Designing Innovative Faculty Development Initiatives Through the Lens of the Adult Learner

Designing Innovative Faculty Development Initiatives Through the Lens of the Adult Learner

Amy Gaimaro, Amy Lomellini
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8018-8.ch010
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As adult learners, faculty bring a range of experiences, content knowledge, and motivations with regard to the learning environment. With the continued growth of online enrollment, colleges and universities are focusing on learning theory, course design, and pedagogical shifts for teaching in today's classroom. Faculty development staff can use adult learning theories to guide the creation of alternative ways to deliver professional development. The authors highlight instructional design and program assessment as critical areas in supporting quality faculty development programs. This chapter will discuss trends in online education, adult learning theory research, the role of the instructional designer, and assessment of faculty development programs.
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Online enrollment continues to outpace overall enrollment in U.S. higher education. This has sparked continued interest by faculty and administration in offering quality online programs (Legon & Garrett, 2018). Whether it be online course enrollments or online program enrollments, many educational institutions are looking at delivering flexible course formats while planning innovative ways to support students and faculty at a distance.

During the Fall 2016 semester, online students comprised over two million of the total number of higher education undergraduate enrollees, resulting in a 9% increase from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016. Online graduate students made up over 800,000 of the total number of higher education enrollees, resulting in a 28% growth rate from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016 (Legon & Garrett, 2018). Figure 1 illustrates the continued growth in online undergraduate and graduate enrollment in U.S. higher education (Legon & Garrett, 2018). In response to this trend, colleges and universities are integrating online learning as part of their overall strategic mission. According to Magda and Aslanian (2018), 85% of today’s online students perceive online learning experiences as being the same or better than traditional classroom experiences.

Figure 1.

Distance undergraduate and graduate enrollment in U.S. higher education (2012–16)

Source: (Legon & Garrett, 2018)

Many factors contribute to this continued upward trend in online learning. One such factor includes the changing demographics of college students—specifically, there being an increase in the number of post-traditional or adult learners. While the term adult learner implies a population of students who are older than the traditional 18- to 24-year-old, higher education is seeing an increase in what is called post-traditional students. Aslanian (2017, p. 4) defined post-traditional students as students of any age who meet one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Online and Distance Learners

  • Older Adults

  • Single Parents

  • Part-Time Students

  • Continuing Education Students

  • Mid-Career Professionals

  • Delayed Enrollees, and

  • Occupational Certification Program Students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Traditional Learning: Typical face-to-face learning interactions that occur in a physical location, such as on a college campus.

Web-Enhanced Instruction: A term used to describe face-to-face learning supported by online components.

Self-Paced Learning: A type of learning that allows students to complete work on their own schedule, independent of deadlines and timelines.

Online Learning: Learning that occurs using the Internet and/or other digital formats where students are not required to be physically present on campus.

Learning Management System: Software used to host educational materials and administrative tasks.

Andragogy: A problem-focused, learner-centered theory of adult learning developed by Malcolm Knowles.

Hybrid Learning: An educational modality where learning occurs both in a physical location and online.

Instructional Design: A field of research and practice dedicated to supporting and creating dynamic learning environments.

Asynchronous Learning: Learning that occurs when students and facilitators contribute at different times. This type of learning is often used in online learning where students and faculty can log into the course when it is convenient for them.

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