C. Cocquyt, A.N. Diep, C. Zhu, T. Vanwing

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (BELGIUM)
Lifelong learning has been identified as one important factor in achieving a knowledge economy and a learning society. Consequently, participation in adult education should strengthen educational and personal development among adults. At the same time, the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education has been increasing remarkably. As lifelong learning has an considerable impact on people’s lives, this study investigates adults’ outcomes emanating from participation in blended learning programs which are offered in formal adult education. Given that benefits of engagement in lifelong learning seem to be especially positive for vulnerable or disadvantaged learners, we investigate whether this will also be the case in blended learning environments. In order to tackle this, a quantitative survey based on previously validated instruments was developed, translated into Dutch and validated in this context. The survey was conducted among adult learners (n=133) enrolled in six adult education centres in Belgium (Flanders). The results show that in general adults perceive positive learning outcomes, a moderate positive evolution in social connectedness and social capital, and a decrease in social participation from the time they have engaged in the program. Vulnerable adults (e.g., low-educated, non-natives, non-actives) experience higher social and learning outcomes. Ethnicity only reveals differences among adults concerning social outcomes, while educational background accounts for inequalities regarding the learning outcomes. Remarkably, the educational program also shows substantial differences for all outcome variables. Adults enrolled in secondary adult education perceive significantly better outcomes than those in teacher training. Hence, this study has provided evidence about how participation in formal adult education, which is offered through blended learning, can serve as an impetus towards personal and educational development of all adults, and especially for the ones in more disadvantaged positions. Therefore it is crucial to keep encouraging vulnerable adults to participate, since this might be a stepping stone towards more social equality.