Like many adults, Dr. Bessie DiDomenica and I are lifelong learners. We continue to learn new ways to keep our minds active by working on joint projects with colleagues and other researchers. We find opportunities to present our ideas to academics and the general public. And we continue to publish articles in scholarly journals.
Dr. Bessie and I faced many challenges in graduate school. How did we overcome them? What did we learn from our online experience?
Challenge #1: Going Back to School
As an adult learner, I know how hard it is to go back to school when it has been forever since you have been in a classroom. Adult learners face many challenges when deciding to re-enter the education scene.
Some of the biggest challenges for me as an adult learner was balancing school, work, and life as well as technology accessibility, and costs. Returning to college was a big commitment for me – I chose to learn in the online classroom. Time challenges included:
- Adjusting to the online format
- Preparing for class readings
- Writing assignments
- Other projects and homework
Outside of college, I faced additional time commitments, such as work, family, caretaker, and my volunteer work.
Challenge #2: Technology
Many adult learners work full time while pursuing their education. They also have family obligations which leads to limited time available for college related activities. These extra responsibilities can lead to stress, frustration, and burnout – things that I know all too well.
The biggest challenge for adult learners may be technology. Technology tends to affect older adults even more. When your technology capabilities or training are not good enough to do what is expected, failure looms. Your computer system has to meet the requirements to work proficiently in an online program.
Challenge #3: Accessing Classes
Another challenge is accessibility to classes. You might think online learning is great because you can access the internet anytime. But sometimes accessing classes is a big challenge.
As mentioned, many adult learners have too many time commitments. Whether it’s a full-time job or a family, or other responsibilities, it is difficult to prepare for classes. It can cause them to drop out of college.
Challenge #4: Communication
Communication can also be challenging for adult learners. Especially, an online environment it is easy to be misunderstood or misunderstand someone.
A lack of mutual understanding may cause problems with assignments or conflicts. Learning how to communicate effectively helps you develop your connections to others and reduce conflict.
Challenge #5: Cost of Education
Another challenge might be the cost of education. Tuition costs, books, supplies adds up quickly. The cost of pursuing an education as an adult learner can become expensive.
Some adult learners do not qualify for student loans – paying out-of-pocket is not easy. On top of the costs of education, there might be lost income from unemployment, since some adults return to school because of job loss.
Tools to Overcome Challenges
The good news is that colleges are realizing the increasing importance of making learning accessible to everyone. More schools are offering more flexible options for working adults.
For example, student support services include technology help, access to more online libraries and writing resources. Chat rooms, blogs, and online communities created by students can help adult learners overcome challenges.
Create your community
For instance, Dr. Bessie started a support group for doctoral students. The group helped us survive the roller coaster ride of the doctoral process.
In our small group (five) we were accountable to each other- we celebrated every baby step and milestone we could. To date, four of us graduated over the past two years.
I would suggest that you find the tools you need to complete your journey. And never be afraid to ask for help.
We all need help – ask for it and reach out so that you can survive the stress, frustration and anxiety of school.
Make a plan
No matter what your read in the popular press, it’s still important to get an education in today’s world. But the decision to return to college needs to be well planned.
Make a plan, weigh the pros and cons, talk to students, and think about what you really want from your education.
Choose a program that meets your expectations, needs, and competence so you will reach the finish line and graduate.
Best of luck!
Learning is a lifelong adventure or nothing at all.
~~~ Dr. Patricia Mason ~~~