14 Apr How to support adult learners in a remote setting
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time. With every passing week that we continue to physically distance ourselves, we are having to become more adaptable to doing things remotely.
Many organizations have moved their businesses completely online in order to continue to serve their customers and clients. While this may be easy for some businesses, for others, such as under-resourced literacy organizations, there may be learning curves for both practitioners and learners.
Adult literacy learners face a lot of barriers to learning. For those who were consistent in attending classes before, the unfortunate closure of many learning centres may result in some learners not returning to class when all this is over.
By offering remote learning, literacy practitioners can ensure their learners can continue developing their literacy skills. While remote learning offers flexibility, it comes with its unique set of challenges, too.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when building an effective distance learning experience for your adult learners.
Identify the Right Tools
Distance learning seems straight-forward enough, but you need to be equipped with the right tools to roll it out successfully. First consider if you’ll run group classes or offer one-on-one support.
If offering one-on-one learning, a simple telephone call may be enough to conduct a lesson or provide some support to learners as they do their own individual learning. Free tools like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger allow you and your learners to speak for free over WiFi, and incorporate video chat too. Not sure how to use these tools? Check out our digital literacy lesson plans.
If you plan on offering group classes, consider a tool like Zoom. It offers free or low-cost plans that all you to speak to multiple learners at a time, as well as share your computer screen. While it might present a steeper learning curve for both learner and practitioner, once you run a couple of sessions, it will become a breeze.
Start with Digital Literacy
A recent study found that only 17 per cent of adult learners are confident when using digital tools to support their learning. Nonetheless, technology is our only option right now when it comes to learning. With more services moving online, this is a great opportunity to help adult learners become more comfortable using technology.
Consider first and foremost offering programming that aims to help learners develop a basic digital skillset. ABC Life Literacy offers numerous lesson plans on remote learning through the Youth Teaching Adults program.
Conduct online classes through platforms like Zoom that allow tools to be shared virtually so that learners can overcome technology challenges in real-time.
Throughout the program, be sure to make regular contact with learners using non-digital communication methods – such as telephone – to check in on how they’re feeling about program delivery.
Once learners become equipped with the right digital literacy skills, they’ll feel more comfortable attending virtual classes.
Implement Online Learning Quickly and Prepare to Adapt
To keep your adult learners engaged, you don’t have much time to implement a distance learning environment. Get your online literacy programs up and running as soon as possible so that participants remain committed to their education. Make use of high-quality introductory learning materials and resources that have already been developed and integrate them into your distance learning offerings. ABC Life Literacy Canada has numerous resources available through its various programs.
Once online program delivery is underway, use feedback from your adult learners and literacy practitioners to make improvements and amplify instructional approaches.
Teach Relevant Information
COVID-19 has affected everyone’s work and finances. People across Canada are worried about how they will pay their bills. Now more than ever, learners need to be equipped with the right financial literacy skills to be able to manage their budgets, identify scams and apply for government benefits. Check out financial literacy programs like Money Matters for free online resources and workbooks.
Learners will also need the right skills to get back to work, particularly if they were laid off permanently. The resources available from UP Skills for Work focus on nine key employability skills that everyone needs to succeed in the workplace (check out this webinar recording on the Motivation resource). By preparing learners with these skills now, they will have an advantage when employers start hiring again.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, four out of ten Canadian adults have low literacy skills that prevent them from being competent in the job market. That’s why keeping adult learners motivated to persist in their literacy studies remains particularly important during these challenging times.
Be Available to Adult Learners
Being flexible as a learning practitioner is key; the learning method that works for one adult learner may not work for all.
Some learners, such as those with language barriers, may require individualized help to overcome learning difficulties. Assess each learner’s strengths and weaknesses and create appropriate strategies for their unique learning style. To encourage learner engagement, reply as promptly as possible to students when they contact you regarding any academic or digital support challenges.
Use weekly emails or phone calls to stay in regular contact with your program’s participants. Incorporating a social network component, like a Facebook group or WhatsApp group chat, is a great way to address all adult learners at once, and for adult learners to build relationships with fellow learners.
Ready to start offering remote learning programs? We’ve got a variety of free downloadable materials below for you to use in your online classes, or to share with your learners. Need help getting started? Check out our webinar series on remote learning tools and best practices or download our online and remote learning toolkit of resources.