In my book, The Seven Year Education Itch: Adult Learning in Vocational Training, published in 2016, I explore the various hurdles that adult learners face when grappling with technology. The chapter, “How Adults Struggle with Technology,” discusses a concept I developed to summarise the challenges adult learners encounter with technology. These include biases, digital literacy issues, exposure levels, fears, and socioeconomic factors that can impede engagement. Reflecting on these struggles and examining how they have evolved over the past eight years provides a comprehensive understanding of the adult learning landscape in today’s digital age.

In the book, I define the key challenges faced by adult Learners as:

Bias: Adults often have strong preferences for certain technologies (e.g., Apple vs. Android) that can hinder their willingness to use unfamiliar tools. This bias can limit their learning experiences and adaptability.

Literacy: Digital literacy varies widely among adults. Many lack fundamental skills such as navigating the internet, using search engines effectively, or understanding technological jargon.

Experience and Exposure: The level of exposure to technology significantly affects an adult’s ability to adapt to new learning tools. Those with limited experience may struggle more with advanced tools required for online learning.

Fear: Fear of losing data, being hacked, or encountering scams is prevalent among adult learners. This fear can create significant stress and discourage them from engaging with eLearning platforms.

Social and Cultural Exposure: Socioeconomic background plays a crucial role in access to technology and digital literacy. Adults from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may have less exposure to technology, leading to a digital divide that affects their learning process.

So how has this changed in the past 8 years?

Increased Access to Technology

Over the past decade, technology has become more accessible and affordable. More adults now have access to smartphones, tablets, and computers, helping to bridge the digital divide. Initiatives aimed at increasing technological access in underserved communities have also contributed to this positive change.

Improved Digital Literacy

The increase of online resources and community programs focused on digital literacy has provided many adults with opportunities to improve their technological skills. Workshops, online tutorials, and community education programs have played a significant role in enhancing digital literacy among adult learners. The rapid increase of Social Media and more recently, AI Chat Bots is improving digital literacy.

User-Friendly Interfaces

Technology companies have made major improvements in designing more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, especially for mobile devices. This has made it easier for adults who are not tech-savvy to navigate digital tools and platforms, reducing the intimidation factor and encouraging more engagement.

Remote Work and Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work and learning, compelling many adults to become more proficient with digital tools. This shift, although initially challenging, led to a forced but necessary improvement in digital literacy, making adults more comfortable and confident in using technology for learning and work.

Persistent Challenges

Despite these improvements, many fundamental challenges remain. there is a continuous need for ongoing support and education to help adults overcome their fear of technology and improve their digital skills. With the increase of phising and scams, the fear is quite possibly higher now amongst older adult learners.

Has the Digital Divide Changed?

While significant progress has been made in addressing the challenges adult learners face with technology, much work remains to bridge the digital divide. Although access to devices and digital literacy have improved, I still observe gaps in other areas that need attention.

Note that these are just my observations over the past 8 years based on my experiences across multiple fields and educational environments

Connect with Julian Davis

© Copyright The Digital Learning Guy

ABN 364 4183 4283