Making / Learning / Work was an adult learning innovation project hosted at the MIT Media Lab from September 2014 to May 2016. This site is an archive of the project documentation.

In the US, 36 Million adults have low basic literacy and numeracy skills (Download the PDF report). Many are stuck in low-paying jobs or unemployment. This is a challenge not just for the individuals and families directly affected, but for the US economy as a whole. “Learning” is the most promising pathways towards family-supporting employment and better futures.

Employers are seeking workers with problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills. Yet, much adult learning has traditionally focused on instruction-led development of content and basic skills. Creative approaches to learning (project-based, collaborative, playful) that foster development of 21st century skills are rarely considered.

During the last few years, we have seen a burst of innovation in online and technology-supported learning. Yet, few of these innovations were designed for the adult who may need them most. We aim to change that.

New Solutions

The scale of the problem suggests that new approaches may be needed. This project aims to think outside the typical boundaries and beyond the obvious solutions, to identify novel ways to address the overall goal: give more adult learners a pathway to success. We don’t mean to ignore the tried & tested models, but to learn from them. At the same time, we are not interested in technology innovation for the sake of scale alone, but are looking for real impact on peoples’ lives.

We are particularly interested in projects that (a) offer a range of approaches to developing 21st century skills and academic mindsets, to complement more traditional technical training, and (b) use technology to lower the cost of traditional high-touch / high-cost models.

Project Outline

  • Background research - Understanding the scope of the problem
  • Ideashop / Workshop - Generating 20 idea sketches
  • Design - Identifying 2-4 ideas for prototyping
  • Implementation - Co-designing prototopyes together with adult learners. Implement, study, iterate