Learning different avenues to make the most out of an online class isn't limited to young adults. While many typical-aged college students are adept at using these classes, the same can't always be said for adult learners. Adult learners are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the college experience, and consideration must be given to the unique circumstances that surround that experience. Adults have full-time jobs, husbands, wives, kids, religious activities, social causes, etc, that must be taken into account when designing online classes for the adult student.
This subject is, once again, one that I have experience with handling. I have taken many online courses over my college careers, and one thing seems to be present in all of them: the inflexible times and activities that comprise each class. Personally, this always made me extremely upset. Especially when I was taking split level classes as a Masters students with undergraduates, I always wondered, "Why are my assignments due at the same time?" or "What if I can't post my discussion responses at that same every day?" As a Masters student, getting lumped in with the 20-year-olds can start to take a toll on you.
Katy Herbold writes about these same issues in her article "Giving Students Choice in Online Learning Environments: Addressing Adult Learners Needs." In the article, 69 graduate students are questioned as to the types of things that help them succeed in online courses. These adult students overwhelmingly said that if they were given more opportunities for flexibility and designing their own content, they not only were more happy with their results, but also felt as if their individual needs were being taken into consideration.
I know what many instructors are saying, however. How do I plan a class for adults who each have individual needs? The answer, in Herbold's opinion, is the class syllabus. By allowing students more freedom, adults use that flexibility to excel in a class that might have been too much to handle. Herbold writes, "In addition, to address the adult learning characteristics of being autonomous, self-directing and self-responsible, students were given the latitude to select the activities they preferred and that would best meet their individual needs" (122). By doing this, Herbold states that "student responses regarding the course structure were more than 90% positive" (124).
These numbers are very promising, especially for a working mother and wife such as myself. I long for the day when adult students are able to design their course around what fits their educational needs, and also their time schedule.
I have been penalized far too often for having a sick kid or being sick myself.
Wouldn't it be nice if....oh....say.....we were treated like adults?