Information Technology, Adult Learning, Employment (ITALE)

Preparing for the 21st century
An international study into adult learning needs and the impact of IT in the adult learning process.

Framework | Objectives | Methodology | Project committee | Call for Information - Phase I | LWF Documents | LWF Home Page


In today's world where already two out of three employees spend a major part of their time processing information1, self-directed, self-motivated lifelong learning has become a vital necessity for citizens of all ages if they are to keep apace with the political, ecological, economic and social changes going on around them. Unfortunately, poorly qualified adults or those with an insufficient level of literacy (not simply in terms of reading, writing and numeracy but, equally importantly, the ability to navigate in the labyrinth of information and knowledge) are finding themselves subjugated by the impact of the media and unable to benefit from new learning opportunities; they are gradually being excluded from society. This sector of the community, particularly those seeking a first opportunity to integrate the labour market, will represent the target audience of this study.

A number of international studies have shown that Information Technology is a valuable tool for extending learning opportunities to wider sectors of the community. Not only can it stimulate new learning attitudes and strategies, it is also a powerful medium for developing formal and informal learning environments which empower, liberate, transform and create new roles, relationships and processes, particularly for those who encounter difficulties in traditional learning situations. When implemented effectively, IT can overcome learners' fears of being judged, heighten motivation and raise self-esteem - access to powerful technology conveys messages about being valued members of society, thereby opening up new opportunities for equality.

Little has been done to date to assess the value of IT in adult learning. Few teachers have been given the opportunity to discover open-ended, IT-incorporated training approaches. The greatest advances in this area seem to be coming from in-company training sectors, where the massive resources being invested to update employees' skills are even further increasing the gap between members of the workforce and the socially excluded. In France alone an annual budget of FRF 45 billion2 is spent on in-company training. In view of its objective to develop lifelong learning, the European Union forecasts that major ongoing developments will continue in this sector over the next decade, in particular through the contribution of multimedia products3. A major objective of the present study is to open international dialogue between in-company trainers and trainers working with potential learners either seeking to enter the labour market or simply seeking new learning opportunities for their own personal fulfillment, in order to permit all learners to draw greater benefit from these investments.

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This study will consist of an assessment and analysis of IT-incorporated training models and methods being successfully applied in adult training programs throughout the world. It comprises eight major objectives:

  1. Document how IT may enhance the teaching and learning process by providing new methods and models for:
    • faster acquisition of literacy (in the broader sense of the term), skills, competencies and knowledge in all areas of adult education by promoting learning from level 1 - accumulation of knowledge - to level 2 - «learning to learn»,
    • developing new communication skills, in particular real-time access to electronic information, hence motivating citizens to keep up with the rapid evolution that is taking place both in their professional sector and in society,
    • promoting skills of deduction, prediction, seeking of relationships and formulation of hypotheses, i.e. hypothetico-deductive reasoning, upon which independent learning strategies are built,
    • providing auto-assessment methods enabling adult learners to measure their own progress in terms of skills and competencies and to set themselves realistic, ongoing goals.
  2. Explore potential ways of fostering equality of learning opportunities by creating new learning environments that will enable citizens from all walks of life, especially poorly qualified adults lacking the required level of literacy or skills, to become independent lifelong learners and gain the necessary motivation and self-confidence to exploit their full learning potential.
  3. Examine examples of methodology for the recognition of prior learning (RPL) and the management of intellectual capital in the aim of rendering each individual fully conscious of his own potential and utilising the qualities of all members of the community to the fullest.
  4. Gain insight into the individual learning skills, aptitudes, knowledge, strategies and forms of reasoning required by citizens to assume an active role in today's information society.
  5. Examine new types of open learning communities ranging from distance-learning opportunities to a tutorship system permitting older, more experienced citizens (particularly those in early retirement) to enrich their own lives by placing their knowledge and skills at the service of fellow citizens struggling to integrate the workforce and the life of the community.
  6. Identify trainer needs in order to optimise the integration of IT in adult education.
  7. Explore possibilities/scenarios for developing the awareness of the business sector, adult education authorities and the general public as to the advantages offered by multimedia products as an efficient, cost-effective and widely accessible means of training.
  8. Promote the establishment of an international network for the exchange of experiences and resources in adult education via the information highway, at the same time providing trainers with new "hands-on" learning opportunities to perfect their own IT skills.

Top of Document | Framework | Objectives | Methodology | Project committee | Call for Information - Phase I | LWF Documents | LWF Home Page


The study will be divided into four phases. Results will be regularly posted on this website during and at the end of each phase.

Phase I - (October 1997 - March 1998)
Analysis of concept and context, development of analytical grids

  1. Explore and provide a synthesis of promising approaches for identifying both adult-learning needs and methods and models successfully being applied through: 
    • study of relevant reports, conference proceedings, professional literature, etc., review and synthesis of analytical frameworks presented
    • consultation and continued collaboration with organisations and individuals active in this field (e.g. adult education agencies, human resource and training managers, employment agencies...)
    • consultation with specialists in order to develop a greater awareness of psychological factors at work in the adult learning process and possible effects of IT use in this domain
    • contact with software publishers for information on products currently available, and on future trends in this field.
  2. Develop two analytical grids - an On-site Observation Grid and a Training Needs Grid to record information to be collected in phase II.
  3. Establish a data base in which all relevant information (organisations, documentation, methods and models, training needs) will be recorded This could constitute the basis of an on-line reference resource, eventually to be extended as a professional forum for the exchange of projects.
  4. Initiate an ongoing search for IT-incorporated projects worthy of closer examination; carry out a preliminary analysis of such projects (goals, teaching/learning supports, methods applied, results obtained so far); set up contacts for on-site observations and distribution of grids.

Phase II - (March 1998 - October 1998)
Audit and assessment of training needs and models

  1. The Training Needs Grid will be widely distributed in the aim of examining training needs from three perspectives, namely:
    • international organisations, adult education agencies and other authorities responsible for fostering equal learning opportunities in society
    • the employment sector in order to define the skills and competencies considered necessary for an individual to assume an active role in the present social and professional context
    • adults seeking new learning opportunities (to be contacted via associations and local authorities)
  2. The On-site Observation Grid will be used by project leaders, trainers and ITALE Committee members throughout the world to gather details on IT projects underway, notably:
    • Equipment: hardware/software, teacher and learner support material available or necessary, accessibility for different categories of learners
    • Purpose: transfer knowledge or skills, promote communication skills, research information, improve level of literacy and/or achievement, meet specific learning needs, assessment/auto-assessment, incoming/outgoing level of learners...
    • Social factors: individual or group activity, level and form of interaction (between learners, teacher/learner, learner/knowledge), learner attitudes, motivation, social and behavioural changes, development of initiative/self-confidence/independent learning strategies, promotion of equal learning opportunities
    • Organisation: mode of access, organisational and pedagogical methods, teacher training, means of assessment, cost-effectiveness of model, transferability to other learning situations, etc.

(The use of an analytical grid to assess such information has been successfully applied to investigate IT applications in primary education4)

Phase III - (October 1998 - February 1999)
Analysis of data on existing adult training programs, broader applications for target audiences

Information gathered on learning projects will be used to draw up a synthesis highlighting aspects correlating with Objectives 1) criteria in view of learners' need expressed in phase 2. The general context of each on-site observation will be fully investigated in terms of:

  • factors contributing to the success of certain projects (hardware/software used, teacher training, other features of the learning environment...)
  • location of sites to which these factors are common, any existing links between these sites (common hardware/software, teacher training, etc.)
  • broader applications for models correlating with Objectives 1) criteria
  • learning needs the best and least catered to
  • comments and recommendations put forward by teachers and learners on all sites

Phase IV - (February 1999 - June 1999)
Recommendations for development, validation and final report

A report drawn up by the ITALE Committee will provide an in-depth analysis of successful IT-incorporated models and methods investigated, and will include detailed information on their correlation with learning needs, broader fields of application, the added value of IT in the learning experience, organisational and didactic approaches, and an outline of the role and responsibilities of all key players involved. Recommendations will be made for future developments in the adult learning sector. A short version will be made available on the web.

The study will be brought to an end with a series of workshops intended to discuss the application of findings, launch pilot projects and open an international forum on Information Technology, Adult Learning and Employment.

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Information Technology, Adult Learning, Employment (ITALE) Committee

This project has been developed and is being conducted by:

  • Janice Richardson (Luxembourg), Lecturer at the Luxembourg Chamber of Private Employees-Nancy University, author of a 1995-96 European Union study into the impact of IT in primary education in Europe, consultant in educational sciences, member of the Global Resource Council (an international think-tank for the implementation of IT projects).

In collaboration with:

  • Hans Pelgrum (the Netherlands), Senior researcher in the Centre for Applied Educational Research at the University of Twente. Speciality: international comparative educational assessments. Currently international coordinator of the IEA Second Information Technology in Education Study (SITES) and coordinator of the European Network for educational research on Assessment, Effectiveness and Innovation.
  • Tommy Isakkson (Sweden): IT expert/Lecturer at the University of Umea School of Education, Lecturer at University College of Falun/Borlange (responsible in both centres for distance education programmes on IT and pedagogy), Head of the Nocasi Information Technology consulting company, founder of the «Children of the Future» network, expert in various EU programs (Tempus, Commett, Erasmus and Leonardo).
  • Guillaume De Meuter (Germany), Professor at the Würzburg-Schweinfurt University of Applied Science, Head of Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Cooperation in Education (CIRCE).

Top of Document | Framework | Objectives | Methodology | Project committee | Call for Information - Phase I | LWF Documents | LWF Home Page

Call for Information - Phase I

The first phase of the study is now underway. The project committee is seeking:

  • information on recent and forthcoming conferences, publications, etc. relevant to adult learning
  • input on successful IT-incorporated methods and models being used in adult training
  • contacts with organisations and individuals actively involved in this area

Please contact Janice Richardson

Mail address:
1 rue des Pommiers
L-2343 Cents

1 Baudé J., Rapport d'activités et orientations pour 1995-96, in La revue de l'Association EPI, December 1995, N°80 - back

2 1995 figures (public and private sectors included) have not been published by other European Union member countries - back

3 Cf. European Union Reports, IRDAC Report, 1995 - back

4 Richardson J., Information Technology - a new path to creativity in education, Paris, ESKA Editions, 1996 - back