Today more than 39 million Americans have some college but no degree, a number which has grown by 3 million students in 3 years. While a concerning trend, the good news is that adult learners are seeking to complete degrees. By 2025, adult learners will make up 42% of the country’s college student body. Institutions are working to enroll adult learners to close these critical gaps to degree completion. What are the unique needs of adult learners, those students over the age of 25? And, what can our institutions do to create a welcoming and supportive environment for this important population of students? Below find four ways colleges and universities can support adult learner success!
Improve Time Management Skills
Adult learners are juggling many responsibilities: classes, work, child and/or eldercare, just to name a few. Acknowledging that adult learners have multiple demands on their time, and supporting them to find a balance creates an environment of care at our institutions. Sharing resources for how to develop a schedule, stay focused, and utilize time on task efficiently can go a long way to student success. Providing students short videos on topics like ten tips for time on task can be effective tools for teaching adult learners.
Explore Financial Options
Finances are the number one concern of adult learners. Our adult students may be providing financial support for a family as well as themselves as they attend school. Institutions should ensure all adult learners have access to clear resources around topics like financing education, financial aid, and scholarship programs. Short videos can introduce prospective adult students to the financial aid process, breaking down a barrier to enrollment.
Remove Technology Barriers
Many adult learners are intimidated about returning to the classroom after time away and question their abilities to succeed. They may be anxious about their ability to succeed as a student. One particular barrier adult learners cite in survey responses is technology. Assessing students prior to they begin learning to address skill gaps can create a foundation for success. Additionally, institutions can provide thorough introductions to the technology that students will be interacting with during their courses.
Provide Flexible Learning Options
Finally, institutions can ensure that classes are taught in a flexible format that acknowledges the many demands on adult learners. Many adult learners, while concerned about meeting technology requirements, are drawn to the flexibility of online and blended learning. It is critical that institutions prepare students for success in their online classes. Providing training resources through an online orientation that adult learners can return to again and again is a powerful way to support students. In addition, workshops can be a great way to introduce students to key success concepts like how to ask for help and interact with their instructors.
How Colleges & Universities Can Support Adult Learners
With the growing number of adult learners, higher education institutions need to ensure that their programs and processes welcome this unique population of students. By providing adult learners with resources to facilitate their transition into our institutions while building confidence, schools are creating an environment that welcomes and supports their success.
OnlineLingo provides students with an orientation to prepare for success as online students as well as twenty curated workshops to develop skills. Workshops address a variety of topics from communicating online to taking tests in an online environment. Designed and facilitated by nationally recognized experts, institutions use OnlineLingo as a building block to student success and retention.
By Meg Foster
Online Learning & Design Specialist - Consultant