From Digital Exclusion to Digital Inclusion for Adult Online Learners

From Digital Exclusion to Digital Inclusion for Adult Online Learners

Virginia E. Garland (The University of New Hampshire, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7365-4.ch028
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There is an alarming attrition rate of adult students in distance education programs because of socio-economic, gender, and technology factors. In the United States, digitally excluded online adult learners include the poor, mostly women, who have minimal technology skills. This chapter provides some solution strategies for ICT directors, higher education administrators, online instructors, and the older students they serve. With technology training and financial assistance, adult online learners can be motivated to succeed.
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The most recently available statistical data indicate that online degree programs have a significant impact on adult learners. Over one fourth of all higher education students are taking online courses. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) report, “Distance Education,” 25.8% of all undergraduate and graduate students were “enrolled exclusively” (12.5%) or “enrolled in some” (13.3%) distance education courses in 2012 (NCES, Distance Education, para 3). NCES indicated in its “Back to school statistics” report that “In 2013 there were about 12.2 million college students under age 25 and 8.2 million students 25 years old and older” (NCES, Back to school statistics, para 16). By the year 2024, these enrollments are projected to almost double, with over 23 million “total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions,” the majority of which, over 13 million, are expected to be women (NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, table 303.40). In addition, the number of adult students taking non-degree online programs is also increasing. McCallum (2012) states that there are over 90 million students over 25 years old who are taking post-secondary studies in the United States alone. To put a human face on these statistics, consider the case of an online adult learner named Rosa.

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