Technology-Based Learning for Adults

Introduction

The growth in Internet technologies led to the introduction of technologies in learning, including online learning. Usages of technological platforms have facilitated classroom learning for both young and adult learners. As the number of adults who want education increases, educators have embraced both formal and informal methods to deliver learning contents to this group. However, challenges to learning are also present in technology-aided learning among adults. There are several challenges that adult learners face when they use technologies in learning. Hence, it is the role of instructional designers and teachers to overcome these challenges.

Technology-based learning requires focused contents and effective modes of delivering contents to learners. This process frustrates adult learners because many of them are new to technologies and modes of teaching based on computer models. One must one understand factors that contribute to low-levels of motivation among adult learners who use technologies. Adult learners require motivating contents and modes of delivery that do not threaten them. This would allow them to succeed in learning and foster positive attitudes to learning and usages of technologies in a classroom situation.

In this regard, it is advisable to find several ways of motivating adult learners with technologies in classroom learning. This paper explores how technology can be used to help in motivating adult learners in classrooms.

Technology to support skills and learning

Scholars have supported the use of technologies to deliver basic skills of life through learning (Bransford, Donovan and Pellegrino, 2000). They have recognized that the increased use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has improved the level of education, particularly in numeracy and literacy. Technology platforms, such as multimedia options and software, offer effective ways of learning. In addition, the Internet has allowed learners to gain access to the best learning materials and discover exciting ways of learning. Still, adults who return to classrooms have opportunities of exploring new methods of learning.

Learners who embrace ICT in their learning activities enhance their skills and acquire various skills simultaneously. Today, educators believe that ICT is a skill for life, which people require to manage various day-to-day activities. Previously, educators regarded only skills in literacy and numeracy as basic skills. Skills in technologies have also become a part of basic skills, which learners need to acquire alongside other skills through learning.

Technologies have introduced great changes in adult education. However, many adults do not feel motivated to use technologies in their classrooms. It is important for educators to develop standards for applying ICT in adult learning. These are approaches to enhance technology-aided learning among adults. They also aim to motivate adult learners to embrace technologies in their classrooms.

The Adult Learner

Fredericks notes that an adult learner could be someone who had stopped learning for many years and came back for higher education studies later (Fredericks, 2007, p. 261). For instance, women may return to classrooms after starting families to complete their higher education studies. However, adult learning has acquired new and expanded definition as Fredericks shows. He notes that adult learners are people of any age who decide to take part in a learning activity in a given situation (Fredericks, 2007, p. 261). According to this definition, one can conclude that an adult learner is someone who wants to improve his or her skills in a given specialty or specialize in a narrow field.

Adults who go back to classrooms have specific purposes of increasing their skills and knowledge in specific areas. This could be to improve their skills for personal reasons or occupational requirements. In this context, educators and teachers must recognize that adult learners differ significantly from other learners because they have diverse hope, desires, opinions, and experiences in a given learning situation (Fredericks, 2007, p. 261).

Theoretical Aspects in Adult Learning

Social sciences have great impacts on how adults learn in classrooms. Knowles and colleagues note that a human being is a “dynamic animal that grows and develops through the interaction of biological forces, goals, purposes, conscious and unconscious drives, and environmental influences” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 45). These ideas emanated from the works of Freud, who attempted to show how adults learn. From the Carl Rogers’ perspective, adults drive their own learning.

This facilitates learning and promotes meaningful learning among adults. The learner-centered approach eliminates challenges to the learner’s self-concept. In addition, the learning environment must motivate learners to learn. Social sciences recognize that that learning is an internal process, which the learner controls as he or she interacts with environments. Hence, the teacher is only a facilitator in adult learning.

Studies in developmental psychologies also offer significant insights on how adults learn. This field shows how changes that occur throughout the lifespan of an adult, which include “physical capabilities, mental abilities, interests, attitudes, values, creativity, and life styles” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 51), may affect learning.

Educators expect adults to have vast knowledge and build upon them during learning. Social systems have great potentials for facilitating or inhibiting adult learning. In addition, other external factors, such as backgrounds, nationality, and socio-economic factors among others, can also influence adult learning (Knowles et al., 2005).

Malcolm Knowles introduced the term andragogy to reflect adult learning as opposed to pedagogy for young learners (Knowles, 1990). Knowles defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults to learn” (Knowles, 1990, p. 54). In this regard, Asún and Finger observe that the role of the teacher is to develop the environment for learning, to assist a learner to understand his or her experiences, which aid in intellectual and personal development (Asún & Finger, 2001, p. 66). According to Knowles and colleagues, adults can only learn best in “informal, comfortable, flexible, nonthreatening settings” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 61).

These theoretical approaches show the need for teachers to create favorable environments, contents, and modes of delivery to their adult learners (Brookfield, 1991). The andragogical model focuses on specific needs of adult learners because adults must understand why they need to learn new skills before embarking on learning (Knowles, 1990). In fact, adults may also engage in a comparative analysis in order to identify drawbacks and benefits associated with learning new skills. Hence, the facilitator should only aid in learning and eliminating knowledge problems that adult learners may have. This improves learning effectiveness, quality, and performance.

The learner’s self-concept is imperative in adult learning. Adults consider themselves as people who make critical decisions about their lives. In this regard, teachers must note that adults are people who have a sense of self-direction in learning.

A learner’s experience is also critical in adult education. Overall, adults have gathered diverse but useful knowledge and experiences with time. Hence, educators must recognize a wide range of differences among adult learners. These differences depend on backgrounds, levels of motivation, and learning styles. Thus, it is imperative to stress the importance of personalized learning methods in adult classrooms. Knowles and colleagues have commented that adult learners have learning resources within them (Knowles et al., 2005).

There is also the concept of adults’ readiness to learn. According Knowles and colleagues, adults get ready to learn “those things they require to understand and be able to accomplish in order to cope well with their real-life conditions” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 67). In this regard, facilitators must recognize the importance of timing adult learning because experiences and knowledge may relate with developmental activities. These developmental activities complement learning. Adult learners can acquire readiness to learning through exposure to certain roles, simulation activities, and career guidance among others (Merriam and Caffarella, 1998).

Adults approaches to learning focuses on life-centered strategies. This allows them to focus on learning as a part of their lives. Knowles and associates note that adults will learn to the extent that “they perceive that learning will help them perform tasks or deal with problems that they confront in their life situations” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 67). Therefore, adult learning depends on skills, new knowledge, values, challenges, life experiences, and understanding that would help them to tackle real-life situations. In addition, facilitators should understand the level of motivation and experiences that drive adults to classrooms.

Challenges to Technology Use in Adult Classroom

Technologies have also affected learning environments, including adult learning. At workplaces, organizations have adopted technologies to facilitate their processes. This situation has affected adults because they need to keep up with new developments. Hence, adults have gone back to classrooms equipped with technologies or others take distance online learning. These skills are necessary for career advancement, personal growth, and skill improvement.

Any facilitator must understand theoretical approaches that guide or influence adult learning (Bates & Poole, 2003). Educators must recognize that learning is relevant to adults’ lives, self-directed, account for their life experiences, goal-oriented, related to their jobs and activities, and account for their readiness to learn. Hence, educators must structure a good content for adult learning in order to account for these factors.

Traditional learning relied on on-the-job training or personal learning for adults. However, these have changed as educators and workplaces adopt technologies to facilitate learning activities in their classrooms. Technologies strive to embrace adult learning by recognizing learners’ pace and schedules. Hence, computer competency is necessary for adult learners. However, adults encounter several impediments associated with technology-based learning.

Learners’ beliefs, intentions, and available resources affect technology-based learning. Adult learners have diverse expectations about the role of technologies in their classrooms, which affect how they use technologies to learn new skills. Adult learners have various intentions with regard to skills they need to acquire from the course contents and ICT skills. However, most curricula do not account for these intentions in a single course. Some adult learners do not have ICT resources. Besides, they also lack motivation, supports, attitudes, or support from experienced people. These factors affect how adults embrace ICT in their classrooms (Bates & Poole, 2003).

Facilitators’ beliefs about technologies also affect how adult learners embrace ICT in their classrooms. Facilitators may bring diverse beliefs about the role of ICT in classrooms. Moreover, they also have to balance their teaching objectives, learners’ expectations, and their technology skills in content delivery. Facilitators’ confidence and technology skills are imperative issues, which may influence how they can easily adopt technologies in their classrooms. In addition, the traditional belief system could hinder the adoption of technologies in classrooms while constructivist belief system enhances the use of technologies among teachers.

Technology is an important part of content teaching. It is important to understand how the context of ICT and related technologies affect adult learners and content delivery. Teachers’ educational level, age, gender, educational experience, experience with the computer for educational purposes and financial position could influence the adoption of ICT in teaching.

There are several ways of using technologies to teach adult learners. However, no single approach can claim the best position. Thus, facilitators should adopt a wide range of strategies to motivate and teach adult learners by using technologies in classrooms.

Using Technologies to Motivate Adult Learners in a Classroom

Scholars have reviewed the ability and possibilities of using technologies to motivate adult learners in classrooms. They should also account for emerging technologies and multimedia strategies when adopting technologies to motivate adult learners (Bransford et al., 2000). Moreover, adult learners need motivation from learning contents that appeal to their needs and expectations. Hence, instructors must consider motivating factors when adopting technologies in their classrooms.

The adoption of visual platforms in during teaching can motivate adult learners in classrooms. For instance, Lyons, McIntosh, and Kysilka note that PowerPoint improves learning because “they offer visual signs for students’ cognitive processes” (Lyons, McIntosh & Kysilka, 2003, p. 127). In addition, the use of multimedia can help in motivating adult learners because they can demonstrate an important fact, show an idea, explain a puzzling point, offer background information, or convey the intended meaning (Lyons et al., 2003, p. 127).

Adult learners can also draw motivation from Web-based demonstrations. These approaches can incorporate various learning styles, account for learners’ abilities, encourage drilling, and incorporate learning resources and practical aspects in the course. Self-directed and motivated learners can find Web-based demonstrations to be useful.

Instructors may also incorporate technology-based programs to manage courses. These are comprehensive platforms, which support learning activities in classrooms, and adult learners can use them to manage their programs. In addition, instructors can also adopt e-mails for communication with their adult learners. This is an effective method of fostering and motivating learners, particularly when instructors send regular feedback to their learners. It can motivate self-directed learning.

Technology in classrooms also involves the use of the Internet (Palloff and Pratt, 1999). The Internet is rich in information, which adult learners can explore without barriers because it opens learning barriers and eliminates time constraints among busy adult learners. This is an effective technology for motivating learners to explore new concepts and fields (Lyons et al., 2003).

Conclusion

Technologies define modern learning and teaching. Technologies that incorporate theoretical aspects and motivating factors of adult learning have great potential of enhancing adult learning. Instructors must use technologies with learners’ characteristics in mind in order to motivate and improve the quality of learning in adult classrooms. Moreover, technologies offer several of advantages to learners and educators, such as “class management, improving the relationship among learners, and improving presentations and content deliveries” (Lyons et al., 2003).

References

Asún, J., & Finger, M. (2001). Adult Education at the Crossroads: Learning Our Way Out. London: Zed Books.

Bates, A., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bransford, J., Donovan, S., and Pellegrino, J. (Eds.). (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Brookfield, S. D. (1991). Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning: A Comprehensive Analysis of Principles and Effective Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fredericks, A. (2007). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Teaching College. New York: Alpha Books.

Knowles, M. (1990). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.

Knowles, M., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (2005). The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

Lyons, R., McIntosh, M., & Kysilka, M. (2003). Teaching College in an Age of Accountability. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Merriam, S., and Caffarella, R. (1998). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R., and Pratt, K. (1999). Building Online Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass.