Targeting Adult Learners – First Step Towards A New Normal

Adult Learners - A New Normal

There is a huge possibilities of adult learner in recent times. Because there is no end to learning. The term Adult Learning Theory, better known as “Andragogy” was coined by Malcolm Shepherd Knowles. Malcom was an American educator and according to him, Andragogy is the art and science of adult learning.

Knowles’ 5 Assumptions of Adult Learners

In 1980, Knowles made 4assumptionsilbout the characteristics of adult learners (Andragogy) that are different from the assumptions about the characteristics of child learners (pedagogy).In 1984, Knowles added the 5th assumption.

  1. Self Concept
  2. Adult Learner Experience
  3. Readiness to Learn
  4. Orientation to Learning
  5. Motivation to Learn

Knowles’ 4 Principles of Andragogy

In 1984, Knowles suggested 4 principles that are applied to adult learning;

  1. Involved Adult Learners
  2. Adult Learners’ Experience
  3. Relevance and Impact to Learners’ Lives
  4. Problem Centered

Who are today’s Adult Learner

Adult learners are having a big impact throughout higher education. On campus and online, they represent a growing and diverse student population with an urgent need for flexible and affordable degree options. With multiple demands on their time and money, adult learners benefit from degree pathways that alleviate pressure on their time and provide opportunities to lower their cost of college.

Adult Learner work to support their education

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 40% of college students attend community colleges, but only 62% can afford to attend full-time.

40% of college student work at least 30 hours per week whereas about 25% of these students work and go to school full time.

In order to fully understand the needs of all college students, one must understand the unique perspective and needs of adult learners and how they are altering the makeup of the overall student population

A Quick Look: Adult Learners Today

Older and wiser a growing number of students aren’t fresh out of high school. According to the US Dept. of Education, nearly 40% of students are age 25 and older and that percentage is expected to rise over the next decade.

The National Center for Education Statistics projects the population of students age 25 and older to grow at a rate that is 5%, faster than students under age 25.

The majority of today’s students work (62%) and many have children (28%). Students with multiple demands on their limited resources often struggle to succeed in a one size that fits all system of higher education; 38% of students with additional financial, work and family obligations leave school in their first year.

A growing number of today’s students are juggling school, jobs, and kids. Over a quarter of students have dependents. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Post Secondary Success report; 28% of college students are raising children.

According to a study, financial challenges are the number one issue affecting college students and are having a major impact on graduation rates. Today’s students are dealing with food-insecurity, homelessness, and incomes below the poverty level.

  • From 2011 to 2015, 20% of students who attended a two-year college lived in food-insecure households.
  • In 2017, 14% of community college students experienced homelessness at one point.
  • 22% of adults have enrolled in some college but dropped out before earning a degree.

What are the Reasons that Adults Don’t Enroll in College?

Though many adults without a college degree aspire to earn a higher credential, many never take the first step towards enrollment. According to a recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute, the top reasons that potential adult learners don’t go back to school to complete secondary training include issues around finances and debt, uncertainty around their career path, and a lack of time.

Top Reasons (Some) Adults Do Not Enroll in College

In the US, 26 of adults over 25 have a high school diploma only, another 21% have a bachelor’s degree, and 9.3% of adults have a Master’s degree.

Here are some reasons why adults don’t enroll in college;

  • Won’t help them find a good job – 3%
  • It takes too much effort and time – 9%
  • Don’t like school – 13%
  • Not sure of their career plan – 20%
  • It costs too much – 54%
  • Courses are not offered at convenient times – 2%

While most students are enrolled in an on-campus program, nearly 30% of today’s students either take all or some of their classes online.

  • Online only: 14%
  • Blend of Classroom and Online education: 14%
  • Classroom only: 72%

Barriers to Student Success & Graduation in case of Adult Learner

According to a survey, Online Learning & the Back-to-School Decision, financial challenges relate to college affordability (70%) and taking on student debt (75%) are the most significant barriers adults face when considering a return to school.

The number one reason adults, cited by 73% of those surveyed, gave for wanting to return to college is to grow their income.

47% of today’s students are financially independent and 42% are living in poverty as they struggle to balance hid expenses with the rising cost of college.

To tackle the real issues that adult learners face, education policies need to adapt;

According to federal statistics,

  • 75% of today’s college students didn’t start right out of high school.
  • 2/3rds of adults who return to college after a year away don’t graduate.
  • 1/3 of adults say they can’t afford to return to school because they are supporting their children’s education.

Principles of Adult Learner

Despite the enormous amount of books, essays and journals that cover the topic, we are far from a universal acceptance of the principles of adult learning. Thus, there is no proven theory of adult learning, only a set of generally accepted principles and best practices.

Adult Learners are;

Self Directed – adult learner like to have control over their own learning

Motivated – adults receive their motivation to learn from internal factors

Experienced – adults draw upon past experiences to help their learning

Ready to Learn – learning readiness of adults is related to the assumption of new roles

Oriented – adults want to apply new knowledge immediately in problem solving

How do Adult Learner learn?

  • Adults learn through problem solving
  • Adult learner have a greater volume and different quality of experience than youth
  • Adults learn through doing
  • Adults learn when the knowledge is of immediate use
  • Adult learner are motivated to learn both by extrinsic and intrinsic motivators
  • Adults have a need to know why they should learn something
  • Adult learners have a deep need to be self directing
  • Adults become ready to learn in order to perform more effectively and satisfyingly
  • Adult learners enter into a learning experience with a problem centered orientation to learning

How to Apply the Principles

  • Explain why the skills are being taught
  • Create task oriented training
  • Recognize different levels of experience
  • Allow adult learner to learn from their mistakes

A Better Way Forward

Despite all these challenges, advances in online education have begun to transform the way adults think about college and earning their degree.

  • The average age of undergraduate students is 29 years old whereas a Graduate student is 33 years old.
  • 52% of the adult online learners believe that online learning improves their employability by enhancing their tech skills
  • 60% of the adult online learners agree that learning helped them in improving their grades, thereby meeting their academic potential.

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