity.

By understanding how we use the internet, the activities undertaken, the better place we will be in to adapt the online learning experience.

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Hi everyone,

I'm the EPALE Community Manager for NSS UK. Looking forward to today's discussion!

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Hi colleagues! I am Birgit Aschemann from CONEDU (Austria), member of the ET2020 working group on Adult Learning (on behalf of the Austrian ministry of Education). I focus on basic skills and CPD for basic skills trainers/teachers in research and practice since 2008

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I am Graciela Sbertoli, and I work at Skills Norway. I will be writing here on behalf of the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN, as well as in my role of team leader for the Norwegian EPALE NSS. Looking forward to meeting you all!

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The aim of the discussion is share ideas and get inspired on how do we ensure that digital tools provide a valuable contribution in providing basic skills for all adults.

The discussion will focus on two main topics:

  • How do we ensure that digital tools provide 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 level of the institution; the policy level to ensure effective use of digital tools?

Before we start the discussion could all participants indicate:

  • who they are
  • where they come from
  • where they work
  • how they relate to the topic of digital tools in basic skills acquisition
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