What Adults are Demanding from their Education?

By Dr. Pamela Roggeman, Academic Dean, University of Phoenix

Dr. Pamela Roggeman, Academic Dean, University of Phoenix

As I sat in standstill traffic the other day during my commute, all I could think about is how actually going to work seems archaic. At that moment, how I longed for a self-driving car so I could get out my laptop and begin crossing tasks off of my “to-do” list. 

My business is education, and I spent the first half of my career as a high school English teacher.  When I think fondly of my days in the classrooms, what I remember is not the work my students and I did together but the actual experience of being together. 

"Adults are ready to learn and they bring their life experiences with them to the table. They need to see connections and immediate purpose to what they are learning"

But as a working adult, the thought of actually commuting to a place to pursue my education gives me pause. 

Much is known about adult learning, or andragogy, that supports my disdain for commuting to a physical location in order to learn.  Adult learners, unlike younger learners, are not dependent on someone to oversee and coalesce their learning, but rather adults like to self-direct their learning. This makes sense since adult learners have a sense of immediacy to apply their learning. Adults prefer to learn what they need to learn - right away. Their motivation is internal. They are not learning something to please someone else or achieve a certain grade or status. Adults are motivated to learn something for a specific reason such as “I will learn how to use TurboTax to save myself time and money.” Adults are ready to learn and they bring their life experiences with them to the table. They need to see connections and immediate purpose to what they are learning.

So, what does this discussion have to do with my commuting complaint?

E-learning, when it is done well, has evolved to satisfy the wants and needs of adult learners. And these wants and needs can be achieved without going somewhere in order to learn. Terms such as cyber-safety, micro-learning, gamification, on-demand, and just-in-time are all terms that are embedded into our vocabulary as a result of e-learning. Adults see these practices as necessary tools in our day to day operations. Successful e-learning is individualized, convenient, challenging, rewarding and, maybe most importantly, convenient.

E-earning should engage the learner efficiently – it can be sliced into the appropriate bite-size piece that the learner needs (and wants). It can efficiently house a variety of resources, tasks, challenges, simulations and problems to solve that would be awkward to collect in a traditional learning environment. In addition, when e-learning is done well, collaboration can grow. And all this can happen from anywhere, at any time.

Having taught for so many years, I can attest to one truth: sustained, effective learning does not happen by accident.  All good learning requires careful, thoughtful, deliberate and sophisticated planning. This applies to e-learning as well.

E-learning demands that the learner have digital literacy. This acquisition comes easier to some but requires some degree of effort and dedication by all. E-Learners must be willing to be less dependent on their teachers, who play much more of a facilitator role than an instructor role.  Also, they must be self-motivated. It is much easier to walk away from a computer when frustration sets in than it is to get up and walk out of a classroom.

E-Learning aligns with how adults prefer to learn. Plus, it keeps us out of our cars and off the roads.

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