Adult Learning Influence on Faculty Learning Cycle: Individual and Shared Reflections While Learning to Teach Online Lead to Pedagogical Transformations

Adult Learning Influence on Faculty Learning Cycle: Individual and Shared Reflections While Learning to Teach Online Lead to Pedagogical Transformations

Karen Skibba (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch072
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The purpose of this chapter is to share results of a qualitative research study that investigated how faculty members learn to teach adult learners using online course delivery. In this study, experienced faculty members needed to learn anew and rethink pedagogical strategies when designing and teaching online delivery formats. Faculty members who are learning to teach are also adult learners who learn through experience. Research themes emerged from interviews regarding how instructors learned to teach adult learners online: (a) adapted to market demand, (b) anchored by adult learning strategies, (c) experimented in online laboratory, (d) evolved from trial and error to collaboration, and (e) rethought pedagogical possibilities. Understanding how faculty members learn to teach adult students online offers great potential to identify the challenges that faculty members face and how they meet these challenges to improve teaching practice. Implications for online professional development practices are discussed.
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As of fall 2009, 42% (8.6 million) of the 20.4 million students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions (academic, career and technical, and continuing professional education) were 25 years of age or over, and 61% (5.2 million) of those students were female and 39% (3.4 million) were male. According the National Center for Education Statistics (2010, Table 119), enrollment of students age 25 and over rose 43% from 2000 to 2009, while enrollment of students under the age of 25 rose only 27%. Nontraditional students, especially women, who are not able to fit courses into their schedules due to work and family commitments, are not able to complete a degree (Brown, J. A., 2004; Kasworm, Polson, & Fishback, 2002; Kramarae, 2003). Belanger (1996) noted, “The question is no longer whether adult learning is needed, and how important it is. The issue today is how to respond to this increasing and diversified demand, how to manage this explosion” (p. 21). The top reason cited by institutions for moving to online courses and programs is improved student access to education (63% said that this was very important and 30% chose important). Two thirds of institutions cited growth in continuing and/or professional education as an objective for their online offerings, chiefly due to the appeal of online instruction for nontraditional students (Allen & Seaman, 2007).

The instructor’s ability to provide positive learning experiences is a major factor in adult student retention and degree completion (Donaldson, Flannery, & Ross-Gordon, 1993; Flint, 2005; Kasworm & Blowers, 1994; Lau, 2003; Mancuso, 2001; Pearson, 2005; Ross-Gordon, 1991, 2003). Factors that have been found to have positive influence on student retention when teaching via online formats include

  • Enhancing students’ comfort level with technology;

  • Developing sensitive online instructors who know how to generate trust, collaboration, and credibility; and

  • Creating a safe environment for students to communicate (Hiltz & Shea, 2005).

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