skip to main content

Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

October 2017

October 2017 (Vol. 8, No.9)


by Terry Heick

Disruption is an interesting topic for the same reason that cowboys, gangsters, and villains are interesting. It’s unpredictable. Problematic. Against the grain.

It’s kind of aging as a buzzword in the “education space,” but it’s other-worldly powerful, and there are few things education needs more. How exactly it produces change is less clear, but I thought I’d create a model to think about. First, a quick preface. The iconic vision of disruptive innovation comes from Clayton Christensen, who uses the term to “describe a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

“Companies pursue these “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of their markets because this is what has historically helped them succeed: by charging the highest prices to their most demanding and sophisticated customers at the top of the market, companies will achieve the greatest profitability. However, by doing so, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations” at the bottom of the market. An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.”

I usually think of disruption as any change that forces itself substantially on existing power sets. This force causes transfer–a redistribution of something–market share, money, credibility, knowledge, or something we collectively value. Here, in this literal re-vision (seeing again) and neo-vision (seeing new), is where enduring learning innovation can be born.

In education, most of the talk around disruptive innovation revolves around education technology, owing to the potential scale of these technologies, and desperation of education to revise itself. But innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be a matter of economics, as Christensen originally thought of the term, nor of technology, which is the most tempting angle. It can, but there are other disruptors that can lead to innovation that have little to do with either. What might be more interesting than the disruptors, then, might be the process itself. (See also, trends in education for 2015.)

Source: Teachthought

10 Current and Emerging Trends in Adult Learning

What Do Harvey and Irma have to do with learning?

When (what we thought were) once in five hundred year storms hit every other week, it suggests there is something new going on--and another sign that we live in a world where the unexpected is the norm.

As more of us move into cities, connect and trade with people around the world, and take advantage of automation, the result is the clash of natural and man-made systems in ways that we don’t understand.

Urbanization, automation and globalization  are resulting in unprecedented waves of novelty and complexity. The only thing we can be sure of is that change will occur more rapidly and more unexpectedly in the future. And that means we all need to learn fast and keep learning.

While that thought is daunting, there’s never a better time to learn--or teach. Five years ago in Getting Smart, I argued that the EdTech revolution would power customization, motivation and equalization--that new tools would boost personalization, engagement and expand access. We’re starting to see that play out--first in corporate training and development, then alternative HigherEd (think motivated adults with specific learning needs) and now in K-12 personalized learning models.

In many cases, it’s the power of relationships that is critically important. New learning models may leverage new tools, but they often facilitate sustained relationships--and that’s better than the best gamified learning system.

What does all of this mean for adult learning? What about young adults who didn’t finish high school? What about the more than 30 million Americans that earned some college credits but not a complete degree. What about adults new to speaking English who need job skills--fast. We see 10 trends in this adult learning.

1-3. Online, mobile and blended are foregone conclusions. As the NMC Horizon Report  said, “If institutions do not already have robust strategies for integrating these now pervasive approaches, then they simply will not survive.”

4. Broader aims. Like leading K-12 schools, adult learning programs are adopting growth mindset (effort matters) and social and emotional learning (self and social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making).

5. UI/UX. Adult learning programs are beginning to rethink user interface (UI) and the full user experience (UX). They are becoming more mobile responsive and beginning to think about how to incorporate augmented and virtual reality. WalMart uses VR  to train employees for new roles.

6. Better Feedback. Adaptive learning systems and platforms are providing real-time feedback, and digital curriculum usually includes embedded assessments. Leading degree completion programs, like College for America , are incorporating project-based learning with authentic performance tasks.

7. Learner supports. Access to support services is key to success. For learners who have struggled, these services often go unused unless activated through an advisory relationship.

In high schools, academic monitoring and connections to support services are often managed in an advisory period (see 5 core and 10 optional functions )

In HigherEd, it’s important to have well-trained advisors who engage in active dialogue with adult learners about their aspirations and limitations in order to aid them in assessing various pathways to their chosen field. Platforms like Fidelis Education  support learning relationship management including monitoring, coaching and tutoring.

Based on the successful tutoring program of the Match Charter Public School  in Boston, Match Beyond  combines the benefits of online learning with coaching and tutoring. Match features AA and BA degrees in business, healthcare and public service.

8. Employer partnerships. College for America, a program of Southern New Hampshire University, is a good example of a HigherEd completion program positioned as an employee benefit. A sequence of applied projects can be completed quickly by experienced learners and more slowly by workers that need more time and support. A partnership between ASU Online and Starbucks provides full tuition reimbursement for staff members.

9. Mix & Match + Support.span> Want the fastest and cheapest path to a degree? Guild Education  creates “education as an employee benefit” partnerships. Academic coaches work with adults to assemble fast and cheap degree pathways.

10. Collaboration is key for scaling effective solutions.Personalized learning is promising, particularly for older learners who have struggled academically. However developing a sophisticated learning model supported by an integrated set of tools remains very difficult. Working in networks--from informal learning communities to comprehensive models-- is a promising response to complexity.

The NMC Horizon Report said, “Communities of practice, multidisciplinary leadership groups and open social networks can help spread evidence-based approaches.”

Source: Vander Ark on Innovation, September 20, 2017

Why California is Investing Over $200 Million in Vocational Education

More Americans are going to college than ever before. The most recent census  found that 33.4 percent of adults over the age of 24 have earned a bachelor's degree or more. Kurt Bauman, Chief of the Education and Social Stratification Branch for the U.S. Census describes this as, "a significant milestone" for the country.

For many, however, higher education remains a privilege that is financially inaccessible. One way students can invest in their futures without investing in a bachelor's degree is through vocational education. By enrolling in vocational education programs, students can earn degrees in high-demand fields like nursing, business and engineering which can lead to high-paying jobs. Still, many students believe that a bachelor's degree is the only path to success.

In order to change this, the state of California is spending $200 million to encourage more students to earn a vocational certificate instead of a bachelor's degree.

Source: CNBC

EdTech Pilot Framework

It's the beginning of the year, there are new classes, new projects, new students and maybe even new equipment! It's an exciting (and exhausting) time of year. If you are looking for ways to successfully integrate and manage an edtech pilot, check out the "Edtech Pilot Framework" offered from Digital Promise. There are eight guided sections to help you and your agency implement and review a plan to integrate technology. These sections include: Identify Need, Discover and Select, Plan, Train and Implement, Collect Data, Analyze and Decide, Negotiate and purchase and then Summarize and Share.

Each section provides video messages from leaders in the field, targeted Tips for Success, and tools and resources to ensure you are on track toward success. The Edtech Pilot Framework also provides several Pilot Study Briefs from around the country. Each brief provides synthesized findings to help education leaders make evidence based selection decisions. Additionally, the briefs provide information about the product, the demographics from the district, pilot goals and the implementation plan.

Lastly, the Framework has a list of resources and tools to help design and conduct pilots, analyze collected data and potentially negotiate and purchase edtech tools. Tools are actionable (templates, surveys, etc.) while Resources include references (publications, websites etc.)

Learn more at the Digital Promise website:

How Teachers and Schools Can Help When Bad Stuff Happens

The following is an excerpt from the article. Access the full version.

Joy Osofsky, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Louisiana State University : "I would recommend that they address issues from the beginning. Talk to the students about: You know, we've all been through a difficult experience. I know that some of you may have lost your home. Some of you been in a shelter and been in very unusual circumstances.

And we're here to be supportive of you and understand the kinds of things that you've gone through. And we're going to work to establish the routines in school that you're used to, which we know is very important in adapting to the new situation. But we also want you to know that we're available to listen to you if that would be helpful."

Belva Parrish, school counselor at Woodrow Wilson Montessori School in Houston: "Trauma stems from not having any control of your situation. ... Banding together, being a place where students feel safe and they know they have a voice to be heard, will go a long way towards helping them."

Many students will at some point experience the loss of a loved one or family member.  is a database of fact sheets, advice and videos . Seven out of 10 teachers have a student currently in their classroom who is grieving, according to research by the New York Life Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers.

Source: nprEd How Learning Happens (October 5, 2017)

Scroll To Top

OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.