Evolution of Adult Education: Is our Future in E-Learning?

Evolution of Adult Education: Is our Future in E-Learning?

Vivian W. Mott
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-739-3.ch060
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This chapter explores first the evolution of adult learning primarily in a Western context and particularly in terms of career and technical education. The discussion includes not only lifelong and self-directedlearning, but also the various contexts and venues in which career and technical education occurs. The chapter concludes with both the challenge and promise of e-learning in the field of adult and continuing education, asking what the impact of e-learning specifically may be for learners, stake-holders, instructors, and the field itself.
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Background: Evolution Of Adult And Continuing Education In The Usa

The absolute beginnings of adult and continuing education activities are impossible to establish with any certainty. Before written history, cave paintings told of the young in many cultures watching and learning the ways of their communities and elders. Henschke (1998) and Savicevic (1999) both noted, for instance, the later mention of learning in adulthood in ancient Chinese doctrine, by Hebrew prophets, and in the prose and teachings of both Greek and Roman philosophers. Integral to the founding of the new United States (as in other western societies), laborers trained as apprentices, collaborated in craft guilds, and learned from skilled masters, often leaving their families for years at a time to learn a trade. The earliest schools in the new American nation offered civic and religious education, literacy development, and workplace training to help strengthen the citizenship and budding economy of the country. Thus, as a socially construed, highly political, value-laden and episodic venture, adult and continuing education continues to evolve to reflect and serve our needs as learning humans, needs that are significantly affected by the social milieu, dominant culture, and structures of our daily lives (Mott, 2000a; 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technology Adoption Cycle: The process and factors associated with the selection and acquired use of any technology by a group or organization. The speed and ease of differential adoption is marked by five types of users - innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

Vocational Education: Also referred to as career education (see above), except that some counselors and employers consider career to mean that which requires a great degree of pre-professional education and training for which higher compensation is often paid.

Self-Directed Learning: A mode of learning, instructional process, or learner characteristic marked by increasing responsibility for one’s learning to include selection of topic, resources, mode of study, and assessment.

Lifelong Learning: Continued learning throughout the life cycle in any variety of environments and engaged in formal, non-formal, informal, and incidental means and often accomplished through distance education or e-learning.

Workplace Learning: Any form of learning or education that takes place in one’s work environments.

E-Learning: Electronic learning is any planned learning mediated by some form of information and/or computer technology, often with no face-to-face human interaction, and typically with the learners and instructors or facilitators separated by space and time. E-learning environments are also referred to educational cyberspace.

Career Education: The process or acquisition of knowledge, abilities, and attitudes that enable individuals to both understand and perform effectively in their chosen vocations. Career education may be planned and formal, self-directed, mandated, or voluntary. Also referred to as vocational education.

Knowledge Obsolescence: The condition of knowledge becoming outdated or superseded due to the emergence of newer more relevant knowledge or need for additional currency or relevance.

Technology Diffusion: The process by which an innovation is communicated, selected, and adopted via various means over time by a group or organization.

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