Don't leave any stakeholders out of adult edtech development, study warns

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A report published Wednesday says that to improve the efficacy of education technology for adult learners, developers, users and purchasers of these edtech solutions must build partnerships and focus on collaboration.

The report, written by Luminary Labs, a business management consultant firm in New York City, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, dives into how education stakeholders can successfully rethink technology development and how to increase the quality of edtech tools to improve the impact of learning outcomes in adult education.

According to the report, the adult education market is largely untapped and underserved by the broader edtech market, and existing edtech tools in the space are in want of updates and enhancements. “Current edtech tools are not fully meeting the needs of learners or educators,” the report says.

According to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report, 36 million adults in the U.S. have low levels of skill attainment, and nearly 25 million lack a high school credential — showing vast potential for the U.S. adult learner market.

Addressing these “critical problems,” the report says, will likely improve the personalization and flexibility of adult education and will meet the shared goals of adult-education leaders — re-skilling adult learners and closing the skills gap. According to a 2018 World Economic Forum survey of 36 countries, “more than one in four adults reported a mismatch between their current skill sets and the qualifications required to do their jobs.”

The report makes recommendations of how various stakeholder groups can work together to improve the adult edtech market:

  • Developers and users can improve edtech development through greater two-way engagement, emphasizing partnerships over the single-transaction interactions that dominate the current market.
  • Employers can engage in the creation and integration of edtech tools to improve the hiring pool and alignment of curriculum with workforce needs.
  • Funders, developers and administrators can better support educators by providing readily available and free professional development for new classroom technology.
  • Funders and developers can aid in the selection and purchasing process of new edtech by sponsoring and conducting more research and data collection of the efficacy of adult edtech.

The report concludes that without collaboration between key stakeholder groups, the quality of adult edtech suffers. “When users are left out of the development and purchasing process, the impact of edtech tools falls far short of their potential. Tools selected solely by administrators often suffer from poor adoption and implementation. And when educators cobble their own solutions together, the repurposed tools hit natural limits in functionality and scalability.”

To ensure that technology is meeting the needs of adult learners, the report says each stakeholder group should conjoin their efforts and prioritize a unified approach to the development and deployment process of edtech.

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