Reaching the hard-to-reach learners

Reaching the hard-to-reach learners
The Learning Challenge – Narative
You offer learning courses for senior citizens in remote areas to fight isolation against them and promote active aging. Those courses were always free of cost. You visit one of those remote areas and meet some seniors who recognize you. You are asking them whether they participate in any of the courses you provide, and they replied that, although they would love to, the participation cost is very high for them. Why did this happen? That was due to the lack of proper information they had, something that probably resulted from your inability to reach them and guarantee they will stay informed. What can you do as an adult education provider to ensure that you can reach all potential learners, and especially the hard to reach ones?

Solving the Problem

Suggestion 1

There are many things to consider while drawing your communication strategy. Do your research carefully. Awareness of barriers to learning and communication is important to try and overcome them. Be proactive. Consult seniors and local inhabitants on that.

Suggestion 2

When it is challenging to reach a particular group of learners, you can always try to reach someone who can. People from their “circle”. In the case of the seniors in remote areas, their families, local services, or care homes might work. You can be even more innovative here and “recruit” people who are not obvious choices, such as the village’s mailman or post office, as they probably get in touch with all inhabitants and could spread the message.

Suggestion 3

Engaging local community groups and other local stakeholders is always valuable. One option might be to keep organizing informative sessions, where you will be presenting the developed content and programme results, as well as allowing people to get to know you and your work. Those sessions might take place in local affairs seniors are also expected to join, such as health promotion events, and so on. Personal contact is always appreciated, and especially from seniors.

Solving the Problem – Discussing with educators

What are the challenges that exist in remote areas? Are there frequent power outages at certain times of the day? Prefer a certain time to advertise your courses. Do seniors have access to computers? Probably not, so the most common way of promoting your work nowadays (media) might not be that effective. In such cases, a more traditional way of reaching them might do the work, as by using a megaphone, through local radio or local newspaper. You need to be creative here.
Who do you need to reach to improve access to adult learning in remote areas? Who would be specifically helpful with reaching senior citzens? A stakeholder mapping exercise can help you see the diversity of actors involved at the local level.

Points for Discussion with Policy Makers

Does the infrastructure in remote areas allow for adult learning? Public transport (or lack thereof), connectivity issues, proximity of childcare services all affect participation in adult learning, and can be improved by a variety of actions at the policy level. Different policy fields need to cooperate horizontally to improve access to learning in remote areas, even more so when it concerns vulnerable learners, such as senior citizens.