Nontraditional Students and Information Technology: The Siren Call of the Virtual Classroom and its Impact on Progressive Educational Ideals

Nontraditional Students and Information Technology: The Siren Call of the Virtual Classroom and its Impact on Progressive Educational Ideals

Xenia Coulter (SUNY Empire State College, USA) and Alan Mandell (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-654-9.ch007
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The adult college student, caught between the competing demands of work and home, has recently become a valuable commodity in today’s fast-changing American universities. The authors argue that the response of the university to the personal circumstances and credentialing needs of adult learners, accentuated by the forces of globalization and the availability of new information technologies, particularly the Internet, has been to focus upon the efficient delivery of information deemed important in our post-industrial society. This response, particularly well exemplified by the virtual classroom, is not conducive to the fluid and open-ended inquiry associated with progressive education. In the end, the authors speculate, adult students may taste the true progressive and constructivist approaches to learning better outside the confines of formal higher education.
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Who Is The Adult Student?

Much of the literature about American higher education today focuses on the characteristics and needs of what Arnett (2000) has referred to as the “emergent adult.” He proposes that this developmental stage, occurring roughly between the ages of 18 and 25, is a unique period in life that should be considered separately from “true” adulthood. It is a time when, ideally, young people can prepare themselves to take on adult responsibilities, such as marriage, serious employment, and community involvement, often through formal educational experiences that include guidance from adult teachers and mentors. Isolated as much as possible from everyday pressures, they are encouraged to explore and shape their place in the world,c particularly in universities and colleges, which see themselves as providing the premiere environment in which such preparation for adulthood should take place (e.g., Bok, 2006; Hersh & Merrow, 2005; or see Magolda, 2004).

Adults who have passed beyond this developmental stage are typically referred to in higher education as “nontraditional” students.d While some universities have sought to accommodate them with add-ons such as special “night” or “weekend” classes, most conventional institutions, particularly those that primarily serve full-time resident students, have been far less welcoming. Their focus on “campus life” and personal development is not particularly appropriate for these adults who have homes of their own and have already been shaped by their families, communities, and, often, regular employment. While they deserve and will benefit from advisement that helps them navigate the complex university bureaucracy and the complicated language of college curricula, they do not need an environment, or a curriculum, designed to prepare them for adult life.

Why adults seek additional education varies considerably (e.g., Cross, 1992; Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2006, Pusser et al, 2007). Some see the return to college as an opportunity to make intentional changes in the direction of their lives. A small minority put their adult lives on hold in order to be full-time students, playing the role, so to speak, of emergent adults. However, most come to college because they have been forced to change directions due to job loss, escalating credential expectations, economic fragility, disruption in their family situation (particularly for women), and other life-shaking events. What they all have in common is that they are mature adults, with complicated lives and numerous responsibilities. In fairly sharp contrast to emergent adult students for whom college is expected to be their primary commitment, nontraditional students regard college study as only one more activity they must add to their already busy lives.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Michael Sherman
Carla R. Payne
Chapter 1
Maria Luisa Pérez Cavana
Taking into account the complexity and multiplicity of constructivist theories, the first part of this chapter focuses on the relationship between... Sample PDF
Closing the Circle: From Dewey to Web 2.0
Chapter 2
Noel Fitzpatrick, Nóirín Hayes, K.C. O’Rourke
Constructivism has become the comfortable face of educational theory in recent years, due in no small part to the mainstreaming of learning... Sample PDF
Beyond Constriction and Control: Constructivism in Online Theory and Practice
Chapter 3
Barbara de la Harpe, Fiona Peterson
There is a strong move worldwide for a constructivist theory to underpin the way teaching and learning are viewed in today’s colleges and... Sample PDF
The Theory and Practice of Teaching with Technology in Today's Colleges and Universities
Chapter 4
Karen Swan, D.R. Garrison, Jennifer C. Richardson
This chapter presents a theoretical model of online learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, which is grounded in John Dewey’s... Sample PDF
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework
Chapter 5
Jennifer Lee, Lin Lin
Based on constructivist principles, this chapter provides a new instructional design map for online learning environments. This instructional design... Sample PDF
Applying Constructivism to Online Learning: A New Instructional Design Map
Chapter 6
Beth Rubin
Constructivist education usually involves authentic assessment, which is affected by the media used to teach. Information technology can enhance or... Sample PDF
Enhancing Authentic Assessment Through Information Technology
Chapter 7
Xenia Coulter, Alan Mandell
The adult college student, caught between the competing demands of work and home, has recently become a valuable commodity in today’s fast-changing... Sample PDF
Nontraditional Students and Information Technology: The Siren Call of the Virtual Classroom and its Impact on Progressive Educational Ideals
Chapter 8
Jakko van der Pol
This chapter aims to perform a thorough analysis of students’ online learning conversations. Although offering a high potential for collaborative... Sample PDF
Online Learning Conversations: Potential, Challenges and Facilitation
Chapter 9
Laura M. Nicosia
Contemporary educators have been reassessing pedagogical frameworks and reevaluating accepted epistemologies and ontologies of learning. The age-old... Sample PDF
Virtual Constructivism: Avatars in Action
Chapter 10
G. Andrew Page, Radwan Ali
The key idea that sets constructivism apart from other theories of cognition was launched about 60 years ago by Jean Piaget. It was the idea that... Sample PDF
The Power and Promise of Web 2.0 Tools
Chapter 11
Shalin Hai-Jew
This chapter examines some ways information technologies (IT) are deployed in higher education courses to help learners create robust mental models.... Sample PDF
IT-Enabled Strategies for Mental Modeling in E-Learning
Chapter 12
Roisin Donnelly
This chapter critically explores the design and implementation of a blended problem-based learning (PBL) module for academic professional... Sample PDF
Transformative Potential of Constructivist Blended Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education
Chapter 13
James G.R. Cronin, John Paul McMahon, Michael Waldron
Reception and use of information technology by lifelong learners within a “blended” learning environment needs to be articulated within a... Sample PDF
Critical Survey of Information Technology Use in Higher Education: Blended Classrooms
Chapter 14
M. Beatrice Ligorio, Nadia Sansone
In this chapter, the case of a blended university course will be described in detail. The main focus of this description will be on how some... Sample PDF
Structure of a Blended University Course: Applying Constructivist Principles to Blended Teaching
Chapter 15
Hwee Ling Lim, Fay Sudweeks
As educators utilize an increasingly wide range of technologies for facilitating interaction between distant learning parties, there are concerns... Sample PDF
Constructivism and Online Collaborative Group Learning in Higher Education: A Case Study
Chapter 16
Linda Lohr, Nicholas Eastham, David Kendrick
This case study describes how a constructivist theory of learning guided the design of distributed learning environment for a three credit hour... Sample PDF
Constructivist Strategies to Optimize Four Levels of Interaction in a Distributed Learning Environment: A Case Study
Chapter 17
Alessio Gaspar, Sarah Langevin, Naomi Boyer
This chapter discusses a case study of the application of technology to facilitate undergraduate students’ learning of computer programming in an... Sample PDF
Facilitating Students-Driven Learning of Computer Programming with Technology
Chapter 18
John Miller
A central component of constructivist pedagogy at the college level is the modeling and practicing of critical thinking, and since Socrates... Sample PDF
Designing Asynchronous Discussions to Teach Critical Thinking
Chapter 19
Mark H. Schulman
The challenges for Goddard College posed by 21st Century information technologies are their incorporation into, and reflection of, the foundational... Sample PDF
"To Be in Occasional Touch": Goddard College's Progressive Principles and Distributed Learning
Chapter 20
Carol R. Rinke, Divonna M. Stebick, Lauren Schaefer, M. Evan Gaffney
This chapter presents a critical case study on the use of information technology in a pre-service teacher education program. The authors integrated... Sample PDF
Using Blogs to Foster Inquiry, Collaboration, and Feedback in Pre-Service Teacher Education
Chapter 21
Michal Zellermayer, Nili Mor, Ida Heilweil
This chapter describes the learning environment that the authors created for veteran teachers, graduate students in Teaching and Learning who are... Sample PDF
The Intersection of Theory, Tools and Tasks in a Postgraduate Learning Environment
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