The Online Adult Learner: Profiles and Practices

The Online Adult Learner: Profiles and Practices

Judith Parker (Teachers College/Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-739-3.ch056
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Abstract

While the online adult learners are growing in numbers, the diversity in what motivates them and what they expect from an online course has grown as well. This chapter explores the current literature as well as qualitative and quantitative data from course surveys and student reflections in online courses taught by the author in an attempt to profile these learners, determine why they are taking online courses and investigate their evolving attitudes toward technology. It includes summaries and student quotes to portray the individual thoughts of online adult learners.
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Background

Today’s popular media and many practitioner journals suggest a rather homogeneous picture of today’s online adult learner as a busy professional, stay at home parent or part time student. Yet the literature and my experience indicate a population with very diverse backgrounds and expectations. Li and Irby (2008) profile online learners as “busy working people, often on shift who want to advance their career, frequent travelers, those who physically find it difficult to attend college and parents who want to or have to spend more time at home with their children” (p.451). They note that online education has become the “vehicle to help access to the underserved populations, but also expands student access to universities that are not in their geographical area including international locations” (pp.450-1). White and Bridwell (2004) also see new technology as expanding the “learner’s capacity for access” (p.273). In contrast, Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) voice the concern that potential online learners have limited access to technology which is increasing the digital divide and widening the gap between the haves and have-nots. They cite a 2005 study that estimates that only 14.6% of the world’s population has internet access. Another concern is mentioned by Piskurich (2006) who cites statistics that report that 60 – 80% drop out of elearning courses and by Li and Irby (2008) who mention concerns for lower student performance and the rate of retention and note the need for enhanced specific skills such as writing, communication, time management, organization, and the ability to work independently.

Many authors agree that online learning is not for everyone. Jeong and Lee (2008) note that “reflective learners have a tendency to reflect and test information more often than active learners but their research found that there was no significant differences in the number of replies posted per student per debate but that the exchanges between reflective learners produced more critical discourse. In a research study conducted by Pratt, (1999) he found that introverted persons were often more successful online. Student reflections from the author’s courses indicated that often students for whom English was a second language indicated the preference for online learning. They appreciated the fact that asynchronous online discussions allowed them the time to study another student’s posting, craft a thoughtful response, possibly check its English correctness with another student, then post the response. With a fast paced in class discussion they often were lost in attempting to translate the comments and their own thoughts back into English. Another advantage is explored by Sandmann, Reischmann and Kim (2007) who see a role for asynchronous e learning in broadening and deepening the global perspectives of the learner but also caution that educators need to recognize differences in motivations and expectations of learners in different cultures. They also noted marked differences in the participation patterns of students from different cultures.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transformative Learning: The process of becoming critically aware of our assumptions which may result in a change in perspective and acting upon these new understandings.

E-Learning: Learning in which technology plays a major role in the delivery of content and the communication between instructor and students and between students.

Learning Community: A group of students learning collaboratively (Barab, p 3).

Action Learning: A methodology which involves reflecting on and analyzing real life problems and directing one’s learning in order to achieve a specific goal or solve a specific real problem.

Distance Education: “…the provision of learning resources to remote learners and involving both distance teaching (the instructor’s role in the process) and distance learning (the student’s role).” Key elements include a separation of teacher and learner in space and time, two way communication between teacher, tutor or educational agency and learner, the use of educational media to unite teacher and learner and carry course content. (Palloff and Pratt, 1999)

Synchronous E-Learning: All learners are online at the same time and engaged in the learning at the same time with the instructor. (Piskurich, 2006)

Adult Learning: “The process of adults gaining knowledge and expertise.” (Knowles, 2005, p.174)

Critical Reflection: The process of analyzing and questioning experiences and assumptions.

Learning Style: The preferred style by which a person learns best.

Online Learning: Students engaged in learning are not in same physical location but are separated by some physical distance.

Asynchronous E-Learning: Learners access information at anytime and communicate with others in the class and/or the instructor in a delayed communication format.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Foreword
Patricia Cranton
Preface
Victor C. X. Wang
Acknowledgment
Victor C. X. Wang
Chapter 1
Chris Zirkle, Edward C. Fletcher Jr.
Distance learning opportunities have rapidly burgeoned in educational environments across disciplines. The result of its growing use has been felt... Sample PDF
Utilization of Distance Education in Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher Education
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Chapter 2
Shalin Hai-Jew
This chapter explores automated e-learning for training in career and technical education (CTE). This addresses the foundational pedagogical... Sample PDF
Designing Automated Learning for Effective Training and Skills Development
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Chapter 3
Kisilu M. Kitainge
This chapter is an extract from a study that examined how institute-based automotive training in the retail, service and repair (RS&R) sector could... Sample PDF
Challenges of Training Motor Vehicle Mechanics for Changing World Contexts and Emergent Working Conditions: Cases of Kenya and Australia
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Chapter 4
E-Learning Spaces  (pages 47-58)
Lesley Farmer
This chapter analyzes the state of learning spaces as they impact career and technical education. Relevant theories and models about physical... Sample PDF
E-Learning Spaces
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Chapter 5
Chris Allen Thomas
“Learning” has classically been subdivided into education and training. Whereas education occurs in classroom-type settings and takes one away from... Sample PDF
Using Technology to Reintegrate Learning and Doing: IBM's Approach and its Implications for Education
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Chapter 6
Davison M. Mupinga, George R. Maughan
Today’s career and technical education (CTE) teachers and trainers are subjected to a number of challenges caused by work systems and processes that... Sample PDF
Impact of Information and Communication Technologies and Influence of Millennial Students on the Role of CTE Teachers and Trainers
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Chapter 7
Doo Hun Lim, Seung Won Yoon, Sunyoung Park
Applying learning technologies to improve the current practices of CTE requires a more holistic view focusing not only the aspect of learning but... Sample PDF
Technologies for Learning and Transfer: Learning Frameworks and Technology Design for Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 8
Ed Powell
This account of a research project explores postgraduate in-service teachers’ understanding and facilitation of active learning in primary... Sample PDF
Facilitating Reflective Teaching: Video-Stimulated Reflective Dialogues as a Professional Development Process
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Chapter 9
Kisilu M. Kitainge
The foundation for a productive, efficient and effective workforce is high quality and relevant training and ideally, educators, policy makers and... Sample PDF
Trainees' Views Regarding Emphasis and Adequacy for Work of Institution-Based Automotive Training in Kenya and State of Victoria, Australia
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Chapter 10
Shalin Hai-Jew
Using live, synchronous time effectively in an instructor-led e-learning course requires a clear understanding of the dynamics of real-time, live... Sample PDF
Real-Time in Cyberspace: Effective, Live Synchronous E-Learning
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Chapter 11
Lesley Farmer
Increasingly, people are seeking distance education delivery options in order to get the vocational training needed from experts who may reside... Sample PDF
Culturally-Sensitive E-Learning Practices for Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 12
Ian Gordon, Don Quick, Linda Lyons
This chapter provides an alternative approach to career and technical education (CTE) and the use of e-learning technologies. The authors suggested... Sample PDF
The Impact of E-Learning on CTE from an Adult Education Perspective
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Chapter 13
Simona Marchi
Learning processes depend on the socio-technical and regulatory contexts in which professional practices and daily usage take place. These processes... Sample PDF
Hypertinence, Serendipity or Elicitation of Passion for Knowledge? Some Critical Elements of Online Learning by Using Web 2.0 Resources
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Chapter 14
Iris M. Saltiel, Maria Martinez Witte, James E. Witte
Supervising projects and dissertations within Career Technical Education requires a complimentary medley of skills, strategies and technologies... Sample PDF
Supervising Projects and Dissertations
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Chapter 15
Lesley Farmer
Career and vocational educators (CTE) need to find ways to foster online communities of practice (CoP) in order to optimize learning and application... Sample PDF
Fostering Online Communities of Practice in Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 16
James E. Bartlett II, Michelle E. Bartlett
Career and technical education (CTE) occupations require highly skilled workers. This workforce must possess very specific technical skills. In... Sample PDF
Integration of Human Resource Management Knowledge into Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 17
Marietta A. Webb
Federal funding for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs is critical to the expansion and success of training a skilled workforce to meet the... Sample PDF
Federal Funding for Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 18
Davison M. Mupinga, James E. Bartlett II, Michelle E. Bartlett
Distance education is continuing to grow in popularity in postsecondary education. Over 75 percent of community colleges are offering some form of... Sample PDF
Facilitating Scholarly Discussion Boards for Human Resource Education
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Chapter 19
Sharon G. Juozapavicius
Leadership and management, in their truest state, represent a compilation of knowledge gained through the entire spectrum of experiential learning.... Sample PDF
Building a Holistic Foundation for Leadership and Management through Online Learning
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Chapter 20
James E. Bartlett II, Michelle E. Bartlett
Leadership development in career and technical fields is important; therefore, this chapter examines innovative techniques for preparing and... Sample PDF
Innovative Strategies for Preparing and Developing Career and Technical Education Leaders
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Chapter 21
Victor M. Hernández-Gantes, William Blank
Meeting the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in career and technical education (CTE) represents a growing challenge for all teachers in the... Sample PDF
Speaking of Technology: Teaching English Language Learners in CTE Programs
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Chapter 22
Cohort Programming  (pages 276-285)
James E. Witte, Iris M. Saltiel, Maria Martinez Witte
This chapter examines the use of cohort programming within the Career Technical Education field. Cohorts are ideal formats for CTE curricula since... Sample PDF
Cohort Programming
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Chapter 23
Royce Ann Collins, Jeff Zacharakis
In the present consumer educational market, educational institutions are rapidly incorporating more online opportunities. The various issues that... Sample PDF
Impact of E-Learning on Adult Education: A Changing Postmodern Approach
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Chapter 24
Kathleen P. King
This chapter provides an overview of the history of the rapidly changing field of distance learning with a focus on trends and lessons for... Sample PDF
Trends and Lessons from the History of Contemporary Distance Learning
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Chapter 25
Hwee Ling Lim
With the rapid adoption of online learning and training, educators have drawn different conclusions regarding the viability of e-learning in... Sample PDF
Understanding Group Interaction and Knowledge Building in Virtual Learning Environments
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Chapter 26
Linda Lyons, Don Quick, Ian Gordon
Faced with the challenge of training Career & Technical Educators (CTE) in rural areas, the authors developed a hybrid delivery system that would... Sample PDF
Using E-Learning to Increase Opportunities in CTE and Adult Education: Integrating Face-to-Face with Two-Way Interactive Video Instruction for Career and Technical Educators
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Chapter 27
Maria Martinez Witte, James E. Witte, Iris M. Saltiel
There is a growing need for an educated, skilled workforce that is able to learn and adapt to new challenges. Expecting this need to be met by those... Sample PDF
Barriers to Adult Learning
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Chapter 28
Sandra Poirier, Deborah Wooldridge
Adult educators internationally are being asked to transform the pressures of cultural diversity in their classrooms into opportunities for all... Sample PDF
Cultural Issues in Adult Education
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Chapter 29
Kathleen P. King, Sharon R. Sanquist, Seamus King
Learning in the 21st century no longer ends with K-12 and college preparation. Instead, for those adults who will succeed in negotiating the demands... Sample PDF
Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century
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Chapter 30
Sandra R. Daffron, AJ Barse, Edward Webster
Delivery of Postsecondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes by distance learning has increased dramatically in the last decade as... Sample PDF
Key Aspects of Teaching and Learning in the Online Environment
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Chapter 31
Wenhao David Huang, Steven R. Aragon
As E-learning is gaining popularity in higher education, its evaluation becomes more critical than ever, to ensure the achievement of intended... Sample PDF
An Integrated Evaluation Approach for E-Learning Systems in Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 32
Brenda C. Ledford
E-learning application within distance contexts is growing rapidly as a solution to the demands and needs of CTE learners in the 21st century.... Sample PDF
CTE Distance E-Learning Application: A Learner-Centered Approach
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Chapter 33
Simone C.O. Conceição, Elaine Strachota, Steven W. Schmidt
The use of learning objects, such as videos, interactive games, and tutorials, has become increasingly popular in online vocational education. Used... Sample PDF
Using and Evaluating Learning Objects for Online Courses in Vocational Education
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Chapter 34
Karen Weller Swanson, Mary Kayler
The incorporation of self-assessment techniques and opportunities within the online learning process can enhance student learning and support the... Sample PDF
Self-Assessment in Building Online Communities of Learning
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Chapter 35
Chris Zirkle, Edward C. Fletcher Jr.
The proliferation of distance education components to courses and entire programs at institutes of higher education have been the focus of... Sample PDF
Access Barriers Experienced by Adults in Distance Education Courses and Programs
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Chapter 36
Geoff Danaher, Violeta Todorovic
This chapter focuses on aspects that contribute to successful online learning in the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS)... Sample PDF
Glad to Have Taken the STEPS: Aspects that Contribute to Success in an Online Learning and Teaching Environment
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Chapter 37
Kathleen V. Schmidt
Distance education is defined as a system that can provide access to people who – because of work commitments, personal and/or social circumstances... Sample PDF
The Paradox of Equal Access
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Chapter 38
Steven W. Schmidt
The expansion of distance education programs has allowed institutions of higher education to be successful in their collective mission to make... Sample PDF
Understanding the Online Learner
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Chapter 39
Edward C. Fletcher Jr., Chris Zirkle
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is considered to be the most comprehensive and highly scrutinized piece of educational legislation that has... Sample PDF
Career and Technical Education in Light of the No Child Left Behind Legislation
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Chapter 40
Ricard Monclús-Guitart, Teresa Torres-Coronas, Araceli Rodríguez-Merayo, M. Arántzazu Vidal-Blasco, Mario Arias-Oliva
The European Credit Transfer System establishes a calculation based on the work students do, rather than direct teaching hours as is the case with... Sample PDF
A Wiki on the Teaching of Business Administration
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Chapter 41
Ernest W. Brewer
Survey research is prevalent among many professional fields. Both cost effective and time efficient, this method of research provides insight into... Sample PDF
Conducting Survey Research in Education
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Chapter 42
Gail C. Farmer, Theodora Papachristou
The appropriate allocation of valuable human and financial resources requires a decision-making process based upon the most accurate information... Sample PDF
A Needs Assessment: Critical in Planning and Community Development
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Chapter 43
Leping Liu
There are different methods to examine the predictive validity of an instrument. In this chapter, the author presents a method of validation—cross... Sample PDF
A Cross Sample Analysis: To Examine the Predictive Validity of an Instrument
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Chapter 44
Ernest W. Brewer
This chapter explores the viability of meta-analysis as a research tool for helping career and technical educational and organizational... Sample PDF
Using Meta-Analysis as a Research Tool in Making Educational and Organizational Decisions
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Chapter 45
Victor C.X. Wang
To receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the California Commission on Teacher... Sample PDF
Accreditation Experience of the Designated Subject Credential (DSC) Program at California State University, Long Beach
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Chapter 46
Gregory C. Petty
Research in career and technical education stresses job skills, training, as well as knowledge of team work and positive work behavior. However... Sample PDF
Psychometric Methods for Work Ethic Research: Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling
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Chapter 47
Leping Liu
Modeling is a tool that can be used in research and educational practices. In this chapter, modeling is defined as a systematic process in which... Sample PDF
A Model of Modeling in Research and Practice: Technology Integration and Online Career Counseling
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Chapter 48
Victor C.X. Wang
This chapter addresses pertinent issues concerning the development of meaningful curricula for adult learners in career and technical education.... Sample PDF
Curriculum Development for Adult Learners in Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 49
Elda Nikolou-Walker
This study reviews the innovative programme developed in 2004 between the Work-Based Learning unit in the School of Education at Queen’s University... Sample PDF
Methods and Methodology: A Study on Work-Based Learning Research Tools for Career Development
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Chapter 50
Gary Brown, Theron Desrosier, Debbie Edwards
The relationship between higher education and the world of work is complex and often characterized by a great deal of misperception, underscored by... Sample PDF
Learning to Work and Working to Learn: What We are Learning and How Technology and Assessment Can Help
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Chapter 51
John A. Henschke
This chapter introduces the lecture as a long standard learning technique. The background is provided with the extensive value and scope, including... Sample PDF
The Dynamic of a Living Lecture in Career and Technical Education
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Chapter 52
Jules K. Beck, Bobbie T. Biggs
This chapter presents a case study that illustrates how blended technology can provide an opportunity to complete an undergraduate degree through... Sample PDF
Serving Rural Communities Using Blended Technology
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Chapter 53
Mary F. Ziegler
The workplace is a key arena for learning in today’s society. The spiraling demand for knowledge in the workplace has increased interest in informal... Sample PDF
Three Theoretical Perspectives on Informal Learning at Work
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Chapter 54
Yonjoo Cho, Sunyoung Park, Sung Jun Jo, Chang-Wook Jeung, Doo Hun Lim
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an integrated evaluation framework of e-learning based on the basic concepts of evaluation and previous... Sample PDF
Developing an Integrated Evaluation Framework for E-Learning
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Chapter 55
Jin Xiao
Adults continue to learn and revise their representation of knowledge scheme with a rational reflection on previous experience and interlink to... Sample PDF
Cognitive Development: The Learning Path of Community Development Practitioners
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Chapter 56
Judith Parker
While the online adult learners are growing in numbers, the diversity in what motivates them and what they expect from an online course has grown as... Sample PDF
The Online Adult Learner: Profiles and Practices
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Chapter 57
Kerry Lee
There are many different philosophies of technology and probably just as many interpretations as to what these philosophies actually mean. This... Sample PDF
Who has the Ultimate Control?
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Chapter 58
Victor C.X. Wang
Teaching is changing and it is being forced to change by many forces of social change. Today’s theory and practice of teaching in adult and higher... Sample PDF
The Theory and Practice of Teaching in Today's Colleges and Universities
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Chapter 59
Teresa Torres-Coronas, Ricard Monclús-Guitart, Araceli Rodríguez-Merayo, M. Arántzazu Vidal-Blasco, M. José Simón-Olmos
Web 2.0 technologies are playing an important role in building social capital through increasing flows of information, and building on knowledge and... Sample PDF
Web 2.0 Technologies: Social Software Applied to Higher Education and Adult Learning
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Chapter 60
Vivian W. Mott
This chapter explores first the evolution of adult learning primarily in a Western context and particularly in terms of career and technical... Sample PDF
Evolution of Adult Education: Is our Future in E-Learning?
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About the Contributors