Learner study reveals highs and lows of learning through lock-down

September 9, 2021

Learner study reveals highs and lows of learning through lock-down

Satisfaction with Education and Training Board supports but more to do on ‘digital divide’

 

Education & Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) has published a comprehensive study of Further Education & Training (FET) learners throughout the COVID lockdown capturing the lived experience of 2500 full and part time learners. The study found that most learners (92%) were satisfied with access to the platforms, resources and the support and accessibility of their Education & Training Board tutors and trainers during this period.

The FET Learner Experience Survey Report, undertaken by ETBI, used a combination of quantitative surveys and qualitative focus group research to investigate the experience of a broad range of learners across all areas of FET provision. Adapting to learning in an online environment, balancing course demands with ICT skills and maintaining the social aspect of learning, central to the adult learning experience, were all concerns for ETB further education and training learners.

Results indicate that full-time learners had more confidence with ICT than part-time learners (75% as opposed to 60% with online learning platform use), while conversely, part-time learners were able to better organise their study time. The ‘Digital Divide’, a key concern of the FET Strategy (2020-2024) and the National Digital Strategy resulted in 21% of full-time learners (23% of part time learners) with limited/ no access to a digital device to engage in their coursework. These results confirm the importance of addressing the digital divide through loan/ loan to buy schemes and IT upskilling (52% of PT learners would welcome more assistance with IT) to ensure that no learner is left behind in the transition to remote online learning. The ETBI Sectoral Digital Library now includes multiple resources to facilitate self-guided upskilling for all Further Education and Training learners.

The study identified the challenges adult learners faced, in their own words. These ranged from developing competencies in planning work, focusing, and motivating themselves as well as maintaining a study/life balance against a backdrop of losing out on the interaction between other learners and the isolation of learning alone. While some learners highlighted the advantages of remote online: “I was able to work on my course at my own pace and had some choice in the times I did the work”, for others “it’s not the same when you are not in class. I learn more from other people face-to-face”.

These findings will help inform the future provision of Further Education & Training delivery by Education & Training Boards. ETBI wishes to acknowledge the contribution of all learners that shared their experiences to inform the study.

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