The Adult/Online Learner Experience. All for One and One for All?

Recent discussions have predominantly focused on learner characteristics and how they fit together with the distance delivery method. It has generally been agreed upon that adult online learners are motivated and involved because we appreciate the opportunity to pursue higher education when we might otherwise not have access whether due to geographic location, available time, or other factors. Distance education affords the opportunity for the learner to decide where and when to study and how to find the right balance between education and existing obligations. Adult online learners take seriously the responsibility, not only for our own learning, but also for contributing constructively to the learning experiences of our peers.

Here are the characteristics and how they interact as I interpret them from the ongoing discussion –


independent                        FOCUS ON THE INDIVIDUAL              learner autonomy

ongoing commitments    FLEXIBILITY/CONTROL                                    manageable

nomadic lifestyle               NO PHYSICAL CLASSROOM                                    mobility

In reflecting on these discussions, do you think that online learners have no choice for how to pursue higher education? Does online learning merely work out to be the best choice for each of them? How do we then reconcile our successful experiences studying online with the research (particularly at the community college level – see below) that indicates the challenging nature of retaining online learners? Learning online seems to be working for us, but perhaps not the same for everyone. I think that we need to be cautious about how we generalize our online learning experiences as the online learning experiences typical for everyone. In rereading recent comments, a single statement that I made stood out – “still a work in progress.” :-)

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