The 2021 edition of the journal explores the impact of COVID-19 on the adult, community and further education sector. It examines how the pandemic has changed the educational landscape, and how the sector has responded to the crisis. The online event, chaired by AONTAS CEO Dr Niamh O’Reilly, featured a keynote address from Professor Koen De Pryck of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Twente.
“The key message I take is that lifelong learning is as natural and as necessary as breathing. Whilst we must continue to strive for equality and social justice, particularly with regard to adult learning and education, as lifelong learners, we must be ready to adapt, change and forge the next chapter of adult and community education, so that locally and globally, we really do “build back better”.
Karen O’Donovan an adult learner from Clonakilty in West Cork shared her inspirational story of returning to education during the COVID-19 pandemic, describing her course as “a lifeline”. She told the group that it is “never a bad day when you learn something new”.
In his keynote address, Professor De Pryck reflected on the impact of COVID-19 on education, in particular on those already disadvantaged because of challenges such as socioeconomic class, digital poverty and language barriers.
While acknowledging some benefits to remote learning and education provision, such increased flexibility and opportunities to enhance home-life and family commitments, Professor De Pryck emphasised the impact of the pandemic on community cohesion and the decreased sense of belonging experienced by many, which is essential for preventing learner drop-out rates in education.
He provided practical suggestions that educators can incorporate into their teaching models to increase learner engagement and a sense of social cohesion in the online classroom. These suggestions include:
Participants were invited to join breakout rooms, and groups discussed the challenges of returning to education, and of providing support to adult learners, during the pandemic. The contributions demonstrated the creativity shown by the adult, community and higher education sector as we learned to continually respond, reflect and adapt together in an uncertain and changing situation.
An author panel discussion provided reflections on this year’s journal articles, which encompass a diverse array of experiences, approaches, and insights into adult education in the midst of the pandemic. The author panel included:
More information on these authors, and each of their articles, is available in The Adult Learner 2021, which is a free online resource accessible to all. You can read the new journal here and for more information click here.
For more information, please contact Giuliana Peña, AONTAS Project Officer, at: email@example.com
AONTAS is thankful to the editorial board for their time and commitment to the Adult Learner Journal.
Editorial Board Members:
Rosemary Moreland, Ulster University, Editor
José Pedro Amorim, University of Porto
Koen De Pryck, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Twente
Bairbre Fleming, University College Dublin
Nuala Glanton, Adult Education Officers’ Association of Ireland
Fran Kennedy, Adult Education Officers’ Association of Ireland
Deirdre Lynskey, Queen’s University Belfast
David Mallows, University College London
Helen Murphy, Waterford Institute of Technology
Luke Murtagh, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Stephen O’Brien, University College Cork
Jane O’Kelly, Dublin City University, Book and Policy Review Editor
Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS, Chairperson
Maria Slowey, Dublin City University