[Digital Nations in the making: Update Page 20 – Broadband take-up].

Digital Nations in the making was always intended to track the relationship between technology change and the potential for adult learning. But this created a problem in a fast changing world. How do you keep readers abreast of change after a book is published? It was a problem Virman Man, NIACE’s books editor and I identified at an early stage; and was the origin of this Transforming Learning blog, which could provide links to current data and research.

At the end of the 2006 – and almost seven years since the UK Government announced its ICT infrastructure for the Community plans – it’s time for an update on access rates and penetration and for a few predictions for 2007!

Getting a link to the internet for their students is always an issue for adult educators, but things are changing. Home dial-up connections are declining sharply as take up of broadband services – in response to lower costs – climbs. Providing always-on connectivity and rapid downloading of multimedia and audiovisual material, broadband offers great opportunities we need to seize.

 Just three years ago only 19% of connections in the UK were broadband, but by September of this year the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that this figure had reached 75%, compared with 59% in October 2005 – a figure I quoted in Digital Nations in the making.

From some recent research I have been doing, I have learnt that online learning is not yet a big area in either adult education or further education, but the possibilities are opening up, as ONS figures show that 85% of people accessed the internet in 2006 from their own homes.

With many adult services developing their own learning platforms like Moodle, there’s more incentive for tutors to create activities which can reinforce their own classes and link to media rich material created by others. A good example is languages for listening to audiovisual material of people conversing and practising pronounciation. There’s plenty out there like the BBC’s Talk Greek programme.

For 2007 I’m betting that using mobile devices for informal learning and access to web services via ubiquitous wi-fi will be fast growing areas.