Engaging Adult Learners Online Through Technology, Andragogy, and Flexible Course Design: From Theory to Practice

Engaging Adult Learners Online Through Technology, Andragogy, and Flexible Course Design: From Theory to Practice

Curtis L. Todd (Atlanta Metropolitan State College, USA), Kokila Ravi (Atlanta Metropolitan State College, USA), Harry A. Akoh (Atlanta Metropolitan State College, USA) and Vance Gray (Atlanta Metropolitan State College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2548-6.ch001


Distance educational courses and programs, either fully online or hybrid, have been a major contributing factor in the shift that is felt in the academic landscape which now offers a variety of instructional modes, welcomes adult and non traditional learners, and offers a wider variety of curricular offerings reflecting current market trends. While a high percentage of students take classes online, adult learners particularly benefit from the flexibility and accessibility offered by online education. Yet, adult learners are more likely to be intimidated because of their lack of familiarity with this new learning paradigm. This chapter examines online and adult learners programming as well as strategies to address their needs, and presents the results of an evaluation that examined the effectiveness of an Online Adult Learner-Focused Program. The results of the study found various levels of student satisfaction with online adult learner-focused courses and as it relates to meeting the objectives of the program. Implications and recommendations for instructors, program coordinators and administrators are also discussed.
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The Adult Learner Revisited

The definition of an adult learner will vary depending on the situation and setting. There are, however, many commonalities that exist in higher education. Generally, they are undergraduate and graduate students ages 25 and older (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2012). They are not a monolithic group, rather each individual is unique with varied abilities, educational backgrounds, family and job responsibilities, as well as life experiences (Southern Regional Education Board, 2015). In response to the shift of having more adult learners in the classroom, campuses are seeking and implementing strategies to address their needs. Central to these efforts, which inform practical and theoretical approaches to learning, are six assumptions about adult learners delineated by Knowles, Swanson and Holton (2005, p.4):

  • 1.

    Learner’s Need to Know

  • 2.

    Self-Concept of the Learner

  • 3.

    Prior Experience of the Learner

  • 4.

    Readiness to Learn

  • 5.

    Orientation to Learning

  • 6.

    Motivation to Learn

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