Adult Learning Technology


The introduction of new technology to education necessitates both rethinking of traditional relationships and the development of new ones among learners, educators and adult education organizations. To teach adult learners, it is important that they have skills and the willingness to use new technology (Action, 1994). If some people have fewer skills, less access or are less willing to access new technology than others, this affects how likely it is that specific targeted learner groups can access learning experiences over the web or through alternative instructional media such as iPods, web-based video teleconferencing, audio conferencing and other media based learning methods.


Different people are motivated by different issues to return to education in adulthood. These may include a variety of social, economical and educational reasons (Hayes, 2006). For women, college can be a break from childcare enabling them to have social contact with adults and find a space to re-assert their individuality. New skills and qualifications also open up the possibility of a better job and improved lifestyle.

Information and communication technology is a powerful tool to increase every citizen’s power to have access to information and new forms of education. It can also enrich the learning environment (Corder, 2002). At the same time, new technologies reinforce social disparity. The use of internet and other information technologies continue to be dominated by persons with higher education and income, because equipment is often unavailable to others and because there is still wide-spread technological illiteracy (Action, 1994).

The rate of unemployment has abruptly increased these days. The numbers of middle aged adults who are jobless have increased and this has created serious problem for both individual and society. Technology learning for adults can provide some measures of alleviating the problem of unemployment (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005). Thus proper plans for training technological education for adults should receive immediate attention. Technological education is also an instrument for structural change. It can be achieved as a tool for earning a living and for achieving national economic and social objectives.

Models applied to adult education

Teleconferencing, computer conferencing and interactive video are some of the topics in adult education. The uses and potential applications of educational technology suggest the possibility that we are living in an era of unprecedented innovation. Instructors working with adults should consider that the learner’s motivation is for seeking information. Failure to connect the knowledge or information to the daily needs and life of the learner does not permit a bridge for common understanding (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005).

Pedagogical model is a method of teaching which can be used in adult learning. In this model, the teacher decides what will be taught and delivers the lecture. The student is expected to be ready to listen, absorb and learn what the lecture is about. The teacher takes a dominant role, controlling the interaction by asking questions and initiating topics for discussion. In this model, emphasis is placed on communicating technical information rather than on how it is understood or acted upon. Educators have suggested at least three better ways to instruct an adult (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005). The first way is treating the adult student as a partner in the learning process, the second way is building and placing value on previous life experiences and third way is promoting personal direction and control of learning (Hayes, 2006).

Malcolm Knowles was the founder of adult model of learning. Contrary to pedagogical model in which the learner is dependent with little experience of value, the androgogical model is characterized by a learner who is self-directed and whose experience becomes a resource to be used, valued and accepted. The readiness to learn stems from a need to know or do something rather than a requirement for advancement. Androgogy is a unified framework that incorporates principles and behaviorist, cognitive and adult education model (Rogers, 2002).

Distance learning is also a model that can be used in adult education. Distance education is based on a virtual classroom model that uses new communication technologies (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005). Distance education is diverse and it is usually based on a combination of technologies, making use of what is available and accessible to learners. In rural countries, post, radio, satellite and television are used for transmitting educational programmes. However, the mere use of technologies does not guarantee that learning will occur (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005). Learning depends on the motivation of learners, on orientation, on the prior acquisition of learning skills as well as on the competency of professional developers and the quality of local tutors (Hayes, 2006).

In recent years there has been a shift in emphasis in inspection from reviewing systems to look at the impact that procedures and policies have on the individual student. There is more focus on learning than teaching. Compared to children, adults have a vast wealth of knowledge, gained in formal and informal setting (Jones, 1986). They also have considerable experience of process of acquiring knowledge and skills and putting it to practical use, usually as the result of day to day problem solving. The teacher should value the students’ adult experience and accumulated knowledge. This is essential because it helps engage adults and makes them feel respected and motivated.

Since some students have knowledge and skills, the teacher need to help them make connections between what they already know and what they are currently learning. This can be achieved by developing interesting ways to draw theory from practice. Adults who have not been engaged in any formal education or training for several years will have absorbed knowledge and gained skills through experience (Lindhorst, 1951). Their learning may therefore not be underpinned by any formal theories. This is because they may have identified some principles through trial and error which they have been able to apply in different circumstances.

Teachers should never make assumptions about adult students, either about what they know or about what they do not know. Life has taught them to protect themselves physically and emotionally. They do not want to fail or look foolish in front of other people. A teacher should be sensitive to situations in which a student may be struggling but is reluctant to ask for help.

Getting a balance between giving people information and helping them to acquire it themselves through research and with interaction with others is crucial and at the same time can be difficult. Adults have different expectations depending on their previous experience of education (Jones, 1986). There some adults whose initial schooling has lead them to expect the teacher to tell them what to do and to be very directive. Similarly adults have different reactions to management and facilitation of their learning. They may say that they expect the teacher to suggest ways of working and correct poor techniques, but maturity and independence in their everyday lives means that adults will not respond well to being told what to do and how to do it (Dunn, 1998).

Teachers should always remember to recognize the wider personal and social benefits of learning in adulthood which include meeting new people, increased cultural understanding and tolerance, and improved health. Therefore, a teacher should help these adult students to achieve these goals.


Adult education aims at promoting all-round betterment of the people. This includes individual, social, economical, and cultural development (Corder, 2002). Therefore the programme of adult education should be dynamic and varied and must reflect the needs of the society. The priorities and emphasis in adult education should be rearranged to meet the challenges of the society during a particular period. The adult education programmes should also be re-oriented to meet the various challenges. Besides removing illiteracy and creating awareness, adult education programme should have some development content (Action, 1994). It should also aim at improving the skills of the targeted groups so that the productivity can be improved. The adult education programme should include measures for continuing education to sustain the interest of those adults who have taken advantage of it and to enable them to develop knowledge and skills on their own. These measures should include low-priced books and literature, village libraries and material put out through the mass media.

Reference list

Action, L. (1994). Teaching adults: a literacy resource book. California. New Readers Press.

Corder, N. (2002). Learning to teach adults: an introduction. Chicago. Routledge.

Dunn, R. (1998). Practical approaches to individualizing staff development for adults. Chicago.Greenwood Publishing Group.

Hayes, A. (2006). Teaching Adults. New York. Continuum International Publishing Group.

Jones, E. (1986). Teaching adults: an active learning approach. Chicago. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Knowles, M., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (2005). The adult learner: the definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Chicago. Butterworth Heinemann.

Lindhorst, F. (1951). Teaching adults. London. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

Rogers, A. (2002). Teaching adults. Virginia. Open University Press.