Online learning (OLL) has changed the way students and teachers interaction. In OLL, students and instructors are in a classroom and interact in person. The instructor guides the learning process. In distance learning (DL) students and instructors are in different locations with no personal interactions. Student learning is individualized using videos, audio recordings, email, webinars and ebooks.
Distance learning evolved from online learning. DL is convenient, saves time, and gives adults another doorway to get back into school. Adult students can face technology and social challenges in DL. They need a certain skill level with the technology. But students may need a support system from their social systems (family, work, learning environment). What practices can reduce anxiety, frustration, fear of technology, and financial costs for adult students? How can schools improve the success rate of these students?
Moving Beyond the Barriers
Like most people, adult learners have many demands on their time. They pursue their education, work full-time and juggle family obligations.
How do you work around these demands on your time?
Stay motivated. This quality alone is critical for adult learners to thrive in an online learning environment. Remember that distance learning is a physical barrier between you, classmates, and instructors.
Reach out and make connections. Be creative and find the resources you need to finish your coursework or dissertation.
Build your support network. Online learning means limited interactivity and few direct interactions with others. A lack of meaningful socializing may cause students to feel secluded and become discouraged.
Create a support group to help you get through the process.
Look for programs that are flexible and allow for several entry and re-entry points for students.
People are busy and distance learning should include a process for students to take a break for a few weeks, and re-enter their program.
Online support and active interactions with administrators will also remove barriers. Your program should have contacts to help you with technology, academic, financial and community support.
Another resource can be academic success coaches. They can help and guide adult students develop:
- A project management plan
- Short and long-term goals
- Set priorities
- Career transition plans
Smart, Flexible and Proactive
Online education is extremely flexible, but many times it is a solo experience. Without motivation to complete the work, adult learners struggle with distance learning.
Miscommunication is a big problem. Effective communication is important in all areas of life and especially, in the teaching/learning process. Be smart and develop strong writing skills and ask for any help you need.
Be flexible and use multiple methods of communication – phone, Skype, chat, email. The online world is global. Be aware of the time differences before you set up a meeting with your classmates and instructors.
In online education, students are expected to be present, prepared, and participate in class discussions. But the social pressures are vague – students need self-control to organize their time efficiently.
Be proactive and dedicated to your achievements. Make the system work for you.
A key to your online success is to avoid the “P” word – Procrastination.
If you think flexibility is too convenient, let other demands eat up your time, or think that online learning is easy, your should think again.
Focus on your priorities in life. If you really want success and to earn an advanced degree, you can do it! Online success is very possible for adult learners.
Arise to every challenge and be grateful for the strength you found in the test.
Dr. Bessie and Dr. Patti
We don’t stop going to school when we graduate.