Online and Adult Learners

In this chapter, we will be learning about adult and online learners. The information is intended to give you a brief but informational look into adult and online learners.

Adult Learners

Adult learners are experienced, self-directed, motivated, and ready to learn. Adult learners generally need to know why they are learning a new concept or information through problem-solving and doing. It is essential to explain why the skills or knowledge being taught and how it relates to their academic learning experience.

When teaching adult learners, create learning experiences and assessments that are task-oriented and stay away from busy work (additional activities/assessments meant to meet time requirements).  Recognize that each student is bringing different levels of education and experience to the classroom. Encourage your learners to take charge of their learning and create opportunities that require them to problem solve. Tell your students why they need to learn content/skills and tap into their motivation.

Online Learners

Online education allows many students who lack geographical access, such as rural students, members of the military, out-of-state students, and working adults, the ability to obtain a college degree. In addition to an increasing number of adult students who prefer online learning, online learning is now attracting younger and first-time students. More students are choosing programs that fit their specific educational and career goals. If they are not available at a local university, they enroll in online programs that meet their educational needs.

Characteristics of successful online learners:  

Initiative/self-motivation: Much of the learning in an online course is initiated by the students, which is different from a traditional course. In a traditional face-to-face course, students meet at a regular time weekly, and the professor delivers a lecture of all the weekly learning materials. In contrast, online students must take the initiative each week to find time to log onto the Learning Management System and complete readings, and view lectures with no guidance or defined time.

Persistence: Online students have to be willing to persevere through the learning materials, technical issues, not understanding/liking content or assignments, lack of teacher contact, and even knowing that they have a long night/weekend of studying/homework ahead to meet your deadlines.

Organization: Being organized (time, course materials, study space) is essential for juggling a job, a family, and schoolwork.

Engagement: The professor and other students have a lot to offer to the online learner’s experience.  The professor can help build a learning community by providing ways to engage with other students.  Students can learn from one another experience with the content as well as motivate each other and cultivate friendships.

Communication skills: Online students have to be able to communicate clearly and effectively to professors and other students in the learning management system while practicing proper email and online netiquette.


Online and Adult Learners Copyright © by Analisa McMillan. All Rights Reserved.

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