An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Older Non-Traditional Students in an Online Learning Environment

An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Older Non-Traditional Students in an Online Learning Environment

Wenzhen Li (University of Nevada, Reno, USA) and Leping Liu (University of Nevada, Reno, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch024
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This study explored the experiences of non-traditional students in an online educational technology course using a qualitative method. Three participants were interviewed about their experiences with online computer technology learning. The results suggested that non-traditional students were motivated to return to college but some experienced the feeling of anxiety due to an unknown method of learning. Initial learning of technology could be intimidating and frustrating for non-traditional students. The findings indicated the importance of technical support in enhancing their online learning experiences.
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The last decade has witnessed many changes on college campuses as students with varied life experiences and responsibilities have entered or re-entered higher education. Non-traditional students have comprised a large part of the student body at colleges and universities (Choy, 2002; Reeves et al., 2011). The increasing number of non-traditional students on college campus requires educators to understand their beliefs, prior experiences, their unique needs, as well as the barriers they are facing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Learning or Online Classes/Courses: College classes/courses that are delivered via the internet through use of learning manage system such as Blackboard Learn.

Adult Learners: Adult students in formal (or informal) education. In this chapter the term is used interchangeably with non-traditional students.

Online Learning Environment: The environment where teaching and learning take place through the use of computers and the Internet.

Adult Learning Theories: Theories or frameworks that explain how adults learn new information and skills.

Emotions: An individual’s feelings of anger, joy, excitement, frustration, fear, anxiety, sadness, etc.

Internal Motivation: Motivation that is driven by an individual’s interest or needs.

Non-Traditional Students: Students over the age of 25 years who share one or more characteristics as define by NCES. In this chapter, non-traditional students are defined as those over age 50, who have been away from formal education for a long period of time and are attending college part time.

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