Providing quality learning experiences for adult learners is a complex task and requires instructors to consider many variables to ensure that students not only stay engaged but also achieve learning. Upon completion of each class, students should feel that the class enriched their lives in some way and that it was worth their investment of both time and money. Below, I have selected five resources to aid in the mammoth task of providing a rich learning experience to students both online and offline.

Characteristics of Adult Learners

Adult students present diverse learning preferences, making one trick-teaching ineffective (Merriam & Brockett; VCC, n.d.). To reach all learners, teachers need to adapt a variety of classroom techniques (Merriam & Brockett, 2007). To help teachers determine the cross-section of learning styles and hone their techniques, Roth’s (2014) infographic and quiz evaluates different learning styles and strengths. Roth’s (2014) summary recognizes the multitude of stresses, roles, independance, and outlooks held by adult learners (Merriam & Brockett, 2007; Bradway, 2009; Willingham, 2008; VCC, n.d.). Instructors who utilize Roth’s (2014) quiz, could identify students’ learning preferences in order to better cater to them.

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Whether online or offline, something all instructors can control is fostering a positive learning environment. As instructor Trisha Kivisalu (2014) explains, adults thrive in a positive atmosphere. One way for instructors to create positive learning environments is to apply appreciative inquiry-a philosophy that focuses on building on the strengths to promote positive change (Centre for Appreciative Inquiry, n.d.). Centreforappreciativeinquiry.net offers professional leaders a roadmap to manifest a positive environment that contributes to positive growth. From advice in how to lead engaging, inclusive discussions to how to focus on overall strengths, the Centre for Appreciative Inquiry provides instructors a strength-based foundation to build positive learning experiences.

Motivational Techniques

As education scholars Poulson et al. (2007) purport, motivation can be achieved in a learning environment by grabbing the attention of learners, providing relevance of learning content, building confidence within learners, and ensuring learners are satisfied with the process (ARCS). The E-learning Industry website offers tried and true strategies written by practicing professionals to help adhere to Poulson et al.’s (2007) ARCS model. While elearningindustry.com does not explicitly refer to ARCS, several articles relate to offering engaging activities that promote attention, connecting learning to real world experiences (relevance), creating sound assessments (confidence), and offering effective feedback (satisfaction).

Instructional Strategies

Ensuring learning objectives are met relies on instructors choosing sound strategies to achieve their intended outcomes (Merriam & Brockett, 2007). The University of Saskatchewan provides educators an in-depth summary of different instructional methods and activities to try in the classroom. The site suggests activities depending on an instructor’s teaching philosophy. For example, for those interested in experiential learning strategies, the site suggests instructors implement activities such as field trips and experiments. Each strategy is accompanied by real world applications and examples to spark creativity. The strategies presented on the site could be adjusted to apply to unique situations.

Use of Media

Whether teaching online or offline, effective use of media assists learning, helps foster motivation, and helps appease different learning styles (Using Media in Lessons, Vancouver Community College, n.d.). In today’s digital world, bringing in various forms of technological media such as cellphones, tablets, websites, and social networks can provide learners an enriched experience (Teacher’s Guide to Technology, Edudemic, n.d.). Edudemic offers several teacher’s guides covering a wide range of technological medias such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Glass. Having a trusted and reliable source such as Edudemic offers instructors up to date, tactical media tips to try in his or her learning environment.

References:

Bradway, S. (n.d.). [Video file]. Visions of an adult learner today. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/tu24QNtRado

Center for Appreciative Inquiry. (n.d.) General website. Retrieved from http://www.centerforappreciativeinquiry.net

Edudemic. (n.d.). Teaching guides. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/guides/

E-learning Industry. (n.d.). General website. Retrieived from http://elearningindustry.com

Kivasalu, T. (n.d.) [Video file]. Trisah introduces component 3- positive learning environments. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/KJoDj3v6LeY

Merriam, S. & Brockett, R. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Poulsen et al. (2008). Arcs model of motivational design. Retrieved from http://www.torreytrust.com/images/ITH_Turst.pdf

Roth, J. (March 18, 2014). Why learning types matter. Retrieved from http://interactyx.com/social-learning-blog/why-learning-types-matter/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Interactyx_Blog+%28Social+Learning+management+System+Blog%3A+Interactyx%29

University of Saskatchewan. (n.d.). Instructional strategies. Retrieved from http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/pd/instr/index.html

Vancouver Community College. (n.d.). Using media in lessons. [Data file]. Retrieved from http://moodle.vcc.ca/mod/resource/view.php?id=346050

Vancouver Community College. (n.d.). The adult learner. [Data file]. Retrieved from http://moodle.vcc.ca/mod/resource/view.php?id=346026

Willingham, D. (August 28, 2008). [Video file]. Learning styles don’t exist. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/sIv9rz2NTUk

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Trends in Adult Education (a VCC PIDP 3100 assignment)

Trends in adult education seem to be very related to the emerging role of the adult educator with online discourse suggesting that education will see an upswing in elearning, social media, effective instruction, and mobile learning options. Because more and more learners already engage online, institutions that offer elearning opportunities will be on the rise to capture that market niche (Wellham, 2014; NMC, N.D.; Quinton, 2013; Pappas, 2013).

In addition, because students are also already spending vast amounts of time online interacting in social media networks, the education industry will see a rise in educators who integrate social media platforms into the learning activities both online and offline (Morrison, 2013; Gikas & Grant, 2013).

Furthermore, with tuition costs on the rise, students are also getting savvier and expecting more from teachers-professional credibility will count just as much as educational degrees (Quinton, 2013; Wellham, 2014).

Lastly, today’s young adults have grown up with mobile technology (Turkle, 2012) and expect to be able to incorporate mobile devices into their learning experience (Gikas & Grant, 2013; Quinton, 2013).

Overall, educators roles are shifting to embrace technology and to better demonstrate their value to students.

References:

Gikas, J. & Grant, M. (2013). Mobile computing devices in higher education: Student perspectives on learning with cellphones, smartphones & social media. The Internet and Higher Education 19(2013), pp. 18–26. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751613000262

Morrison, D. (December 13, 2013). Three social trends that will influence education in 2014 [Web log]. Retrieved from http://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/three-social-trends-that-will-influence-education-in-2014/

NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Wiki. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://horizon.wiki.nmc.org/Trends

Quinton, S. (Dec. 30, 2013). 5 Higher-Education Trends for 2014 [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/5-higher-education-trends-for-2014/282702/

Pappas, C. (December 6, 2013). Future eLearning trends and technologies in the global eLearning industry [Web log]. Retrieved from http://elearningindustry.com/future-elearning-trends-and-technologies-in-the-global-elearning-industry

TED Talks (Producer). (2012). Sherry Turkle, connected but not alone. Retrieived from http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

Trotter, C. (April 11, 2014). Adults higher education changing role [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.evolllution.com/opinions/adults-higher-education-changing-role/

Welham, Holly. (January 9, 2014). What will 2014 bring for education and leadership? Futher Education and Leadership, The Guardian [Web log] Retrieved from

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New Insight: The Role of Adult Educators (a VCC PIDP 3100 assignment)

New Insight

Even though I taught my first class twenty years ago, I still feel like a rookie because from smart phones, Web 2.0, and tablets, technological communication tools and platforms, the practice of adult education constantly evolves as it strives to be relevant to adults of all ages. As a result, my teaching practice is also constantly evolving as I strive to create meaningful lessons that appeal to every student. For me, through e-learning platforms, mobile devices, and social media, embracing technology, for better or for worse, technological advancements pave the way for a long-term career and successful future.

E-Learning is the Future

From its on demand and self-directed nature, online learning benefits both facilitators, learners, and industry if executed effectively. Due to increased competition and economic motivators, adults seeking post-secondary is rising with more and more adults turning to e-learning options to earn more credentials (Trotter, 2014). Industry watchdogs predict the e-learning phenomena will only rise (Wilham, 2014). E-learning thought leader Christopher Pappas (2013) adds that students opting for e-learning experiences will increase by 23% by 2017. Adult educators must stay ahead of the curve and become comfortable with e-learning platforms and technologies in order to keep their career options flexible.

Mobile Devices Expand, not Inhibit the Classroom

With more and more people accessing information from their smartphone or tablet, whether online or in a classroom facilitators must find strategies that utilize mobile devices in a positive, pro-active way. According to scholars Gikas and Grant (2013), university learners responded positively to interactions that involved mobile devices within the classroom. In a recent digital communication class I delivered, mobile devices were temporarily banned to aid student focus on class activities. Class reaction was polarized and mobile devices eventually returned. Gikas and Grant’s (2013) findings echoed my experience: students felt frustrated when institutions misunderstood their connections to mobile devices. As Turkle (2012) discusses in her TED Talk, “Connected But Alone”, young adults have a unique relationship with technology. As adult educators, we need to understand that relationship and use it to make lessons more appealing by focusing on the benefits mobile technology offers.

Social Media is a Gift, not a Curse

Akin to mobile devices, social media platforms offer course facilitators of adult learners more opportunities to interact and collaborate on class activities. Blogger Debbie Morrison (2013) from George Washington University touts social media tools provide opportunities for adult educators to achieve more collaboration, human interaction, and personal learning. Morrison explains how ubiquitous cloud technology not only avails ways to seamlessly conduct teamwork but also allows the self-directed learner the flexibility to personalize his or her learning experience because information and support materials can be uploaded and easily accessed on demand. To support Morrison’s point, as an online facilitator and digital communication consultant, I regularly upload support videos to students and clients to support learning. I also avail of Google Groups with some classes to reduce the amount of email interactions. Social media platforms definitely have a place in today’s learning environments.

As technology continues to enhance the ways users interact, the role of adult educators is to determine how to incorporate e-learning, mobile, and social media advancements in order to relate to those adults who are motivated by technology and who daily relate in and to a technological world.

References:

http://www.evolllution.com/opinions/adults-higher-education-changing-role/

http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pXDHAAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA61&dq=role+of+adult+educators+in+social+media&ots=ZWYE0VjuEa&sig=Bc4EDCu4Nqe9PDas6uJ3HrGi9tA#v=onepage&q=role%20of%20adult%20educators%20in%20social%20media&f=false

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751613000262

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/09/further-education-predictions-2014-apprenticeship-college

http://elearningindustry.com/future-elearning-trends-and-technologies-in-the-global-elearning-industry

http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

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The Value of Professional Community

Community ImageTo complete the Education Trends assignment for Vancouver Community College, I was required to prepare and deliver a presentation on the roles of adult educators and the trends in adult education to my learning partner. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience did not revolve around the content but the interaction, connection, and community that stemmed from meeting with my learning partner. My most important take-away arose from realizing how I valued a professional community and needed to cultivate one in my profession in order to combat the isolation of teaching, to enhance my teaching skills through constructive criticism, and to learn new ideas from my peers.

Seeking a professional community could remove the isolation and negative experiences that I have encountered as a freelance, sessional instructor who works from home. Bilash (n.d.), writes about the irony of teacher isolation, “that in a profession which is so centered around human interaction, teachers can find themselves feeling very isolated” (para 1). For myself, as a new, emerging teacher, I concur that at times, I have felt very alone. My isolation dissolved every time I participated in a staff meeting, had phone meetings with my program heads, or reached out to other teachers for guidance. Whether we discussed classroom management or student behavior, knowing that I was a member of a community and not alone, solidified my confidence that I was making sound decisions that benefitted student learning. Having a community reduces future burnout because it takes the pressure off teachers who realize they have support (Bilash, n.d.; UBC, n.d.). Both online dialogue and my personal experience reveal that working in community prevents the negative consequences of teacher isolation.

Classroom In addition to distinguishing the damaging feelings of isolation, maintaining a professional teaching community also provides opportunities for constructive feedback that can be applied to better a student’s learning experience. The University of British Columbia (n.d.) recognizes the value of teaching communities and offers its instructors several opportunities to congregate in order to “allow people to share knowledge, expertise, scholarship, ideas, and suggestions, both face-to-face and electronically” (para. 1). I encountered this firsthand when teaching an online course where an activity intended to foster community and emulate off-line interactions failed miserably-students immediately complained and did not attend because they preferred more self-directed support. After brain-storming with my program head, I decided to create weekly videos where I addressed common problems and to start a YouTube channel with additional support materials such as demonstrations and reading summaries. By receiving constructive feedback from my professional community, I was able to identify a stress-point for students and better address and serve their learning needs.

A professional teaching community can not only enhance learning experiences by pointing out weak points, but also by sharing tried and true student engagement ideas and activities. For Bilash (n.d.), teachers have much to offer their colleagues and encourages teachers to seek out mentoring opportunities and professional training programs as a means to create community. At one of the institutions where I teach as a sessional, term kick-off and term debrief meetings have provided several new ideas such as evaluation techniques and authentic activities to implement in my own classroom. Without a professional teaching community to offer fresh learning content, teachers are limited to their own creativity and self-support.

After reflecting on the web conference I participated in with my Vancouver Community College learning partner, I realize the value that participating in a teaching community can bring to my practice for the ultimate benefit of my students. I have benefitted firsthand from the expertise and wisdom of my peers and colleagues and will continue to seek out constructive feedback and new ideas from my community.

References:

http://www.educ.ualberta.ca/staff/olenka.Bilash/best%20of%20bilash/isolation.html

http://ctlt.ubc.ca/programs/communities-of-practice/

http://instructionaldesign.ubc.ca

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