Recruiting Learners in a Time of COVID-19

24 Aug 2020
Part of AONTAS’ communications with members since the move to remote working includes a weekly membership update and engagement webinar. This offers a space for shared learning and regular feedback. This blog post shares some takeaway points from our 19th membership webinar on the use of social media for course promotion and the recruitment of learners.

The shift to remote working and learning due to the COVID-19 restrictions has encouraged AONTAS members to identify the need for training around social media, specifically for course promotion and learner recruitment. This will likely be one of several webinars dedicated to this topic. 

Looking forward to the new term and the start of classes this September, adult and community education providers across Ireland have adjusted their recruitment strategies by providing course open days and taster sessions in online formats. Organising and attending an event online presents a learning curve for education providers and learners alike.

After welcoming members and introducing the workshop, AONTAS Head of Communications, Katie O’Rourke, highlighted the work and energy AONTAS has put into developing our communications and building our online presence. Katie stressed:

“All of our communications work comes from our members – we can’t do it without you. It’s about highlighting the fantastic work of adult and community education providers across the country, sharing the wider benefits of learning and encouraging potential learners back into learning.”

Members recognised the importance of effectively using social media platforms to promote online recruitment events and to encourage registration for courses. AONTAS’ presentation aimed to equip members with practical tips and training on writing successful social media posts to attract potential learners. The presentation also went further, recognising that course promotion should form just one part of any organisations’ social media efforts. Organisation’s social media page(s) should give potential learners an impression of what their provision and service offers to adult learners, and what their organisation is about. AONTAS’ Social Media Officer, Emma O’Kane shared guidelines for effective writing on different social media platforms and suggested ways that members can use them to paint a fuller picture for their audience. We also discussed:


Discussion Sessions

In breakout rooms, members were asked to describe if and how they engage with national and local groups on social media, and to describe any future supports AONTAS could provide to help with this work specifically.

While the majority of members have organisational social media pages, many reported difficulties in creating appropriate content and finding the time to regularly update them. Some members identified limited resources to develop and maintain a social presence, many do not directly work in communications or social media roles and wished to develop a clear understanding of the etiquette and language surrounding social media. This would help them to contribute more effectively to their individual organisation’s social media communications. Several members even noted an increase in their social media interactions since the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions in March, and as such sought to develop the skills to respond effectively.

While members described the numerous challenges preventing them from dedicating much time or energy to social media promotion, several members highlighted the power of social media beyond this objective. They highlighted it as a very effective tool for increasing communication channels in communities and combatting the effects of loneliness and social isolation.

It was also noted that social media is just one part of a recruitment strategy, many members are providing services for marginalised groups who may not have social media accounts or where English is not there first language. Members suggested using a variety of recruitment methods in addition to online promotion, including outreach support, flyers and word of mouth.

AONTAS encourages members who missed this webinar, have additional feedback or who are interested in maximising their use of social media platforms to get in touch to request the full presentation and to give any feedback. Look out for future webinars on similar topics on our events page.

Please email AONTAS Social Media Officer, Emma O’Kane at: / AONTAS Communications and Membership Officer, Barry Dolan at: for a copy of this presentation.


Useful Resources


Upcoming events

The Adult Learner 2020 launch will take place online on Wednesday, 23rd September. A detailed agenda and registration are available here.

Founded in the mid-1980s this long established, highly regarded journal is essential reading for anyone interested in or studying adult learning. We are delighted to share this latest version with you alongside a diverse audience of learners, academics, policy makers and distinguished guests including Prof Sir Alan Tuckett.

Due to recent Government restrictions announced to curb the spread of COVID-19, AONTAS has postponed the event Community Education in a Time of COVID-19. It was due to take place on 9th September, the new date is 12th October, however this may be subject to change. AONTAS will be welcoming Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD to join us for this event. It will take place in Longford Women’s Link and will be streamed online for members to participate. More details to follow. 

The COVID-19 Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Report, developed as part of the national FET Learner Forum in available on the Publications page and here.

AONTAS Members – please note that the August Newsletter was issued on Tuesday, 18th August. If you have not been receiving this monthly communication, please get in touch with Barry Dolan at