Many working adults currently have realized the need to advance in their education in order to compete or be at per with the current uncertain and ever changing job market. Attending school while trying to balance work, family, and social responsibilities however, can be a difficult task for even the strongest of students. The good news is that with the growth of technology, there is now option to the traditional college classroom, for instance, with the existence of internet and computer technology, many people prefer to take their classes on-line. Majority of adult learners have discovered that online courses offer an e-learning solution that complies with their busy program.
However, it is always advisable for any one wishing to enroll for online education to weigh the benefits and limitations and then determine whether studying online is right for him or her. Online adult learning is advantageous in some ways such as it allows an individual space and time because one studies at his or her own pace. It gives a person time to react to the tutors lectures and questions without being pressured and the person is able to express his or her feelings freely without shying off like the face -to-face classes. Online adult learning helps an individual to improve his or her knowledge in computers, software, and the internet because that is what they have to use throughout their learning process.
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The literature associated with the online programs for adult learners dates back to the late 1990s and improves upon a century of practice and research from adult distance education and training. Although adult online education and training programs have developed over the previous decade, the quantity of written research on virtual schooling exercise and policy is not enough. Currently, the literature reviews on adult online education and training includes experimental studies involving both the published and unpublished, and practitioner reports. This research proposal reviews open access literature in the adult online education and reports on a structured content analysis of the materials. The main aim of the research is to find out how lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is damaging the way adult learners learn and affecting them socially.
Online education is another form of distance learning which is defined as the separation of the instructor and the student. All instructions and content are provided through the internet and there is no face-to-face contact between the instructor and the learners. According to research, problems faced by adult learners can be categorized in different forms such as costs and motivators, feedback and instructor contact, student support and services, alienation and isolation, lack of practical experience and training. Online adult learners unlike the traditional learners are in most cases likely to have insecurities concerning their learning. Most of these insecurities are as a result of personal and school related issues like the cost of study in financial terms, family life interferences, the irrelevances perceived from their studies, and lack of employers support. This insecurities increases pressure to the adult learner thus may lead to high rates of dropout than it is with the normal learning and training.
According to further studies by other researchers, lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is damaging the way adult learners learn and affecting them socially. This is true because online education and training lacks the required response due to lack of face-to-face with the instructor. Traditional class learning education encourages daily or weekly contact between the lecturers and the student, but with online learning, there is lack of such contacts and this may lead to the adult learners have problem with evaluating themselves. Lee (2006) has the belief that lack of contact between the instructor and the learners created by online learning eliminates the connection of communication between these two parties. It is always good to restore this connection through overt efforts made by the learning institution in order to reintegrate the transactions between the teaching and learning processes. For instance, in online learning, some adult learners may not be able to receive enough reintegration measures like communication through telephone or any other electronic communications.
This kind of learners will less likely experience adequate and complete academic and social integration into institutional life. To make it worse, such adult learners are most likely to drop out of the learning system. In normal education and training settings, it is extremely vital that all learners are provided with frequent feedback in any learning institution. This is particularly necessary for the online adult learners who are impaired because of lack of face-to-face contact with the instructors and other learners. Some of these adult online learners may not be able access reliable telecommunications, computers, and postal mails most often as required. Therefore, adults who are aspiring to enroll for hire studies through online learning should be aware of such problems like communication barriers between them and their instructors and general academic institution.
Another problem that results from lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is lack of support and services like providing instructors, academic managers and programmers and technical help (St. Amant, 2007). The process of online adult learning is in most cases complicated because of the problem of isolation. It is of great significant to consider having enough support while undertaking or planning for an online education and training. For instance, having an instructor and program planners to provide help in completing online courses in time and also to act as a support system during stressful moments concerning on line learning. Researchers believe that learner' services are very vital part of the cost budgeted for the whole learning program. Excellent academic performance of any learner is based on the available support than on the technological problems. This is because technological consideration may at times be very expensive hence a source of budgeting problems.
Lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is damaging the way adult learners learn and affecting them socially because of bearing the feeling of alienation and isolation. Many learners like to have a learning environment that they can integrate and socialize from the large community (Horn & PytlikZillig, 2006). This is the case in the traditional education system. However, with the online learners, much of their social interactions are withdrawn away thus leaving them in a state of alienation and isolation from both the instructors and other learners. The online adult learners are not even able to share ideas concerning their course of study with their fellow students because they are with them physically. However, this problem can be solved only through frequent communication electronically or by phone.
According to Benson, Filippaios, & Morgan, (1989), having the best instructor to any learner is the most important step of achieving academically in any course. Isolation according to research is recognized to be among the major issues for online adult learners. Online learners experience difficulties such making contacts to the both academic and administration staff, accessing reading materials and requesting for book from the library, and they are also unable to interact with other learners. This makes them to feel that they are denied the perception that they are part of a scholarly community. Alienation and isolation may result into inadequacy and insecurity feeling and also a person may end up lacking confidence in his or her abilities.
Online adult learning does not consider to new comers or the new learners of the online course (Bliuc, Goodyear, & Piggott, 2010). The online system does provide equal opportunities to its learners, this is because the special needs of the learners and of specific concern is the way in which the system and study materials for the online students are designed. It is important that instructors put into account the significant proportion of learners who decide to enroll online but with little or no experience of online education and training. Therefore, because of poor design of the reading materials it damages the way adult learners learn and also affect them socially and thus many may opt to drop out of the online learning system. Lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is damaging the way adult learners learn and also affects them socially because the system lacks technical training to its learners.
Majority of the adult learners are not cumbersome with the usage of the current technology like the computers or the even the internet. Therefore, a good of adult students are likely to be excluded from the online courses because of lack of adequate knowledge and skills concerning the use of computers and the internet. This is because this knowledge and skills are highly required if the course is to involve the use of technology. Online education involves provision of large volumes of electronic-based information, thus using the offered information will be hard incase the adult learner has no skills of computer or the internet. It will require that they learn the basics concerning the operation of the system of their choice of the online education courses, like how to manage their time of study and how to use the offered study materials as well.
According to Park& Hee Jun, (2009), the most challenging issue that online adult students suffer from is the lack of faculty support. This is because the commitment by department faculty is seen as a significant instructional component in any online learning system. The faculty is required to make changes in its roles such as in administering especially for the benefit of the online learners. This may not be an easy thing for many lecturers, because they are required to change their teaching styles to suit that one of being tutors, mentors or facilitators. They required to meet the all the needs of the online students without physical contact. Instructors may also change their teaching styles to suit the online students bearing in mind that most of these online students are adults. This is a challenge to the instructors who are to dealing with the young learners (Levy, 2007).
Therefore, failure of the faculty to accommodate the needs and expectations of the online adult learners, it may leads to poor academic performance of the online adult learners. As long as the institution faculty complains that there is a burden concerning the online adult learning program, the learners are likely to receive little support concerning their studies. Instructors may not be willing to take this challenge because they lack adequate skills may on the use of technology and thus hard to participate in such program. This is because; most instructors are not much into the world of technology and thus may have little or no knowledge of computers and the internet. Therefore, all these challenges of lack of face-to-face and social interaction in the online environment is damaging the way adult learners learn and affects them socially.
Learning online is becoming more popular and is helping adults that have to work, but wants to receive an education. The major concern about online learning is that it is not preparing it's learners for solving real world problems (Clark, 2003). This is because unless someone has strong desires to study and advance academically, it becomes hard for him or her to learn on their own since they may easily be distracted by the urge of playing games online or simply chatting with their friends. In addition incase the learner needs to be helped with a particular course work, it is very hard the instructor to provide assistance because he is not available physically (Nelson, 1997). It is also hard to give the required guidance to the online students about the real life circumstances. For instance, in traditional learning settings, students are motivated to work hard and also taught how to solve the real life problems through workshops, seminars and other educative debates. Such king of teaching is transferred to the online learners making them to miss out on important issues that can help them grow into professional after theirs studies.
Research shows that online education maybe becoming popular, but negative affects are sowing more in the women adult learners who tend to juggle more in their life than men (Merriam & Caffarella, 2007). According to research, many women adults who enroll for online education are likely to cheat in order to pass their exams. This occurs in situations where the female student is so fixed that she has no time to study. Therefore, in privacy of her home, she can easily get grade A by submitting someone's work, yet this is a problem that should be dealt with the instructors of the online adult learners.
Surveys show that 8% of students drop out within the first month of their online experience, due to lack of face-to-face interaction (Zembylas, 2008). Online learning involves the ability and the willingness to change and learn new technology skills, and because many adults are sometimes not flexible in learning new technology, they end up dropping out of the study system. In most cases, the drop out is as a result of frustrations de to lack of face-to - face interaction with the instructors who are not willing to provide enough support to the learner. Therefore, for the success of the online adult learners academically, technical issues need to be dealt with first and also increase the interaction between the learner and the tutor.
According to the literature, emotions are vital in adult learning because they can help encourage online learning (Dirkx, 2006). Online learning means learning from a faceless classroom environment, therefore, it may be a challenge to some learners to adapt or adjust to such an environment. Most people are more familiar with the traditional system of learning, thus changing the system may affect them emotionally before adjusting to online learning. Some researchers believe that the lack of exposure to online education system would put some learners at a disadvantage. They have a strong feeling that the transition from a face-to-face classroom to faceless classroom might not be an easy task for some people.
Online adult learning can be effective because when used well, learning occurs and skills and knowledge is gained which is the main goal for any education process. Online learning is advantageous because it's cost effective, flexible, and convenient for a majority of adult learners. Online learning can be successful when the tutor creates an interactive environment for easier communication. However distance or online learning may not be beneficial to all learners because, it creates a feeling of isolation and frustration for some individual students, it lacks face-to-face interaction with the tutor and other students.