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Digital Resilience in the American Workforce: Findings From a National Landscape Scan on Adult Digital Literacy Instruction

Digital Resilience in the American Workforce: Findings From a National Landscape Scan on Adult Digital Literacy Instruction

August 15, 2022

At a Glance

In the first year of the Digital Resilience in the American Workforce (DRAW) initiative, Jobs for the Future (JFF), World Education, and Safal Partners launched a landscape scan to better understand what training resources and approaches are most relevant for educators seeking to increase foundational digital literacy and digital resilience for an adult learner population. Over the past decade digital literacy has emerged as an essential skill for personal, civic, educational, and career success. Yet few adult education professionals—including, but not limited to, those teaching in AEFLA-funded programs—have been trained to help learners develop the confidence, self-efficacy, and digital resilience they need to adapt to today’s digital demands.

Shakari Fraser Senior Program Manager, Learning
In partnership with World Education and Safal Partners.
Practices & Centers Topics

About the Landscape Scan

Digital Resilience in the American Workforce: Findings from a National Landscape Scan on Adult Digital Literacy Instruction used a mixed-methods approach to answer our core research questions, including a literature review, interviews with key stakeholders, a questionnaire for leaders and practitioners, a market scan, a learner questionnaire, and learner focus groups. The process unearthed a wide array of information, including instructional content and strategies, assessment needs and tools, digital access and equity models, and professional development models and resources. At the same time, stakeholder interviews confirmed that educators need resources and support to build learners’ digital resilience effectively. Many challenges and gaps emerged as well—in particular, resources to support diverse learners and a lack of alignment across educators, employers, and policymakers about what digital skills are of highest priority and how to measure them.

The DRAW landscape scan serves multiple goals. First, it informs the resources and professional development created through DRAW. Second, it pulls together much-needed information, resources, practices, and models for adult education professionals and others engaged in digital literacy instruction, digital equity and access initiatives, research, and policy. In addition to the report, the DRAW team published the Digital Digest blog series and will release additional briefs, deep dives, and crowdsourced resource lists to share more of what we uncovered through the scan.

The report outlines significant findings and opportunities for impact across six areas:

  • The need to define digital skills and resilience and ensure that definitions and frameworks are nimble enough to reflect rapid technological changes and adult learners’ and employers’ differing needs.
  • Strategies for advancing access and digital equity, given that gaps in access to devices, connectivity, and opportunities to develop digital skills, exacerbate disparities in educational attainment and income.
  • Promising instructional approaches and practices that work for various settings – including ESOL and GED classrooms, reentry services, integrated education, and training programs for diverse learners, including older adults, neurodiverse individuals, and those with emerging literacy.
  • Improved curation of existing digital skill content and curriculum. The Digital Skills Library, for example, includes digital resources in multiple languages, materials that emphasize digital resilience, and more that can be adapted for English language learners, older adults, and neurodiverse individuals.
  • Tools and practices for assessing and validating digital skills, and the potential for certifications and badges to better communicate learners’ digital skills to instructors, employers, and educational institutions.
  • Providing professional development for practitioners, including strategies to help build instructors’ confidence with technology and ability to model digital resilience in the classroom.

An estimated 32 million Americans struggle to use a computer, and half of all Americans say they are not confident in using technology to learn, with 14 percent not doing so at all.

National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education

Looking Ahead

The next phase of DRAW will use the landscape scan findings to inform resource and professional development for adult education professionals. The DRAW team will create an array of resources for instructors, including interactive learning modules, routine (activity) templates, and a playbook. Additionally, another EdTech Maker Space will continue to build out the Digital Skills Library. All resources will be available to the field in 2023. Collectively, these resources will help to ensure all adult students can obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for postsecondary education, training, employment, civic engagement, and economic self-sufficiency.

The DRAW team is also launching a professional development pilot in early 2023. During the pilot, adult education professionals will learn strategies to develop the digital skills of adult learners and integrate digital literacy into instruction. They will also apply the resources curated and developed through DRAW in their programs; engage in an online community of practices, and receive instructional coaching. At the same time, state leaders will receive support for scaling these professional development strategies to reach more programs and educators. The pilot will engage three state teams composed of four program staff and a state PD lead. State adult education directors will be eligible to apply for the pilot in fall 2022. The application is soon to come.

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