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E-learning for adult literacy, language and numeracy: a review of the literature

Publication Details

This report reviews the international literature on e-learning and on adult literacy, language and numeracy. It identifies how to engage adults successfully in e-learning to improve their literacy, language and numeracy skills.

Author(s): Niki Davis and Jo Fletcher with Dr Barry Brooker, Professor John Everatt, Professor Gail Gillon, Julie Mackey and Dr Donna Morrow

Date Published: June 2010

Summary

This research aims to provide readers with a greater understanding of the potential of e-learning for adult literacy, language and numeracy (LLN). It investigates how e-learning can be employed as a means of reaching greater numbers of adult learners and how to better meet their learning needs. In this literature review, we outline the nature of the extant literature pertinent to our research question. We also describe and discuss the key success characteristics that emerged from our review in relation to engaging adults in e-learning designed to develop their LLN skills. We set this material out in six sets of research-based findings (1-6).

  1. Lack of research evidence directly related to the question.
  2. Characteristics relating to learning (overarching).
  3. Characteristics relating to learning (specific).
  4. Strategies effective tutors use.
  5. Staff and e-learning resource development.
  6. Characteristics relating to educational organisation and society.

An overarching message to emerge from our research is that e-learning is relevant to and useful for most adults with literacy, language and/or numeracy needs, providing the programme is carefully designed to fit with each person’s needs, lifestyle, and proficiency with digital technologies and literacy. Realising the potential of e-learning also depends on ongoing professional development for tutors and others who support learners, and may require changes to programmes and resources within the relevant organisations, such as colleges and private training providers. Moreover, for adult learners, ease of access to training in the workplace and at home requires development of infrastructure and support from employers and whānau.

Distance e-learning can provide a cost-effective way of extending the development of LLN skills of learners currently at Level 2 of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey. In this review, we refer to this level as an intermediate level of literacy. Longer-term learning pathways often include e-learning (National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy in the USA (NCSALL), cited in Litster, 2007, p. 17).

The recommendations set out below each finding are directed at a range of groups: practitioners including tutors, LLN course developers, resource and game developers, tertiary education organisations and private training providers, companies and industry organisations (including industry training organisations (ITOs)), public services including libraries, policy makers including government departments and agencies, e-learning service providers including telecommunications companies and community organisations including iwi and churches.

1. Lack of research evidence directly related to the question

Finding 1a: More research is needed

We found no direct research evidence in the research literature to show that e-learning enhances adult literacy and numeracy skills and second-language acquisition. However, we did find indirect evidence of gains in studies with other populations, including adults. Recent syntheses of e-learning literature express concerns about the rigour of some studies and the challenges of locating and mapping relevant studies.

Recommendations:

  • Encourage continuing research in this field. Such research should clearly articulate its terminology and offer theoretical underpinnings that are sufficiently complex to aid the evolution of pedagogical practice that draws on digital technologies. At times this will involve multiple and competing frameworks. How new technologies can be used to advance learning, and how the e-learning professional development needs of professionals and organisations can best be served, are issues particularly in need of sustained research;
  • Collaborate internationally to review research and development worldwide, and disseminate the findings of this research to the New Zealand tertiary sector.

2. Characteristics related to learning (overarching)

Finding 2a: E-learning is more effective if it is part of face-to-face training

Most adults are best suited to e-learning that is blended with other learning approaches, including face-to-face tutoring and other staff support. Some adult learners become autonomous users of ICT when learning. However, most continue to benefit from blended e-learning, and some continue to need intensive support. Adults with LLN needs who have had little exposure to computers tend to fear e-learning until they develop some ICT skills and confidence.

Recommendations:

  • Provide guidance on web-based opportunities for adults and those who support them, and provide a means of assessing whether the adult is prepared for e-learning, and the level of support he or she will need;
  • Recognise that the resources and strategies that allow the development of the ICT skills and literacy necessary for e-learning are valuable but can be challenging to develop and use because of the widely varying situations in which they are typically employed;
  • Disseminate information about web resources throughout the adult education sector, particularly in regard to LLN and bridging programmes, along with resources that give ITOs, mentors and tutors methods of blending these resources into their work with adults who have LLN needs;
  • Encourage and support research and development of web-based resources that fit the needs of New Zealand adults.

Finding 2b: Appropriate recruitment, retention and completion practices include e-learning

Adults participate in LLN courses for various reasons. Encouraging adults not only to enter courses but to stay on and complete them calls for deployment of a wide range of different strategies to ensure relevance to each adult’s circumstances and needs, including e-learning.

Encouraging adults to participate in LLN courses requires deployment of a wide range of strategies. Successful strategies include:

  • Recruitment where updating ICT skills acts as both a relevant context and a cover to reduce embarrassment that is often associated with LLN needs;
  • Marketing the courses in a way that attracts students from diverse backgrounds and with different reasons for wanting to undertake study;
  • Increasing the flexibility of course delivery with e-learning;
  • Advertising courses in a range of positive ways, including the web and word of mouth from past students;
  • Providing students with optional e-learning opportunities, such as online learning activities or e-based activities that draw on and link the learners into their communities;
  • Blending e-learning with distance learning from support centres in the locality, such as libraries (see also Finding 6D).

Finding 2c: LLN activities are more effective when there is a strong employment and career focus

Activities related to employment- and career-related training are more effective than generic LLN training and e-learning, but only if they are tailored to vocational and local contexts.

Recommendations:

  • Relate LLN to workplace needs, career contexts and other life roles;
  • Encourage employers to provide assistance at all stages, including early diagnosis and e-learning extensions to programmes;
  • Provide orientation that includes career counselling;
  • Ensure that ICT skills and workforce updating using e-learning are designed to address LLN needs as well as other employment-related skills.

Finding 2d: Families, whānau and communities play an important role

Adults are more likely to succeed in their literacy and numeracy learning when the learning environment acknowledges and respects their values and cultural backgrounds. Families, whānau and communities have a critical place in literacy development, often adding motivation and a context within which learners can practise simple literacy and numeracy. They may also assist learners to use e-learning. Life roles such as parenting and community service also provide relevant contexts to develop LLN.

Recommendations:

  • Provide a learning environment that acknowledges the different cultural backgrounds of their students;
  • Provide a range of ways of delivering adult learning opportunities in order to accommodate the diverse needs of LLN learners who have family, whānau, community and workplace commitments;
  • Relate LLN to life roles such as parenting and community service;
  • Consider a range of delivery modes, among them evening courses, workplace training, whānau-/family-oriented programmes and community-/church-based programmes;
  • Use e-learning and digital media to support activities in culturally relevant ways;
  • Provide web-based guidance for whānau and friends wanting to support the adult learner to use e-learning.

Finding 2e: Computer games can re-engage younger adults

Computer games often provide a non-threatening, enjoyable means of re-engaging younger adults with LLN, providing the LLN requirements are clearly identified for the learners and they have opportunity to reflect on what is required and what they need to do. These games also provide both learner and tutor with an informal means of assessing learning needs.

Recommendations:

  • Set design standards and develop support materials that allow players to integrate the games into adult LLN contexts, including those that occur at home;
  • Provide professional development for tutors in the use of games on computers, the web and mobile devices;
  • Encourage peer interaction so as to leverage the learning advantages of collaboration;
  • Encourage learners to discuss their game-playing experiences and to debrief.

Finding 2f: Mobile learning offers new ways to blend work and learning

Mobile learning offers new ways to blend work and learning and increase access to LLN. Careful embedding is necessary to ensure the LLN activities fit well within the workplace and educational organisations.

Recommendations:

  • Consider innovative ways of using mobile digital technologies during e-learning in order to increase transfer of learning between education, workplace and home locations. These technologies must, however, fit the life and work circumstances of the learners in those locations;
  • Disseminate to other tutors and providers activities involving mobile digital technologies that have proved successful in respect of adults’ LLN learning;
  • Promote development of mobile digital technologies that, through their operations, facilitate the development of LLN skills. Additional software, such as text-to-speech output and relevant instruction (eg tuition on the number line for adults who are unsure of decimal values used in their work), may be required.

3. Characteristics related to learning (specific)

Finding 3a: Māori approaches to e-learning can be used to build skills and knowledge within the Māori community

Māori people have a history of adaptation to new technologies. E-learning can support the development and maintenance of Māori language and culture. Computers are an identified strategy to make the delivery more flexible and to increase learner control, as well as to build capacity within Māori people.

Recommendations:

  • Encourage development of e-learning resources suited to Māori;
  • Partner with Māori leaders and communities to develop the capacity (including acquisition of LLN and e-learning skills) of Māori students;
  • Celebrate stories of embedding e-learning and LLN in Māori educational contexts and consider how these initiatives can be used to improve western-style practice;
  • Adopt Māori educational philosophy (kaupapa Māori), especially in terms of supporting peers, whānau, iwi, and intergenerational learning;
  • Provide academic mentoring during recruitment as well as detailed orientation and follow-on;
  • Develop transition programmes, including those involving e-learning skills, to encourage prospective adult students to attend tertiary education and to introduce new students to their educational institution;
  • Ensure staff and peers are culturally aware, approachable and consistent;
  • Celebrate the cultural capital that Māori students bring to the educational context, by marking appropriate cultural events, incorporating Māori culture within pedagogical practice, and using an expanding range of media, including e-learning, as part of these initiatives;
  • Research which e-learning principles and practice best support ongoing skills development for Māori adult LLN students.

Finding 3b: As long as adequate support is in place, e-learning provides a good source of practice and motivation for second-language (ESOL) learners

Although ESOL students and their tutors bring certain strengths to e-learning, these students have a wide variety of needs. Many ESOL students become autonomous learners, but all require tutor support in order to use e-learning successfully.

Recommendations:

  • Provide ESOL adults with support from a tutor, particularly at the beginning of their course, so they can learn how to use e-learning independently and/or with support from whānau;
  • Use the wide range of e-based language-learning practice resources available to ensure that the diverse range of needs evident among second-language learners is accommodated;
  • Develop customisable resources to support adult learners new to New Zealand and/or e-learning;
  • Develop and/or adapt additional resources and add-on tools that enhance writing, reading, speaking and listening for specific populations (eg Samoan) to concurrently support the use of their first language and their development of English within the cultural context of New Zealand;
  • Integrate and improve e-learning within the professional development of second-language tutors and support staff in libraries and other appropriate and relevant locations, including the workplace. Encourage these people to use their professional networks to share good practice.

Finding 3c: The diverse Pasifika peoples benefit from e-learning that fits their respective cultures and lives and is accompanied BY induction activities

When supporting Pasifika adults to build their LLN skills, providers and tutors need to take account of particular barriers to and supports for their learning. Providers and tutors need, amongst other considerations, to provide course content that has connections with the learners’ cultures and to provide a nurturing learning environment. E-learning makes course delivery more flexible for these learners and gives them a measure of control over the nature and pace of their learning.

Recommendations:

  • Recognise the diversity of cultures and experiences of Pasifika people;
  • Encourage the development of e-learning resources suited to Pasifika;
  • Partner with Pasifika leaders and their communities to develop the capacity, including LLN and e-learning skills, of these communities;
  • Provide academic mentoring when recruiting Pasifika adults into educational courses, and then ensure they receive detailed orientation and follow-on;
  • Develop transition or induction programmes, including those involving e-learning skills, to encourage prospective students to attend tertiary education and to introduce new students to their place of study;
  • Ensure that staff and peers are culturally aware, approachable and consistent;
  • Celebrate the cultural capital that Pasifika students bring to the educational context by providing them with appropriate cultural events, incorporating their culture into pedagogical practice, and using an expanding range of media, including e-learning, as part of these initiatives;
  • Research which e-learning principles and practice best support ongoing skills development of Pasifika adult LLN students.

Finding 3d: Many of the e-learning strategies used for building reading and writing skills can also be successfully used for and by adults who have disabilities that limit their ability to learn and/or access learning

Most adults, including adults with learning disabilities (LD), find the information and communication technologies (ICT) provisions that fit their needs are highly useful and can reduce exclusion. However, lack of compatibility between systems and software can lead to the exclusion of some learners, including those who use technology for communication.

Recommendations:

  • Implement e-learning designed to support adults with disabilities that limit their ability to learn and communicate;
  • Adapt/modify hardware and software to accommodate each adult’s identified skills and abilities, and ensure compatibility across software;
  • Favour the use of generic software, where possible;
  • Provide both learning and technology support services, and facilitate cooperation between these services to aid skills development of adults with disabilities that impede ability to learn;
  • Align e-learning tuition for these adults with their individual needs, and ensure there is adequate tuition (quality and length of time) for their needs;
  • Provide support and professional development for tutors and others who support these learners so that they can assist these adults to embed relevant e-learning tools in their lives.

4. Strategies used by effective tutors

Finding 4a: Effective tutors are well able to apply what they have learned through professional development IN e-learning and pedagogy

Tutors need professional development to support changes in content delivery, such as e-learning. Although a few early adopters self-manage this professional development, a systematic approach is necessary to develop the ICT skills of all tutors and their understanding of how both e-learning and LLN can be embedded in the learning process. The same applies to company training, which should include provision for all those involved in facilitating and assessing LLN skills.

Recommendations:

  • Seek opportunities to develop the ICT skills and 21st-century knowledge they need to be effective practitioners of e-learning (with embedded LLN tuition where necessary);
  • Acknowledge that time is needed to mature tutors’ knowledge and skills;
  • Ensure that ongoing professional development of teaching staff is informed by research: tutors need to know why they are using ICT and how they can best use these tools to achieve their teaching aims;
  • Provide a range of professional development opportunities, including informal networking (so that educators can share successful e-learning innovations) and formal, accredited programmes. Having staff conduct their own action research relative to their growing understanding and use of e-learning is a valuable professional development strategy;
  • Encourage the appointment and active engagement of e-learning and LLN champions (leaders outstanding in their field). By partnering with tutors, champions can offer the support that tutors and other relevant staff need to build their confidence in their ability to use ICT in LLN learning contexts;
  • Showcase and encourage the uptake of the work of relevant action research projects at national conferences and locally;
  • Model hands-on use of ICT in learning contexts as well as the principles and practice of e-learning in general;
  • Plan e-learning strategies and related accredited professional development that aligns with the vision that tutors, their managers and support staff have collectively developed in relation to e-learning for adults with LLN needs.

Finding 4b: Effective tutors have at hand a range of strategies

Effective literacy learning for adult learners relies on tutors acquiring and/or having access to a wide range of literacy learning strategies appropriate to the needs of these learners. Tutors need to understand that adult students with literacy learning difficulties benefit from access to a range of interventions, including e-learning opportunities and support.

Recommendations:

  • Understand that adult students experiencing literacy learning difficulties require a range of interventions, among them the following:
    • Assessment of adults’ LLN learning needs;
    • Follow-on, with formative and summative assessment, including e-assessment suited to each adult’s level of proficiency and learning context;
    • Tutor-developed resources and activities that meet the specific needs of each adult;
  • Remember that well-embedded interventions can help increase literacy development;
  • Research and collaboratively develop interventions and resources suited to adults’ LLN needs, including e-learning resources.

Finding 4c: Learners benefit from engaging with and debating the characteristics and usefulness of different types of literacy media

Learners who are given opportunity to engage with and discuss the merits of different types of text enhance their literacy skills. Along with opportunity to use conventional texts, learners should be able to access a wide range of digital media, such as interactive multimedia, websites, and video, including television.

Recommendations:

  • Encourage learners to engage with and discuss with one another different types of conventional text as well as the wide range of digital media available, such as interactive multimedia, websites, and digital video, including television;
  • Develop case studies of good practice in engaging with and debating different media;
  • Research and develop promising interventions with digital text, including video/movies with subtitles for underserved groups, such as Māori and Pasifika, as well as strategies for using these resources.

Finding 4d: Tutors can use ICT to create and modify LLN materials, resources and learning contexts

Tutors can use ICT to modify and create materials that provide adult learners with engaging LLN learning resources and a meaningful and relevant learning milieu. ICT-based resources help adult learners gain awareness and appreciation of the need to have good literacy and numeracy skills in the 21st century, including technology-related skills.

Recommendations:

  • Support LLN tutors and collaborating staff by providing them with their own laptop computers and a range of productivity software, including common office applications, multimedia tools and e-learning resources;
  • Share tutor and ITO materials online in a format that encourages tutors to customise and further develop them, eg using a creative commons licence;
  • Purposefully develop communities of practice for LLN tutors that not only include online opportunities for collaboration embedded within training courses but also complement existing local, regional and national networks.

Finding 4e: Diagnostic and formative e-assessment can be developed and used More widely

While e-assessment is currently being applied successfully in relation to LLN pedagogy for diagnosis and formative assessment, its use for summative assessment may be limited. For some learners, e-assessment could support individual training that employs integrated learning systems (ILS), but only if these are blended with other teaching strategies. Attaining such objectives is likely to be challenging.

Recommendations:

  • Ensure that implementation of e-assessment is accompanied by adequate guidance on collecting and interpreting resultant data;
  • Consider the limitations that e-assessment may have on the types of assessments that can be used;
  • Provide coherent organisational and professional development relating to e-assessment for practitioners across all relevant parts of tertiary education, including the course providers and the assessment/examining authorities;
  • Recognise that large-scale e-assessment is challenging, especially in terms of ensuring robust interlinked web-based systems for this time-critical application that involved data that should remain confidential and secure.  Ongoing development of testing centres and their infrastructure is required;
  • Continue research and development into e-assessment, including ongoing overview of research and development in other countries;
  • Encourage those people developing and implementing e-assessment and ILS in New Zealand to join the growing international community of practice in this area.

Finding 4f: Learning is enhanced when tutors and their adult students work collaboratively, thus developing learner autonomy

Tutors need to provide a supportive and collaborative learning environment for adult students if they are to succeed in improving the LLN skills of these students. ICT-related and e-learning skills can be added to the factors that characterise effective LLN tutors.

Recommendations:

  • Create a positive and supportive learning environment, including collaborative activities to help LLN learners realise that they are not alone;
  • Develop learner autonomy through collaborative, authentic activities, including e-learning, with other learners and/or their tutor;
  • Draw on learners’ diverse backgrounds, contexts and LLN strengths with diverse resources and activities that include ICT skills.

Finding 4g: Effective development of numeracy skills requires a range of strategies

LLN programmes that encourage adult learners and their tutors to collaboratively seek out and consider the range of strategies that will best facilitate each learner’s numeracy learning not only enhance that learning but also give these adults greater awareness of the increasing place and importance of numeracy and ICT-related numeracy skills in the 21st century.

Recommendations:

  • Relate numeracy learning, including ICT-related numeracy learning, to the everyday numeracy experiences of their adult learners;
  • Use learners’ diverse home, work and community experiences in a manner that allows learners to make connections between these experiences and mathematical concepts;
  • Allow learners to explore relationships in quantities, space and data by using concrete examples where possible;
  • Support tutors and others who facilitate numeracy development, such as employers and ITOs, to develop learning activities relevant to workplace contexts;
  • Raise the profile of numeracy in the everyday environment, including the workplace;
  • Encourage further research that investigates numeracy acquisition by adult students with LLN needs, including e-learning.

5. Staff and e-learning resource development

Finding 5a: Staff involved in e-learning need professional development in how to embed both e-learning and LLN in their teaching programmes

Providers of training and e-learning need to ensure their staff are involved in professional development that focuses on their content area, on ICT use and on how both e-learning and LLN can be embedded in the learning process. There needs to be systematic professional development for adequate organisational development.

Recommendations:

  • Facilitate ongoing professional development for their teaching staff, using research-informed strategies in a variety of formats;
  • Encourage the appointment of ICT/e-learning, literacy and numeracy experts to promote tutors’ confidence;
  • Promote partnerships between staff members that allow them to develop their use of ICT in numeracy and literacy;
  • Realise that partnerships can be conducted remotely through email, telephone and other forms of e-communication, such as free desktop video-conferencing services (eg Skype);
  • Showcase and encourage the uptake of the work of relevant professional development action research projects, including work involving hands-on learning and e-learning, at national literacy conferences, as well as locally through partnerships;
  • Acknowledge that teaching staff need to know why they are using e-learning and match its use to their learning and teaching aims.

Finding 5b: Staff professional development progressES over time in order to address the developing and changing concerns of the individuals involved

Staff development is informed by individual concerns, which change over time. Once individuals reach the final stage of development, “tutor as leader”, they are fully able to support adoption of similar innovations by the staff with whom they network. Successful staff development over time also involves continuing access to and engagement with emerging resources and procuring support from within professional organisations.

Recommendations:

  • Recognise that professional development is a work in progress because tutors, along with teacher educators, grow into a community of practice that supports tutors as they endeavour to bed in LLN and e-learning;
  • Celebrate the stages of development that tutors and teacher educators move through, especially the most mature stage, “tutor as leader”, because it is at this stage that teachers are most likely to enhance the growth of the whole community;
  • Raise leaders’ awareness that tutors who do not work in a supportive climate (ie one that gives them and their students easy access to e-learning and LLN support) will have difficulty moving through the stages and may revert to earlier stages if the climate becomes more challenging;
  • Encourage tutors comfortable with the web to engage in computer-networked professional development in order to support the growth of both local and national communities of practice;
  • Appreciate that a computer-networked professional development approach is not suitable for tutors involved in the early stages of tutor professional development for e-learning.

Finding 5c: “Unbundling” the roles played by e-learning tutors facilitates targeted professional development and understanding of how tutors can better serve the needs of their students

E-learning permits and stimulates an “unbundling” of the tutor’s role, a process that makes explicit the need for professional development for a wider range of staff, including the e-tutor (who teaches via e-learning), the m-tutor (who coaches and advocates for the student), the d-tutor (who designs resources used online), and all the leaders who work with them.

Recommendations:

  • Recognise the usefulness for professional development, administration, e-learning, in general, and distance learning, in particular, of breaking down (unbundling) the roles that tutors typically play;
  • Appreciate that while these diverse roles can be the province of one member of staff, e-learning is likely to be better served when several members of staff take up these roles;  
  • Provide ongoing professional development and support targeted to the needs of each type of tutor;
  • Encourage managers and leaders to promote, establish and participate in e-learning professional development that includes preparation of relevant materials, such as case studies.

Finding 5d: E-learning resources for adults engaged in LLN programmes are more effective when designed WELL

Designing e-learning for adults with LLN needs brings additional challenges to those creating, developing and maintaining e-learning websites, e-assessment and related resources and services. The individuals carrying out this work need guidance on the principles of universal design as well as on what constitutes best practice regarding the design of e-learning, in general, and of websites, related services and project management, in particular.

Recommendations:

  • Remember that effective e-learning rests on the application of sound e-design and universal design principles, relating not only to all elements of the e-learning provision, but also to its particular features, such as websites, related services and related project management;
  • Ensure that design and testing work and ongoing support lead to reliable and robust systems so that the user interface and technical issues do not undermine adults’ (often) fragile confidence to develop their LLN;
  • Note, in this regard, that adults with a low level of literacy skill benefit from very simple interfaces with few distractions and options, that audio, images, simulations, and multimedia are beneficial, and that formative assessment can be used to good effect to minimise distractions, guide options and inform the learner’s plans;
  • Recognise that ICT skills will remain highly variable. For example, while some learners have excellent gaming skills, the ability to read a screen or use a mouse cannot be assumed. This caution is especially in respect of older adults;
  • Recognise that LLN learners’ access to computers and the internet will remain lower than the average population. Some of these adults only have access to old computers and/or have dial-up internet access. In addition, reliance on a continuous internet link and/or broadband is not advised;
  • Promote e-learning design that enables many sub-packages and versions to be made for hundreds of employment and community contexts, while also responding to software updates and the variety of computer systems;
  • Encourage and support open-source initiatives to serve these diverse vocational and cultural needs and the needs of the distributed communities of New Zealand and the wider Pacific region;
  • Remember that mobile learning (m-learning) is increasing, so versioning for mobile devices is a highly relevant option;
  • Plan to embed tutor and mentor support. This support should include resources that will help the learner continue learning while away from their tutor or organisation.

6. Characteristics relating to educational organisations and society

Finding 6a: Organisations mature with respect to e-learning and embedding of LLN

Organisations mature in their ability to adopt innovations, including e-learning and LLN. Leaders can use known stages of maturity and characteristics of innovations to ensure that the work they put into designing e-learning platforms and bedding in LLN occurs smoothly across time.

Recommendations:

  • Encourage the active support of a senior manager when bringing in an e-learning innovation because this support is essential for embedding e-learning and LLN. At times, conflicts arise in situations involving multiple innovations. This situation arises partly because multiple innovations compete for resources, such as the time that the e-learning coordinator has available to deal with difficulties and conflicts. Such situations require resolution by an organisation’s leaders;
  • Ensure buy-in from middle managers, as these people can facilitate or block developments. These people also need to be encouraged to work closely when developing organisational strategy;
  • Encourage leaders, coordinators and developers to apply Rogers’ (2003) characteristics of innovation (relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability) to improve the coherence of multiple innovations with the institutional vision and available resources.

Finding 6b: Successful development of adult literacy is closely linked TO ICT competence and employment-based experience

Adults who do not have LLN and ICT skills tend to be excluded from the labour market and society, and increasingly so in the 21st century, where all forms of literacy are vital for effective participation in these milieu. This consideration is even more cogent in times of economic recession.

Recommendations:

  • Develop a combination of provisions to raise adults’ literacy skills, ICT competence and employment opportunities in order to give them a sound chance of securing and retaining employment;
  • Encourage employers to provide both tutors and adults intent on developing their LLN skills with access to relevant ICT systems so they can develop training materials and the requisite skills;
  • Recognise that LLN in the 21st century must include the “new literacies” associated with ICT and e-learning;
  • Address the LLN needs (including, as necessary, development of the new literacies) for adults with LLN needs who plan to return to work after a break.

Finding 6c: E-learning projects targeting rural and dispersed communities are at a very early stage

Although innovative projects on e-learning for LLN in rural and dispersed communities are evident in New Zealand, these are still at a very early stage of development or implementation. They are consequently not at a point that would allow researchers to scrutinise them in order to provide quality research evidence and/or determine critical success factors.

Recommendations:

  • Continue research and development in e-learning that includes long-term partnerships with rural and dispersed communities;
  • Recognise that these innovations are in the early stage of development and that those responsible for them will need to maintain or improve their attributes if the innovations are to be sustainable.

Finding 6d: Open-access centres, including libraries, increase access to e-learning

Open-access learning centres in the community, including libraries and facilities on employers’ premises, can increase access to e-learning. However, they can only do this with appropriate support and opportunity to develop and engage in partnerships.

Recommendations:

  • Bear in mind that learning centres in the community, such as libraries and those on employers’ premises, can increase adults’ access to e-learning;
  • Remember that the success of such access for learners depends not only on these learners receiving appropriate support but also on the centres operating in partnership with other individuals and organisations involved in the learning programme;
  • Encourage ongoing investment from the community served, as this support is essential for sustaining the e-learning infrastructure and e-learning services;
  • Recognise that robust and reliable IT-based infrastructure is critical;
  • Ensure that adults’ first experiences with e-learning are successful in terms of building these learners’ confidence in and appreciation of the use and relevance of e-learning;
  • Prepare staff, procedures and resources that align with the learners’ cultures and backgrounds and link with other aspects of their lives;
  • Encourage libraries to increase privacy and duration of internet access to benefit adults with LLN needs;
  • Encourage and support mentoring that spreads into the communities served, and that draws in adults who have successfully developed their LLN and e-learning;
  • Investigate the potential of emerging technologies (including mobile learning on PDAs and phones) as well as software applications, open-access centres and community support to reach underserved populations of adults and their communities.

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