Digitalisation is ever growing and will inevitably affect all sectors. Yet we still struggle to understand the extent of it and few are fully prepared for it: there is a change in the nature of the race between man and the machine, and the machine is running faster. The challenge of education in a digital world commands us to open education as widely as possible to include all, through flexible pathways and innovative thinking in order to enable all to adapt to yet unknown developments. How can lifelong learning answer these challenges in order to insure universal access to digital education?
One of the first visible issues is the skills gap between labour market needs and the digital competences learners have; the additional digital skills required mean low skilled jobs are being replaced by medium to high skilled jobs; qualifications delivered by educational institutions do not correspond to the qualifications sought after in the labour market… But more broadly, if this skills gap has obvious repercussions on employment, digitalisation is affecting all areas of life: from booking a plane ticket to paying their taxes, citizens are nowadays required to be digitally proficient in order to participate in society. The transformations generated by the development of new technologies are indeed so overarching that digital skills have become life skills. It is thus imperative to reflect on these new challenges from an inclusiveness perspective, in order to ensure universal access of all, and consequently, adopt a lifelong learning approach.
How does education, in its multiple forms, adapt to this new reality? Digitalising education is often presented as the panacea to tackle these issues. Progressively, teachers are being encouraged to use digital devices in their classrooms, because learners must become digitally literate to live in today’s world, but also because these tools may improve the learning process and teaching methods. Digitalisation also allows to open up the classroom and bring education to the learner wherever she/he is and whoever she/he is.
These changes brought by digitalisation are affecting education as a whole. In this new context, what is the place of the learner, the educator and technology? How are learning environments (from home, to classroom, to community) affected by it? Should we, and how may we equip all learners with digital devices to ensure they develop digital skills? How do we ensure learners remain independent from the tool? The digital world is opening access to new forms of education and learning yet remains inaccessible to many: who are they? Why is this a European challenge and what is the added-value of seeking solutions within the European Union? Starting with these questions, the Lifelong Learning Platform will invite participants to question the ways in which we can ensure all learners have access to the education they need, to grow and understand the digital world, and how lifelong learning will support them in seizing new opportunities and fully participating in society.