14 May 2019
One Step Up: A Model for Increasing Lifelong Learning Participation in Europe
As the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) AONTAS provides a free Information Referral Service, One Step Up (OSU). Since its establishment in 2013 it has supported tens of thousands of people in Ireland to find out about their education and training options. AONTAS CEO Niamh O'Reilly recently shared insight into the One Step Up service at a conference in Croatia. In our latest blog she reflects on how OSU can be used as a model for other countries to replicate for increasing lifelong learning participation across Europe.
I was delighted to share our experience of the www.OneStepUp.ie Information Referral Service at a plenary session of the 7th International Andragogical Symposium in Croatia on 8th May. Although a term not often used in Ireland, ‘andragogy’ (method and practice of teaching adults) is a common term used in the Balkan region. Almost 200 participants from seven countries in the region attended the annual gathering.
AONTAS manages the One Step Up Information Referral Service as part of an ERASMUS+ KA3 funded project which supports the European Agenda for Adult Learning
and the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation
focusing on ‘supply and uptake’ - specifically aimed at people with less than Leaving Certificate level (NFQ level 4/5). The service includes:
One Step Up has continued to evolve since its launch in 2013 and we are currently in the process of redeveloping the website to make it even more user-friendly. Developments for the new website are a direct result of consulting with adult learners and stakeholders about how the service might improve and become more efficient in helping people to discover learning options that unlock their potential. As one learner so eloquently put it recently: “learning has been like a key that has opened a door.”
The learning shared:
Creating ‘Word of Mouth’ Opportunities
A wide range of education organisations promote their information events and open days for free via the One Step Up Calendar. In 2018 almost 600 events across Ireland were submitted by higher education institutions, Education and Training Boards (ETBs), community education organisations and libraries. Informing learners about local and national free events is a vital mechanism for encouraging people who may be nervous about going back to education. It allows them to explore their options, meet with educators and peers and ask questions in person, helping them to gain the confidence needed to take that next step back to learning.
Explaining the Lifelong Learning System in Ireland
The complexity of the lifelong learning system can be a barrier for many learners.. As noted in the recent review of career guidance tools, the multiplicity of websites ‘highlights the need for advice on how to best utilise and navigate the range of online information sources’; with almost 4 out of 5 (78.3%) Guidance Counsellors considering online career guidance tools, including One Step Up, helpful for making informed decisions about education and career pathways. One Step Up is a one stop shop information source that covers how to:
- find education options quickly
- understand acronyms and terms used in the sector
- understand qualifications and course levels in the NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications)
- take steps to apply to third level institutions
- access financial supports
- contact local Adult Education Guidance Services and community education providers
- In creating the booklet, stakeholder input was vital to ensure that the information was accurate and that it could be used as a tool to support Adult Guidance Service and INTREO offices across the country.
“…There is a huge amount of information available which can be very confusing as an adult learner...as a result of this website the chances of making more suitable and realistic education choices will be higher…” (Adult Learner who used the One Step Up Information Referral Service)
Promoting One Step Up
- Promoting the service is vital, and with recent successes, including 3 months’ worth of enquires in one week following a national radio interview on Newstalk - campaigns across media channels are highly effective
- In 2018 the One Step Up service was promoted to 130,000+ people via Twitter helping to produce 22,000 visits/hits to website; 200+ callers to the Freephone Helpline; and 7,000+ users of OneStepUp.ie, supporting people to find out about their education and training options, available supports and nearest services
- When promoting adult learning it is important that there is a call to action – in this case we refer all promotional work back to OneStepUp.ie so that we not only raise public awareness but signpost people to take up learning in their local area
- Sharing learner stories is a central part of promoting the One Step Up service. Stories inspire and encourage others to believe in their unlocked potential and that there is a learning opportunity available for them. We believe strongly in ensuring that learners are partners in all of our promotional work and that this is done respectfully and meaningfully
Responsibility to Prospective Learners
- There is a responsibility on the information provider to follow up with learners to see if they successfully found a course. If we find this is not the case we explore the reasons and communicate them to the relevant education provider/policy maker so that improvements can be made
- There is also a responsibility on the information provider to ensure that learners don’t get their hopes up only to be disappointed. Information campaigns should be closely aligned to course registrations and we often follow up with learners to see how we can further help them to find their suitable course/service
Making a Difference
- When we conduct our biannual follow-up with 10% of callers, we capture revealing data from people who are not currently engaged in learning. This often neglected and under-researched group of people offer insights into the barriers to participation (cost of courses, unsuitable locations and cost of travel, waiting lists, lack of places available, no childcare)
- Thankfully 75% of people surveyed who used One Step Up found a course. However, we are still seeking to make the difference with the other 25%
Finally, our experience of sharing learner stories was also discussed at the 7th International Andragogical Symposium, and a day later - on Europe Day (9th May) - we were delighted to be awarded Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Communicating Europe Funding where our new project: You and the EU – Adult Learners in Ireland will allow us to share the impact of EU engagement for adult learners through a new series of podcasts.
Stay tuned for our new www.OneStepUp.ie website, share the Information Booklet, promote your open days and events on the One Step Up Calendar and give us your feedback on how we can better communicate lifelong learning opportunities in Ireland. As a collective we can help people find the key to the door.
“I realised that I had more potential than I actually knew.” – adult learner, Career Paths for Dyslexia
For More Information:
Visit www.onestepup.ie or contact Sam O’Brien-Olinger, Information and Policy Officer via email: firstname.lastname@example.org