Alternatives for Education
Adult learners are seeking out alternatives for furthering education. Along with adulthood come’s many responsibilities, often making it more difficult to find the time for continuing studies. Trying to juggle work schedules and families can be a grueling task while also continuing one’s education, but attending online courses has proven to be successful for many adults. A survey was conducted on 2,365 registered nurses enrolled in a nursing bachelor degree program. Multiple factors came into play when assessing the online learning process. Overall, the students were pleased with the convenience and flexibility of the program. Given the working conditions of a nurse, physically attending a college campus has proven to be difficult and can be a major obstacle in completing the program. The survey concluded that online learning provided increased flexibility and convenient access in furthering and completing the nursing program (Karaman, S., Kucuk, S., & Aydemir, M., 2014).
With the technological landscape changing at a very rapid pace, colleges and universities have to adjust the accessibility and availability of higher education accordingly. Online education is growing quickly and is specifically being sought out by adult learners. Many adults find it increasingly difficult to work full time, raise families and keep up with all of life’s demands while also attending college courses during the required day time hours. In a study published in the Journal of Continuing Higher Education, interviews and data of online adult students reveal that attending online courses is on the rise because it offers the flexibility to study anytime and anywhere regardless of the student’s busy schedule. This helps to avoid interruptions in obtaining a degree and allows furthering education on the student’s schedule versus the institution’s schedule (Bourdeaux, R., & Schoenack, L. 2016). Online education allows the adult student the flexibility and control of one’s own education. Pursuing higher education is time consuming and can be stressful, but having the ability to obtain a degree anytime, whether it is during the middle of the night, at a ball field, or on a cruise on the other side of the world, it allows the adult learner the flexibility necessary to be successful.
Perspective of Online Learning
Online learning is growing faster than ever and is reshaping the way the world’s students are learning. It has to be the greatest revolution in contemporary education. It has drastically changed the educational system and has introduced endless opportunities for anyone seeking further education, specifically when it comes to adults and the need for flexibility in achieving a degree. In a traditional university setting, the student may have to travel far from home to attend courses in a desired field of study. These same courses are available online to access from anywhere. Most adult’s busy schedules will not allow for daily travel which may discourage continuing education. Online education eliminates this obstacle. Many advocates of cyberspace learning claim that when students attend courses online, the parameters of travel and time are removed. This helps equalize the academic playing field, because most adult’s work schedules would not allow attending morning to afternoon classes (Johnson-Bailey, J. 2016). Having 24/7 course hour flexibility is becoming a leading factor in determining the academic success for many adults.
Adult learners are typically older, working full time jobs, and raising families, which makes finding spare time during the day very challenging. The availability of an electronic classroom provides endless places and opportunities to learn on the student’s schedule. Dr. Katy Herbold, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Southern Utah University, and who has over 30 years in leadership positions, recognizes that the characteristics of adult learners are much different than those of recent high school graduates. She acknowledges that adults have a deep need for being self-directing and that style, time, pace and place are key factors in the adult student’s academic success. Providing the opportunity, adjustability, and flexibility to work around busy schedules are a necessity in obtaining a degree (Herbold, K., 2011). After conducting a survey of adult learners and online delivery characteristics, it is concluded that an online educational experience would be ideal for the mature learner. 90% of the adults surveyed responded positively to the learning experience, claiming that the online learning process was directly aligned with the adult learners needs (Herbold, K., 2011).
Cost of Education
Next, research suggests that the cost of attending courses online is significantly lower than attending classes at a college campus. Maintaining brick and mortar buildings is very expensive and has to be done every day of the year regardless of classes being in session or not. Although universities do receive federal grants and subsidies, it is never enough and the additional costs are placed on students and tax payers. Online universities save money by not having to build things like libraries, laboratories, art galleries and sporting fields. This is a savings that is passed on to the student (Schwartz, S., 2013). Online education saves money to students in remote locations who would otherwise have to travel to arrive on campus. Attending online courses or campus learning courses produce similar learning outcomes, but there is one significant difference. It is the cost. Online courses can be up to 57% cheaper to deliver than the traditional course and then adding in building maintenance and teaching spaces, raises that percentage even more. The cost difference could come closer to 90%. Introducing more online classes would significantly decrease the costs of attending college without hurting learning which ultimately makes for happier students (Schwartz, S., 2013).
Juanita Johnson-Bailey (2016) refers to the online savings phenomenon when she discusses the advantages of online learning. Online options eliminate the need for travel which is beneficial to students who live in remote places or possess transportation limitations. This benefits the student in both time and cost. Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and would like the option of better financial career opportunities, but higher education is generally required. The enormous costs of schooling can be a huge deterrent and learning online helps dramatically lower tuition costs. She goes on to say, that increases in student enrollment would require additional classrooms to be built which is a cost that would typically be passed on to the student. Cyber-teaching allows the university to serve more students without incurring the cost of finding and adding space and physical campus expansion, a cost savings for both the student and the university (Johnson-Bailey, J. 2016).
Furthermore, online learning is leading to widespread mainstream adoption. With the expansion of quality online courses being offered globally, more and more adult students are opting for this convenient learning style than ever. Between 2002 and 2012, there was a 23% increase of students attending online courses, up from 10% to 33%. The most obvious explanations were cost and convenience (McPherson, M. S., & Bacow 2015). New digital technology will be extending education to a broader population at a reduced cost, which will benefit all involved. Cyber-learning eliminates the cost of out-of-state rate hikes which generally are pretty high. There is no such thing as an out-of-state student when learning online. Online college tuition is the same cost regardless of the student’s location in the country. Online learning also removes the cost of books which can be quite expensive. A computer, internet and source materials are generally the only costs associated with online learning. This results in more money left in the student’s pocket and a more optimistic future when it comes to online learning and furthering education.
Another key factor in more adults continuing further education online is the benefit of quicker acceleration. Having the option and capability to work at one’s own speed and availability opens up more opportunities to complete a degree program at an accelerated pace. The majority of adults work full times jobs and are hard pressed to find spare time during the day, but with online courses available any time and any day, adult students can continue furthering education around busy work schedules which often results in accelerated graduation rates. Allowing students to learn at their own pace is an important concept, especially when it comes to mature adults who have a better grasp on good time management. Focusing on outputs rather than ‘seat time’ should be seen as more important. Many adults students have life and work experience and can use that to assist in courses taken while furthering education. Attending a college campus requires the student to be in class for a certain number of hours or days to achieve completion. This holds back learners who learn at a quicker pace. Online education gives the option of proving competency and moving forward which speeds up the completion rates and also saves the student money. This increases student satisfaction (Schwartz, S., 2013).
Online education has become one of the most sought out higher education alternatives and the number of students enrolling continues to go up. Quicker course acceleration has been named time and time again as a leading reason for adult students to select this option. Working adult students often have families and other responsibilities that make it difficult to commit to day time class hours. Due to life experience, adults are typically better time managers than recent high school graduates. Adult learners are able to find convenient pockets of time and knock out hours of course material that would typically take a student several campus days to complete in person. Once competency is proven, the student is able to continue on to the next course, thus speeding up the degree completion rate. Ömer Cem Karacaoglu, who holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction held a study to evaluate the efficiency of an online curriculum based on the views of the students enrolled in the program. The findings were checked by experts in the field. The results of the study indicated that the students found online education as preferable, beneficial, and also productive and that the process was satisfying. The reasons stated by the students were listed as time saving, more economical and flexible (Karacaoglu, Ö. C., 2018). The internet has brought new dimensions to learning by integrating the learning process into it. Learning from home offers many advantages which include being able to watch and re-watch course lectures, flexible lesson hours, less distraction, the comfort of home, money savings and the option of course acceleration, -all benefits to the busy adult student.
Since adult learners are more mature and responsible for better time management, most are capable of better self-direction. Adult students are ready and prepared to learn independently. A wealth of learning activity and experience is brought to the table and the desire to learn comes from within, which are all key ingredients to providing a more successful and efficient educational experience (Stine, L., 2010). Adult learners are focused, ready to learn and ready to complete the degree. Cyber learning provides greater flexibility which allows the student to earn a degree at an improved speed (Johnson-Bailey, J., 2016). Providing the option of a self-paced learning schedule, gives the power to the individual in meeting ones needs and is an advantage that the traditional learning system cannot compete with.
Online education has transformed the system and has opened up many new opportunities for adult students in continuing education. Week day learning, set schedules and travel time can now be a thing of the past for adults who still want to advance in education. There are many benefits to online learning and more and more adults are taking advantage of this. In a world where time only seems to move faster as people grow older, online learning is the greatest technological advance to accommodate that. First, having the internet available all hours of the day and night provides endless opportunities to study on the student’s schedule. Next, providing online programs cheaper than courses taken in traditional campus setting’s, puts money back in the student’s pocket and who doesn’t love saving money? Lastly, customizing a learning environment that works best for the adult student allows for better time management and greater opportunity to speed up the time to achieve a degree. Flexibility, lower costs and quicker acceleration are just three great reasons that adult learners should continue furthering education online.
- Bourdeaux, R., & Schoenack, L. (2016). Adult Student Expectations and Experiences in an Online Learning Environment. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 64(3), 152–161.
- Herbold, K. (2011). Giving Student Choice in Online Learning Environments: Addressing Adult Learner Needs. International Journal of Technology, Knowledge & Society, 7(5), 117.
- Johnson-Bailey, J. (2016). Adult Basic Education and the Cyber Classroom. Journal of Research & Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary & Basic Education, 5(3), 50–55.