Aging and Online Learning

Aging and Online Learning

Patricia M. Boechler (University of Alberta, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch011
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Abstract

In response to changes in demographics and technology, education in North America is undergoing a transformation. Dorin (2007) summarizes several critical factors in demographic trends that will significantly impact the development of the educational landscape in North America. First, as baby-boomers age there is a dramatic shift in the composition of our population, that is, a greater percentage of the entire population will be represented by those 65 and older. Second, older adults will remain productive in the workforce. Third, life expectancy will increase, adding again to a greater percentage of our population falling into the older adult category.
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Introduction

In response to changes in demographics and technology, education in North America is undergoing a transformation. Dorin (2007) summarizes several critical factors in demographic trends that will significantly impact the development of the educational landscape in North America. First, as baby-boomers age there is a dramatic shift in the composition of our population, that is, a greater percentage of the entire population will be represented by those 65 and older. Second, older adults will remain productive in the workforce. Third, life expectancy will increase, adding again to a greater percentage of our population falling into the older adult category.

There are also many changes related to technology use occurring within the older adult population. For instance, older adults are increasingly more interested in opportunities for continuing education (Mannheimer, Snodgrass, & Moskow-McKenzie, 1995) which is more and more frequently accomplished via technology. Outside of educational contexts, we see an interleaving of technology into everyday activities for older adults such as searching for health information on the world Wide Web (Karavidas, Lim, & Katsikas, 2005) and using e-mail as a communication tool to maintain contact with family and friends (Hilt & Lipschultz, 2004). Jastrzembski, Charness, Holley & Feddon, (2005) assert that “older adults may comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the estimated 80 million Internet navigators in the US, having jumped 47% as of 2004. Thus 22% of older adults are now online…” (p. 39).

This chapter provides a review of research findings in the area of aging, describes how age-related declines may impact older adults’ use of computers and presents approaches suggested in the literature to addressing these issues.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Implicit Memory: Implicit memory refers to memory for material that has not been purposefully attended to or consciously processed in some way. Implicit memory would include memory of learned skills and the unconscious priming of material rather than direct, intentional recall of mater

Processing-Speed Theory: Processing-speed theory is a general theory of cognitive aging based on the premise that cognitive declines in many areas are due to a general slowing of cognitive processes.

Short-Term/Working Memory: Short-term/working memory is the capacity-limited, temporary memory store where all conscious manipulation of information takes place.

Coordination Complexity: Coordination complexity refers to the degree to which information from each of the steps in a task must be applied to or exchanged between other steps in the task. Age effects have been found for coordination complexity but not for sequential complexity.

Inhibitory Deficiency: A type of attentional deficit exhibited by older adults which is characterized by an inability to inhibit goal-irrelevant information

Explicit Memory: Explicit memory refers to the conscious recollection of material. This could be memories that are personally experienced by the individual (episodic memory) or memories that represent facts or general knowledge (semantic memory).

Sequential Complexity: Sequential complexity refers to the number of steps or operations that need to be addressed in the course of completing a task.

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