Adult educators need to consider different ways to engage their audience. Many in the field of education, including Ota and et. al (2006) and Yap (2009) recognize that adult learners have specific needs when it comes to acquiring new knowledge and/or skills. These needs include understanding the reason for learning something new and how it would apply to their day to day lives. Adult learners are more inclined to learn if they are able to take charge of their learning and apply their own experiences/knowledge to the topic at hand. As such, these days many educators are turning to technology to address these various needs that their adult learners present.
New Insights and Trends:
In the world of corporate training, organizations are looking for ways to deliver training frequently, by reaching more audience members who are geographically separated, while staying within the existing budgetary constraints (Woodall, 2010). Blended learning offers a solution by combining both synchronous (real time training where the trainer and participants are present at the same time) and asynchronous training (where trainer [or computer course ware program] and participants interact at different times).
Currently, certain educators worry that maybe learning will not be achieved as well in a blended environment as it would in the classic face to face environment. To address this, one study by Fish and Kang (2014) tried to keep all other factors as constant and measured the learning outcomes of a stress management course that was taught online versus face to face. They found that in a right delivery medium there are no significant differences among learners whether they were in an online platform or in a classroom.
However Woodall notes that it is important to not just “hastily” mix different technology but to be more methodical regarding what level of objectives needs to be achieved, while considering the characteristics and needs of the potential participants. Hofmann (2014) echoes the need to be strategic when designing courses and programs so that entire programs are not being forced in just one “delivery modality” or make the “assumption that all delivery modalities treat all types of content the same way”. She suggests exploring Chruches (2009) revision of Blooms taxonomy to use as a reference when designing courses. This digital taxonomy can help better identify which objectives can best be met using which delivery medium.
In recent years, I have been involved in designing and delivering training using online tools and platforms in various settings, such as corporate training and post secondary education. Although all audience members are adults, it is very apparent that their needs and comfort with technology varies and thus it is important for me to keep those differences in mind while designing and delivering courses. I would agree with Hofmann that we can not only focus on one type of modality or think that all types of content can be delivered using same technology. Blooms digital taxonomy greatly helps when designing courses online. Being also aware of your audience member’s comfort and skill with technology can help decide how the content would be presented and what type of support needs to be provided to ensure learners succeed.
In discussing the role of technology in teaching, my colleague Nripjeet makes a point that with the changing demographics of the developing world, it is no longer only the Western societies that have access to technology. Technology is not just a tool but has been infused in every aspect of society. Thus it is imperative to think globally and consider the various educational needs of adult learners around the world. It is then interesting to see how institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Khan Academy are reaching wider audiences by offering free courses globally.
With more and more learners expected to at least take some online training (Staker, 2011; Woodall, 2010), it is important that educators and instructional designers take advantage of the various guides and webinars and blogs that are available. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning is one of the blogs that has great resources including “Teachers easy guide to the most important web tools in education” and “teacher guides” about multitude of topics to help teachers incorporate technology in their instruction. Edutopia and eLearning Industry are also some other sites that offer great resources for educators.