Impact of Technology on Adult Learning

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Years ago when I was working toward my MBA, I spent every Tuesday and Thursday night sitting in a classroom after working a long day.  After class let out around 10:00 pm, I would commute thirty-five miles home.  When I decide to earn an MHA, I decided to try online as an option.  Technology has brought the classroom to my home.  I completed another 43 credits to obtain my degree online.  Technology has allowed adults to return to school without having to sit in a traditional classroom.  Advances in wireless Internet, hot spots, and smart devices, student can complete assignments from just about anywhere.  Technology has made attending class convenient.

The Internet offers a vast amount of resources for adult learners.  There are websites designed for adult learners to improve writing skills, obtain research information, and watch lectures from professionals in his or her field of study.  On the Internet, many top universities are offering free or open courses.  These open courses are great resources for the adult learner to expand his or her knowledge.  MIT, Harvard, and Stanford are just a few universities offering open courses.  However, remember it is very important with using Internet resources to make sure the content is creditable.

Like anything, there are factors that need to be considered before using technology for online learning.  As an instructor, it is important to remember that not all students are tech savvy.  Students have different levels of comfort with using computers, the Internet, and smart devices.  Usability for online teaching needs to be user friendly.  Learning management systems need to be easy to navigate and simple to use.  Just as important as usability, accessibility can be an issue for adult learners.  Not every student can afford high-speed Internet, cost of updating his or her computer to meet the requirements for certain online resources.  It is important to remember the cost associated with technology can be expensive.

I found technology is making be a lifelong learner very easy.  Mobile technology is making completing courses a breeze.  I recently purchased an iPad with 4G technology and a Bluetooth keyboard.  Then I purchased Office 2013 for my laptop the software came with two licenses for two computers and one license for a smart tablet.  Using the OneDrive feature found in Office 2013, I have access to coursework from any of my devices.  Now I am able to login to my class, complete assignments, and chat, from a balcony or beach chair.  Another technology I have found useful is grammar apps, which can be used to improve an individual’s writing skills.  Grammarly for Chrome is a free app that can be downloaded to a smart device to proof a person’s work.  Technology has open doors many people to attend and learn without having to sit in a classroom.

Internet-Based Multimedia Resources for Online Learning

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Engaging students is essential in building an effective community for online learning.  Online learning is often designed for self-directive learners or students who will become self-directive learners.  Providing resources beside the required course textbook is a valuable way to richen the learning experience.  The Internet offers many tools for improving the quality of online learning.  One valuable tool available for online learning is Internet-based multimedia resources.  These resources can help students develop skills and improve his or her knowledge about subject matter.  According to Conrad and Donaldson (2011), “Providing opportunities for students to acquire the necessary skills, an instructor can establish an informal mentoring system” (p 39).  Two sources available on the Internet an instructor can use to develop an informal mentoring system are Multimedia Resources for Educators and Students, and the use of VideoLectures.Net.

Multimedia Resources for Educators and Students

Multimedia Resources for Educators and Students is a multimedia website that provides many links for educators and students.  The website provides links to videos, movies, streaming resources, multiple media types, sound, audio, music, PowerPoint, multimedia slideshow resources, and search engines for resources. This website can help the instructor develop a stronger learning environment.  Students can also improve his or her learning skills by using the site.  The website can be found at http://www.uen.org/geneal_learner/multimedia_reources.shtml.

VideoLectures.Net

VideoLectures.Net is a website that provides video lectures from keynotes throughout the world.  The site offers lectures for over twenty educational topics.  The lectures are offered in different languages to meet the need to the instructor and student.  There are over 14,000 lectures available in English for viewing. This resource allows the instructor to provide different sources of information to students, which can keep the class interesting.  The site is available at http://videolectures.net/

Reference

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Setting up Effective Online Learning Experiences

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I am going to begin teaching my first online class.  I have taken many online classes in the past some classes were great and others were not.  I hope I am not one of those instructors that have a boring class. 

Steps for Setting up An Effective Online Learning Experience

There are several resources available for setting up an effective online environment, which can be found on the internet and in books.  One book of interest that can help new online instructors is “The Online Teaching Survival Guide” by Boettcher and Conrad.  This survival guide list several steps to setup an online class.  Of the 13 steps, I found in the book, I believe these are the most essential.

            The first step is probably obvious but is very important.  Find out who is responsible for setting up the course site and how to access the site.  Without this step, you may found out the course is not setup or available.  The second step I believe is important is to review the syllabus and textbook for the course.  If the syllabus is not available, prepare one.  As an instructor, you have to know what you are teaching and are able to communicate course content to the class.  The fourth step plan a course schedule, having a schedule will keep the instructor and class on track.  The fifth step is to prepare discussion postings and post discussions to the course site.  The sixth step is prepare an icebreaker for week one of the course.  The icebreaker can help student get to know each other.  The last step is to ask for feedback from another instructor. Asking for feedback, the instructor will know they are ready to teach.

Communication

            Have you ever took a class and the instructor was not clear about the class or was vague?  I took a class once where the instructor posted discussion questions and assignments but never communicated to the class.  The instructor’s feedback was never given, the class was confused, and responses to discussion questions were all over the board.  Since online classes are not face-to-face it is very important to be clear about course content, how discussions will be posted, and what are the expectations of the instructor.  Instructor feedback to the student needs to take place.  By giving feedback, the student will feel reassured he or she is learning and understanding the class.  Without good communication, the student will feel alone and the class will not be effective.  

Other Considerations

            Adult learners often take online classes to improve opportunities for his or her career.  Adult learners have life experiences that can influence how they learn and how they view ideas.  It is important for instructors to remember these are adults and their experience can benefit the class.  According to Shank (2013),

We need to take advantage of adult students’ life experience and goals.  Not only does that help them feel accepted for who they are, it also helps them learn, keeps them engaged, and helps them relate what they are learning to what they already know.  In addition, if we do not consider adult students’ life experience, they often feel as if they are being treated “like children”, a situation that is not conducive to learning, retention, or the transition they are going through (para. 4).

 Reference 

Shank, P. (2013). Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/more-on-designing-and-teaching-online-courses-with-adult-students-in-mind/

Online Learning Communities

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Online teaching has grown in popularity.  Online courses are being offered by many universities.  For online classes to be effective there are three essential elements that need to be considered when developing an online community for education.  These elements are people, purpose, and the process.  People are the individuals taking the class and instructor.  The purpose of the community is why people are there, taking classes.  The process is how the class is formatted and communication occurs between the communities members.

 Online classes are not for everyone.  Some people need structure and face-to-face communication to learn. Online learning communities are designed for self-directive people.  The instructor is a mentor and coach, not a traditional instructor who lectures.  In online learning, students learn from one another and instructors try to keep the group focused about course content.  For self-directive learners, online learning communities support the student and promote learning improving satisfaction.  For students that are not self-directive learners this format of learning will not be positive.  It is important for the instructor and students to stay engaged in order to sustain online learning communities.  Without communication, the community will not support learning.  Class engagement by all members of the community is key for successful online learning.