Published on March 15, 2013
Chi Zhang Jack Zheng Assistant Professors, Department of IT With Becky Rutherfoord March 12, 2013 Professional Development Workshop To cite: • Zhang, C. & Zheng, G. (2013). Profiling and Supporting Adult Learners. In Leone, S. editor. Synergic Integration of Formal and Informal E-Learning Environments for Adults Lifelong Learners. IGI Global. • Zhang, C., & Zheng, J. (2013), Supporting Adult Learning: Enablers, Barriers, and Practices, ACM Special Interest Group for Information Technology Education Conference, SIGITE 2013, Orlando, FL, October 10-12.
Agenda • Brief introduction • Discussion – Adult learner characteristics • Facilitators and barriers to adult learning – Teaching strategies – E-learning environments (technologies) • LMS, Web 2.0, MOOC, PLE/SLN – Administrative support • Including Prior Learning Assessment
Adult Learner Characteristics • Three aspects – Demographics – Learning motivations and expectations – Learning styles and capabilities • The characteristics of adult learners are generalizations of a large and diverse group of people with wide range of abilities, educational and cultural backgrounds, responsibilities and job experiences.
Demographics • They are – over 25 years old (definition by GOAL ). – financially independent of their parents. – may be married and have dependents. – less involved in campus life and activities. • They – may have a fulltime or part time job. – have multiple roles and responsibilities in life. – may have more fixed and tighter schedules. – have a greater depth, breadth, and variation of life and work experiences than younger people. • Because of adult learners’ multiple roles and responsibilities. They often choose a more flexible format to complete their learning. – Part-time program or weekend offerings – Asynchronous online learning.
Learning Motivations and Expectations • 92 percent of the adults surveyed indicated to maintain or improve skills and knowledge they already had; • 77 percent indicated they participated to learn new skills or knowledge; • 33 percent participated to get or keep a certificate or license. • 19 percent wanted to acquire skills and knowledge to help change jobs or career fields; Adults' motivations for participating in formal and work-related courses • Goal-oriented. They have relatively clearer goal and better decision in what to learn and apply, and what is important and relevant for career goals. This is unlike young learners who are more undecided and more open to try and change. • Result-oriented. They expect a clear value of the education and what they are learning to be immediately useful (Ittner & Douds, 1997). They will leave if the education does not lead to those results. • Very practical and relevancy-oriented. They expect the learning directly relevant to their work and life. If they don’t see a relevancy they usually feel lost and disoriented. They also require learning or any task to be reasonable and well explained. They will not perform a task just because the instructor assigned it. Strong and specific expectations
Learning Styles and Capabilities • Have more life and professional experience and knowledge. – Tend to feel more guided and oriented when given a big picture of the field and are clearly shown where they currently stand. – Are more comfortable at discussing abstract ideas and concepts that are generalized from individual examples and past experience. – May have established viewpoints and strong beliefs. – They are critical thinkers, and need to verify the information based on their beliefs and experiences. They are more often skeptical about new information, and are more protective and prefer to try it out before accepting it. – Are more engaged in the learning process and therefore contribute more in classroom discussions and online discussions. • The experience they have can serve as a great asset in higher education, but it can also bias their perceptions about how education will occur. – Past experiences may actually make the learning harder if incorrect or pre-conceived ideas are not recognized by the teacher. – If successfully guided by the instructor, the former experiences can facilitate adult learners in making the past experience more meaningful and relevant. • Have more solid soft skills particularly – Self-directed and self-paced in terms of learning planning and management. – Have more matured learning habits, such as conducting independent research, identifying patterns and trends from readings/practices, and being better at reviewing and reflection. – Communicate better either with peers and instructors.
Use of Technologies • The popularity of computer use and distance learning have made it more and more important that adults be comfortable using computers and web based application to learn (Johnson, 2011). • However, many adults are usually late adopters of new technologies, and have resistance to and poor attitudes about using technologies. – Newer devices and applications are coming out at a very rapid pace. Adults are faced with having to constantly keep up with the changes of technologies, but have a difficulty of switching away from the technology that they are already familiar with. • Instructors cannot assume a quick familiarity with technologies such as learning management systems or even more advanced synchronized online meeting environment, or the latest web 2.0 tools. – Adults need even more training on the use of computing tools before they can really embrace the new learning environment. – Learning progress can be really slowed down if they are struggling with technology issues and not actual course work, such as trouble shooting technical problems (either hardware or software) and slow operations on computers. All these troubles can make the best technology fail if the needs of adult learners are not identified and addressed.
Facilitators and barriers Facilitators Barriers Personal • Rich life and work experience. • Past experience motivates to learn. • Goal-oriented. • Strong motivation to improve knowledge and skills. • Relevant to life. • Poor academic preparedness. • Lack of previous success. Are anxious about returning to school because of a long gap in education. • Past experience may be biased or incomplete. • Late adopter of technologies. Resistance to change. • Ability to absorb new information due to aging. Situational • Less involved in campus activities; more concentrated. • More open to discuss and communicate with peers. • Have multiple roles in life: work, family, financial responsibilities. • Rigid schedules and limited time. • Tight budgets (debt) and lack of support. Institutional • A variety of learning program options (e.g., online program, part-time program, accelerated training programs). • Academic advising and other ancillary supports (e.g., counseling, career service, child care) • Flexible course schedules • Lack of information and support. • Rigid course schedule and degree requirements. • Teaching methods and course delivery that do not match adult learners’ needs (e.g., more memorizing content, irrelevant to life, information cannot be applied immediately)
Teaching Strategies •Active learning refers to a general type of learning methods that focus on active participation of learners (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). It has been widely accepted in higher education as one of the effective instructional methods. Active learning practices favor student participation and engagement in the learning process and encourage learning from students’ own efforts. Common practices include active writing, classroom discussion, problem solving, case study, learning by teaching, etc. Active learning •Collaborative or cooperative learning involves students working in groups, or a joint effort of students and teachers (B. Smith & MacGregor, 1992). Like active learning, collaborative learning is centered on students’ exploration or application of knowledge, and in addition, emphasizes interaction with others and knowledge sharing (Du & Wagner, 2005). Common practices include student team work in paper writing, presentation, and development projects. Collaborative learning •Particularly for adult students, learning from peers can best capitalize their experiences and knowledge. Adult students can serve as resources to the instructor and fellow learners. Instructors may use open- ended discussions to draw out students' knowledge and experiences. Peer learning •The essence of authentic learning is to relate learning to real world issues and problems. Instructors can provide examples that are directly related to their work environment, use case studies that directly relate to every work and life, or offer real world projects if any business or organization can sponsor the work. A curriculum can also offer practice focused courses like capstone, independent study, internship, etc. Authentic learning •Personalized learning approach provides flexibility and choices to accomplish course objectives. Personalized learning is learner centered. Instructors should serve as a facilitator and find out what students want to learn and then customize course work to their interests and needs, within the general course scope, objective and learning outcomes. For example, a term project option can be offered to replace a final exam. Or, an option can be offered to write a paper or to develop a system as a term project. The topic for each project can also be customized to learner’s interest. Personalized learning
E-Learning Environment • More and more adult learners prefer an online learning format because of their rigid schedule and self-paced learning style. • The traditional formal learning environments like LMS are rather closed systems and are restricted to time and learner registration • A number of Web 2.0 concepts and applications have demonstrated the potential to move learning to a more open, sustained, and learner-centered environment to support lifelong learning. – Blog – Social networking – Media sharing
Technology Trend • Open – MOOC (massive open online course) – LMS 2.0: OpenClass • Social – Community of practice (CoP) – SLN (social learning network) • http://einztein.com, http://remixlearning.com, http://www.sophia.org – Social media tools (wiki, blog,…) • Personal – PLE (Personal Learning Environment) • http://www.edtechpost.ca/ple_diagrams • http://www.role-project.eu
Admin support Level of support Services to support Adult Learners’ learning and success Instructor A variety of teaching methods and educational technology, accommodating class policy, relevance of the course Academic program / Department - Flexible class schedules - Distance learning options - Career-related certificate program options - Accelerated class options - Part-time degree programs - Academic advising - Course credit for life experience (Prior Learning Assessment) Institution - Financial aid packages - Child care services - Transportation options - Course credit for life experience (Prior Learning Assessment) - Academic, educational and career services
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) • PLA is defined as – “The evaluation and assessment of an individual’s life learning for college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training” (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, 2013) • Assessment options – AP and IB – CLEP exams – DANTES – ACE – Portfolio-based assessment – etc
References • Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom: The George Washington University. • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (2013). Prior Learning Assessment Services. from http://www.cael.org/pla.htm • Du, H. S., & Wagner, C. (2005). Learning with Weblogs: An Empirical Investigation. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2005. • Johnson, M. (2011). Adult Learners and Technology: How to Deliver Effective Instruction and Overcome Barriers to Learning. from http://www.umsl.edu/~wilmarthp/modla-links- 2011/Adult-Learners-And-Technology.pdf • Huang, H.-M. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. Britislh Jourrnal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 27-37. • Ittner, P., & Douds, A. (1997). Train the Trainer: Human Resource Development Press. • Smith, B. and MacGregor, J. (1992). What is Collaborative Learning?, in: Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education, National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning and Assessment, 1992, 9-22.
Resources • University System of Georgia (USG) Adult Learner Website – http://www.georgiaonmyline.org/adultlearner • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) – http://www.cael.org • American Council on Education (ACE) Adult Learners – http://www.acenet.edu/higher-education/topics/Pages/Adult- Learners.aspx • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Adult Learning – http://www.sreb.org/page/1273/adult_learning.html • SPSU Adult Learners – http://spsu.edu/adultlearner/