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.