Adult Learner Characteristics Important for Successful Learning in Cross-Cultural Web-Based Learning Environments in Higher Education

Adult Learner Characteristics Important for Successful Learning in Cross-Cultural Web-Based Learning Environments in Higher Education

Joseph George M. Lutta (Ajman University, UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8286-1.ch010


For more than 40 years, cognitive psychological perspectives have dominated pedagogical frameworks and models for designing technology-mediated teaching and learning environments. Social learning perspectives are increasingly becoming viable or even desirable frames for research and practice as pertains to teaching and learning, particularly in web-based learning environments (WBLEs). The author considers these social learning perspectives and how they relate to the design and implementation of curricula that are delivered in web-based learning environments in higher education. The author further reviews the foundational theories of adult learning that enhance adult learners' experiences in cross-cultural web-based learning environments. This review and analysis of the research related to social learning perspectives on WBLEs have three implications for future research and practice: (1) examining learners' individual characteristics in WBLEs, (2) identifying strategies for promoting social interaction in WBLEs, and (3) developing effective design principles for WBLEs. The author presents recommendations for future research.
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This chapter explores the social learning perspectives and their application in the design, development, and implementation of instruction delivered in web-based learning environments (WBLEs). For the purposes of this chapter, WBLEs are viewed as settings that enable online learners to interact and observe the results of their interactions while responding to and engaging with others, leading to a possible development of a more cohesive community of learners (Hill et al., 2009). Although there are many other useful formats for online learning, the focus of this chapter is on Web-based learning environments that are interactive in nature and that transcend culture, nations, and regions. Several factors influence the teaching and learning process with regard to social learning perspectives: context, culture and community, and learner characteristics (Hill et al., 2009). Some of these factors are discussed in detail in the following paragraphs. First, the author examines context as an integral part of the teaching-learning process, particularly in cross-cultural web-based learning environments. Second, the author discusses culture and community as an overarching factor that supports the teaching-learning process. Lastly, a detailed review of learner characteristics is provided. The author believes that learners’ characteristics play a critical role in cross-cultural web-based learning environments. Understanding adult learner characteristics is a critical first step in the planning, design, delivery and assessment of instruction in higher education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web-Based Learning Environment (WBLE): An all-in-one teaching and learning software package. A WBLE typically combines functions such as discussion boards, chat rooms, online assessment, tracking of students’ use of the web, and course administration.

Pedagogy: The academic discipline that deals with the theory and practice of teaching and how these influence student learning.

Adult Learner: A person who is 25 years and above, who is involved in forms of learning. Many of the adult learners go back to school to finish a diploma or a degree or earn a new one.

Distance Education: The practice of using correspondence, either written or virtual, to learn. This helps students access teachers who may live geographically too far away to attend a class.

Andragogy: A theory of adult learning that details some of the ways in which adults learn differently than children.

Cognition: The process by which knowledge and understanding is developed in the mind.

Self-Efficacy: An individual's belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments.

Self-Directed Learning: An instructional strategy where the students, with guidance from the teacher, decide what and how they will learn.

Behavioral Learning Theories: Theories that view learning as a change in the form or frequency of behavior as a consequence of environmental events.

Social Learning Perspectives: Views on the theory of learning and social behavior, which proposes that behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others.

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