EPALE Thematic Coordinator Simon Broek reflects on the latest guidelines from UNESCO and Pearson for Designing Inclusive Digital Solutions and Developing Digital Skills and how it applies to adult learning.
UNESCO and Pearson recently published guidelines for applying digital solutions against digital exclusion. The guidelines focus on the digital inclusion of low-literate and low-skilled people around the globe. The guidelines are intended for providers of digital solutions, development organisations, government agencies that support the design and development of digital solutions, and policymakers who use the guidelines to create inclusive policies and regulatory frameworks.
Although the focus of the guidelines is not specifically on ‘Europe’ or on ‘adults’, they still can be very relevant in the context of adult learning in Europe. Also, the increasing online world demands from all Europeans to be able to work, live, learn and communicate online. Without these skills, it is hardly possible to participate fully in society. Those who lack these skills are in danger of marginalisation.
UNESCO proposes the following guidelines, which offer a set of recommendations for greater digital inclusion of people with low skills and low literacy:
1. Design with the users, focusing on their needs and context
It is crucial to gain a deep understanding of the target users and follow proven practices to design with – not for – them, in a manner sensitive to the particular challenges. This includes:
- Understanding the users and their ecosystem
- Following best practice user-centred design approaches
- Beware of challenges when designing with low-skilled and low-literate users
2. Focus on users’ digital skills and competences
Seemingly obvious, but still important to firmly state is that solutions need to be developed from an understanding of users’ access and comfort levels with technology. This includes:
- Supporting the development of digital skills and competences of users
- Benchmarking and tracking the digital skills and competences of users
3. Ensure the clarity and relevance of content for low-skilled and low-literate users
In general, content works best when it is kept simple and is deemed trustworthy by the target audience. Having content created by the end-users can help in this regard. This requires:
- Developing a content strategy to meet users’ needs
- Creating content that is simple, clear and trustworthy
- Designing content for group or mediated digital usage
4. Use appropriate media and tailor user interface for low-skilled and low-literate users
Digital solution design can best serve low-literate and low-skilled users by using appropriate media mixes, being driven by user capabilities and the technology context of the users. This requires:
- Considering mixing media and input methods for low-skilled and low-literate users
- Designing for low-skilled and low-literate users for maximum usability
5. Provide initial and ongoing training and support
There is a real need to provide training and support to low-literate users as they encounter digital solutions for the first time (onboarding process) and then continue with usage. This includes:
- Embedding support into the digital solution design
- Maximizing the human elements in training and support
6. Constantly monitor, measure and improve
Analysis of usage data is critical for driving effective system management. It can indicate whether project and user goals are being met, and if not, it can point to where changes may be needed. This requires:
- Ensuring appropriate data are being collected and tracked in a safe and accountable way
- Including the full range of stakeholders in data analysis
Embark on a learning journey?
The guidelines clearly tick the boxes of adult learning principles, that learning should be designed and developed with the learners; that it should be aligned with their skill levels; and it should involve human support and guidance and continuous monitoring.
This being said, an element that could be strengthened in the guidelines is that through learning adults embark on a learning pathway, which goes beyond one specific learning trajectory. This requires relating the learning trajectory to formal, non-formal and informal ways of (further) learning. Far too often, digital solutions are provided to ‘solve’ a specific skill gap without relating this to skills that are already present (but underdeveloped), or other skill gaps of the target group. Hence, courses should make clearer what learning possibilities follow learned completes them.
I am sure the EPALE users have more valuable reflections on the guidelines and maybe interesting examples to share with other EPALE users and UNESCO!
What do you think about the new guidelines? Share your thoughts in the comments below.