The effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, the confinement, the suspension of face-to-face training activities, as well as the various security and social distancing measures have definitively established e-learning as a key element in the education and training industry. Whether at school, higher education or adult education level, distance learning is here to stay, with its advantages and disadvantages. In fact, although this was already a clear upward trend, companies, organisations and public or private institutions have reinforced their commitment to e-learning. In addition to being adapted to health conditions (which can be a possible eventuality), e-learning has shown some of its enormous advantages, as it universalises and democratizes knowledge and access to the sources of knowledge. Therefore, e-learning is an essential element to avoid a gap in adult education, generating inequality of opportunities and social and economic fracture between different sectors of the population. But, as we have seen in recent months, there are also counteracting factors that affect not only learners but also trainers. Some of these are inherent to online learning, such as the struggle with isolation, loneliness, lack of personal interaction or the need to find intrinsic motivation. However, the pandemic has reminded us how difficult it is for learners to juggle their training with uncertainty in different domains, while facilitators have to manage a workload that multiplies stress and anxiety.
Thus, and especially in the context of distance education, the importance of socio-emotional skills in the transmission of content is clear, especially in adult education or andragogy. This is the term coined by American educator Malcolm Knowles to distinguish the principles and practices of teaching adults and to contrast it from the theories and practices used to teach children (pedagogy). In this sense, emotional management (whether intrapersonal or interpersonal) in adults is also different from that in children, and although especially during the pandemic much research has been done on the effects of confinement and distance education at school level, little has been said about adult education. The big difference is that while in schools there is a gradual return to face-to-face education, in adult education the trend is definitely towards an online universe. It is therefore essential to take into account the impact of the emotional aspect on the cognitive aspect, as well as the need to harmonise them in order to increase the chances of success of the training process under such particular conditions. As UNESCO itself ratifies,
“the development of socio-emotional learning skills helps stressful situations to be dealt with calmly and with balanced emotional responses, strengthening critical thinking and decision-making”
Trainers and learners of online adult education, since both need knowledge and management of socioemotional skills to carry out their tasks:
Facilitators. To manage groups, motivate and maintain the connection with their learners so that the content reaches them in the clearest and most direct way.
Learners. To manage the difficulties of learning alone and overcome the possible emotional and mental problems that isolation, distance and personal disconnection with the group can bring.