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Mobile apps and platforms core to adult learning

Skills traditionally taught in the home, such as cooking, DIY and maintenance, are increasingly learnt via digital platforms, a report by Halifax Insurance finds

Nearly half of UK adults have turned to digital technology, such as mobile apps and platforms, to develop skills in the comfort of their own homes, according to research from Halifax Insurance.

The insurance supplier’s fourth annual Digital Home Report said skills traditionally passed down between generations are now typically learned online or through an app.

Two-thirds of respondents to the survey said they had gone online to improve their cooking and to learn new DIY or home maintenance skills, with just under a third going online for things such as sewing tips and knitting patterns.

Additionally, the teaching of activities that previously incorporated face-to-face instruction – such as learning a musical instrument or foreign language, or even using a personal trainer – is also heading online.

“The advent of new technology has brought with it many ways to accommodate different learning styles. It offers individuals the flexibility and choice to learn at their own pace in settings that fit easily into personal situations,” said educational psychologist Kairen Cullen.

Halifax Insurance found that the desire for flexible learning and privacy were behind the surge in usage of digital learning options. More than half of respondents said having the opportunity to learn on their own was the primary reason they used digital resources rather than more traditional methods, such as evening classes.

Others said they valued the ability to learn at their own pace, keep track of and quantify their progress, and learn at times that suited them better.

Read more about skills

It also suggested that the use of mobile was going some way to mitigate a potential knowledge gap around essential life skills – such as cooking – in the UK.

Around half of respondents said they wouldn’t have had time to learn skills without using technology, and one in seven said they were too embarrassed to be seen practicing in public. A quarter said that, without the ability to go online, they would never have picked up a foreign language, for example.

Social learning

Cullen pointed out that digital learning may have some drawbacks, such as a lack of social interaction between pupils and peers.

“However, social media and ever-evolving online teaching methods offset this to some degree, as does the fact that people now have access to a huge array of resources that can help expand their knowledge, thinking and practical skills,” she said.

Martyn Foulds, Halifax Insurance senior claims manager, said the research made it clear that mobile devices were increasingly valuable tools for helping people develop personal skills that may have been inaccessible.

Read more on Mobile apps and software

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Long before there was online learning, there was a weekly package of information and tests sent via the Post Office. Opening that pack was a major event in our house. My brother was filling in a few college courses. I had signed up for a "free" lit program (which, after the first class, turned out to be anything but free, but that's another story). 

Not only is the process infinitely easier now, it often includes invaluable live feedback and discussions which move remote lessons a bit closer to a real classroom experience. That said, it's astonishingly shortsighted to confite off-site learning to "skills...such as cooking, DIY and maintenance." What's wrong with math and science and literature and music and.... 
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