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It used to be that higher education only happened in dark old auditoriums filled with young adults. Today, the look of education has changed. The number of adult learners continues to rise, especially with advancements in technology-based learning and distance-learning courses. We’ve come a long way towards making earning a degree or certificate as a busy professional more tangible. However, there are still many unique qualities about adult learners that you need to understand to create an enjoyable user experience.
You must know that having the best equipment or technology is only part of the story. Programs must connect with learners when and how they best learn and equip instructors and other support staff with high emotional intelligence to ensure the success of each unique learner.
Here are three strategies you can incorporate into your adult learning course for busy professionals to help ensure their success.
Make it Flexible
Working 40 hours a week and raising a family is a busy life. Adding the extra stress of having to make it to a classroom for a few hours two or more days a week can make going back to school impossible. Creating an online course with flexibility can open the doors for professionals who want to continue their education.
Online courses are known for flexibility, but you should also look at your practices to make sure that every student is provided the same chance for success. Consider posting the syllabus as soon as the class starts and allow students to work ahead. If you require any group work, post the expectations as soon you can so that teams can form and start working toward goals. You should also offer quick 1-on-1 appointments with a counselor or the instructor to increase the level of personalization each student feels.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Adult learners have lives outside of the classroom. They may run multi-million dollar companies, care for a growing family, or volunteer at their favorite local charity. These commitments outside of the classroom are important to them and their overall success and satisfaction, which means that you will need to learn how to show empathy for any situation that may arise.
A few ways you can display empathy to your students include:
- Show vulnerability: Let your students know something personal about your life or your academic journey to increase the level of connection.
- Listen actively: You must listen to understand and foster a sense of collaboration when your students speak. Never interrupt and be sure to summarize what you heard them say.
- Avoid assumptions: It’s never a good idea to assume. Always ask clarifying questions to make sure that you know what really happened or what a student needs.
Assess for Burnout
Working and going to school is challenging. Your students may be up before dawn, but still burning the midnight oil later the same day. They will continue to have expectations they must meet with home and work life, which can create the perfect storm for symptoms of burnout.
You must be aware of the signs of burnout so that you can recognize them in your students and get them the help they need. Common signs include:
- Anxiety: If a student describes feelings of impending doom or feeling nervous or stressed all of the time, they might be suffering from anxiety that is typical with burnout.
- Inability to concentrate: Burnout zaps your ability to remember information and focus on tasks. If you hear a student say that they keep forgetting to do everyday tasks or that they are distracted easily, you may need to talk to them about other signs of burnout.
- Illness: Everyone gets the common cold from time to time. However, if you notice that an adult learner is missing a lot of assignments or even mentions that they have called off from work a few times, this might be a sign that you need to explore.
- Insomnia: Students are notorious for staying up late and doing homework. But a student who is up all night every night and still going to work could be experiencing something more serious that may need professional help.
You might find your class intriguing, but it is essential to remember that not everyone will. You’ll have to offer some extra motivation to keep learners engaged as the course progresses. Change up the format of the learning experience from time to time. Plan group interactions or projects to keep the materials fresh. Be sure to include the relevance of the content to their daily professional lives. For example, if you are teaching about budgets, have them share how they could use the information in their current or future roles.
Another option is to allow some students to test out of the course. Create an assessment exam that evaluates their current understanding of the materials. If they pass, let them skip the course and move on to the next one they need.
eLearning Experience Success
Online courses are popular, but that doesn’t make them simple to create or run. You’ll need to stay on top of technology advancements and adult learning concepts to keep your course materials fresh at all times. Use these three strategies for creating a learning experience that works well for the unique needs of busy professionals.