digital readiness

The 5 stages of digital readiness for adult online students

Many adult learners rank low when it comes to digital readiness and desire to pursue online learning.

New research reveals that many adults suffer from a “digital readiness” gap that impacts their preparedness and comfort in using digital tools for online learning.

U.S. adults fall along a spectrum of digital readiness, ranging from those who are fairly prepared to those who are relatively hesitant, according to Digital Readiness Gaps, a new report from the Pew Research Center.

Adults who hesitate to embrace technology for their learning are below average on the measures of readiness. They may need help with new electronic gadgets or have difficulty determining whether online information is trustworthy.

Those whose profiles display a higher level of preparedness for using technology in their learning are collectively above average on measures of digital readiness.

The report explores the attitudes and behaviors that contribute to U.S. adult learners’ preparedness and comfort in using digital tools for learning and examines them in five areas: their confidence in using computers, their facility with getting new technology to work, their use of digital tools for learning, their ability to determine the trustworthiness of online information, and their familiarity with contemporary education technology terms.

(Next page: The 5 stages of digital readiness)

Just 17 percent of adults are in the “digitally ready” group, meaning they are confident in their online skills, have little hesitation when it comes to finding trustworthy information online. Adult learners in this group are predominantly well-off, highly-educated and are in their 30s or 40s. Two-thirds of this group has done some personal learning online in the past year, and 40 percent said most or all of their learning takes place online.

Thirty-one percent of adults are in the “cautious clickers” category–they are confident in their digital skills but are less likely to engage in personal learning, offline or online. Sixty percent have used the internet for at least some level of personal learning and 23 percent have taken an online course, but 59 percent said they have concerns around trusting online information.

The digitally ready and cautious clickers groups are considered more comfortable in their use of digital tools for online learning. These adult learners account for 48 percent of participating adults. The rest of the adults–52 percent–are relatively hesitant.

Thirty-three percent of adults are in the “reluctant” group–they do not necessarily worry about trusting online information, but they have below-average confidence with computers and other electronic devices. Forty-three percent of adults in this category said they are very confident with computers, but only 1 percent are aware of new ed-tech concepts. Only 6 percent have taken an online course.

Just 5 percent are in the “traditional learners” category. These adults are active learners but are not very interested in using technology for their learning. Ninety percent of these adults said they are worried about whether they can trust online information.

Fourteen percent of adults are in the “unprepared” category. While they engage in basic learning activities such as reading, they don’t necessarily venture into online learning. Eighty-seven percent said they have a hard time determining what online information is trustworthy.

Laura Ascione