Teaching Adult Learners in Online Career and Technical Education

Teaching Adult Learners in Online Career and Technical Education

Victor M. Hernández-Gantes (University of South Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jwbltt.2009091503
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Online education is becoming an important component of career and technical education (CTE) in teacher preparation and at the graduate level. In the midst of such growth, and in response to questions about quality compared with traditional learning, there is a consensus that online courses and programs should be designed based on the needs of adult learners. However, much of the literature in online CTE lacks implicit connections to emerging notions of adult development and learning. This article provides an overview of the status of online education in CTE at the postsecondary level, discusses related issues and current research focus, and highlights adult learning developments and the implications for curriculum design, instruction, and use of technology. The article concludes with an outline of emerging trends bridging adult learning and online education relevant to career and technical education.
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Online education enrollments in higher education over the past decade are revealing. The online instructional delivery system is no longer an afterthought for postsecondary institutions as students are enrolling in related programs at higher rates compared to enrollments in traditional education. Practically all institutions of higher education now offer online education opportunities to meet the demand from students seeking alternatives to traditional on campus instruction (Allen & Seaman, 2008). Career and technical education (CTE) is no exception to this trend as the field has experienced similar growth at the undergraduate and graduate education level including doctoral programs (Flowers & Baltzer, 2006b; Havice & Havice, 2005). However, as online education continues to grow, there are lingering concerns about the quality of curriculum and instruction, student experiences, and use of technology (Hernandez, Kirby, & McGee, 2004; Flowers, 2001; Kim & Bonk, 2006).

Furthermore, although the adult population is the target audience for CTE in teacher preparation and graduate degree programs, there is limited literature examining the connections to adult development and learning principles. Much of the literature focuses on demand for online education, related curriculum and program development, and perceptions about quality and barriers and opportunities for adoption (Flowers, 2005; Flowers & Baltzer, 2006b; Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). As such, there is a need for an examination of adult learning principles in the context of online education and the implications for curriculum development, teaching, and use of technology. To this end, the objectives of this article are to: First, review the status of online education with an emphasis in career and technical education and related issues for adoption; second, highlight adult learning developments with potential to inform curriculum design and instruction; third, outline implications on the use of instructional technology; and fourth, point out emerging trends bridging adult learning and online education relevant to CTE efforts in this area.

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