More than one in 10 U.S. adults — nearly 25 million people — lack a high school diploma or GED, and 36 million adults lack the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills needed for employment in “technology-rich environments.” A Brookings report found that “the 21st century digital workplace makes mathematics inescapable.” A convergence of factors may be prompting increased interest — and investment — in technology that can help upskill American adults.
Nonprofits like JFF and the Walmart Foundation are investing in adult education and work-based learning to address critical skills gaps. Starbucks made headlines when it decided to cover undergraduate tuition for its employees. And in an increasingly tight labor market, employers like AT&T, Boeing, and Disney are spending millions — in some cases, billions — of dollars on internal programs to upskill existing employees.
How do we ensure these types of investments have the greatest possible impact? In our latest Power in Numbers report on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, we examine the critical role of collaboration in the edtech development process.
Each stakeholder plays an important role in bringing new edtech products to the adult education market. Here’s how each group can engage and collaborate to support adult learners and enhance outcomes.
- Facilitate and sustain end-user engagement. Effective engagement with learners and educators means prioritizing long-term relationships to source feedback rather than single-transaction interactions.
- Involve employers. Seeking input from industry employers during the edtech creation process can help ensure new tools address critical skills gaps.
- Factor in professional development. Providing free resources and professional development opportunities for educators is essential to support the adoption and integration of new edtech.
- Utilize research and data. Adult edtech efficacy research and first-hand educator feedback from communities of practice can help improve the selection of the right edtech for classroom needs.
Employers and Funders
- Tap into shared objectives. Employers and funders share the common goal of upskilling and reskilling workers for the modern economy, and can collaborate to sponsor adult edtech development.
Our Power in Numbers initiative on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education has explored how technology can transform outcomes for adult learners. In our first research report, “The Math Gap,” we examined the potential for technology to serve the unmet needs of adult math learners and educators. The second report, “Multiplying Impact: Five Frameworks for Investment in Edtech for Adult Learners,” built upon this thesis to identify opportunities for edtech investors and developers who want to make an impact.
- Events: Christina Ward will present on behalf of Power in Numbers at SXSW EDU (March 4-7 in Austin) and COABE (March 31-April 3 in New Orleans). If you’ll be at either conference, please say hello.
- Case study: Designing and launching the Illinois Digital Learning Lab.
- Reading list: Automation, education, and the future of work.
- Newsletters: Subscribe to the Lab Report for weekly insights from Luminary Labs, and sign up for Math Minutes for quarterly Power in Numbers updates.