What You Need to Know about Adult Online Learners

Susan Nix, program chair and associate professor of educational leadership at West Texas A&M University, uses Malcolm Knowles' adult learning concepts when teaching adult online learners. This article describes ways she adapts her online courses to align with these principles. 

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In some ways adult learners seem to be ideal learners. They're often self-motivated and goal-oriented; however, failing to teach with their specific needs in mind can make these positive characteristics irrelevant. To better understand how adults learn, consider the following four assumptions from Malcolm Knowles related to adult learning:

Although Knowles' work is not specific to adult online learners, these ideas are equally applicable regardless of the learning modality. Susan Nix, program chair and associate professor of educational leadership at West Texas A&M University, uses these adult learning concepts when teaching adult online learners. The following are some ways that she adapts her online courses to align with these principles:

Overall, attention to the characteristics of adult learners has impacted online course design greatly and has resulted in a more satisfying learning experience as indicated by comments in course evaluations. However, it is a dynamic, ever-changing environment impacted by the new students each semester.