Our Leadership Learning Group (LLG3), as part of a course on Adult Learning in the Digital Age, reviewed two online courses. Our goal was to understand how adult learning principles work in the online environment. We enrolled in two different online classes: a MOOC titled “Being A Teacher” and a free YouTube “Motivating Adult Learners”.
To better understand our approach to reviewing the two courses, it will be important to know that our group is comprised of two primary learning styles, Convergers and Accommodators:
For the Convergers who are in the pursuit of applicable knowledge, the YouTube video was great for quick facts, and the MOOC was great for when time was not a factor to soak in the info for reflection (Kolb, 1984).
For the Accommodators who have a strong preference for doing rather than analyzing, the Youtube video provided enough information to take action immediately but they greatly appreciated the MOOC which provided space for introspection and direct application of concepts (Kolb, 1984).
Although our learning styles vary as a team, we felt that overall, both online courses were very informative, easy to navigate, and presented information clearly.
The organization and informative qualities were vital for our different learning styles; both mediums included defined content breaks and order of events which played into the strength of our learning styles. Defined by Piaget as the Schema, such organization allowed the learner to identify the key building blocks of the training and leverage sequential processing of information (McLeod, 2015). The learner was able to clearly organize and comprehend the topic, material and takeaways. Most importantly, both courses were engaging which is important since the interaction between the lecturer and the student in online learning is only directed one-way.
While the courses are similar in intent for online learners, we noted many differences. We found the MOOC course to be structured and formal. It was a passive form of class that included a very neutral tone of voice and introspection. The course was very relatable to a classroom setting. As with most MOOC courses, it was time consuming, but provided the flexibility for the student to complete on their own timeline. Relatable to Knowles’ Andragogy Learning Theory, MOOC structured learning demonstrates how adults desire to move from a dependent learning style, to a self-directed form (Knowles, 1980). To fully engage in a MOOC learning course, the student must be self-motivated and willing to commit to the time and effort required.
Alternatively, the YouTube course was more engaging, dense in content, and covered similar content in a much shorter time period. The video was action-based from the beginning and presented examples of how to apply the teachings in real-life. The timing and density of the information did not allow for introspection, but the instructor explained the learning concepts in detail. We felt that organization was critical for the dense content. The main impact we acknowledged from this style of online learning was that adult learners take a risk by jumping back into education and the timing and style of this learning can easily fit into their lives.
Overall, both courses were influenced by the concept of andragogy, “the art and science of helping adults learn,” and pulled from its motivations (Knowles, 1980). Two of the main motivators we identified were how adults learn effectively only when they are free to direct their own learning and adults learn when it’s related to a real-life task that develops experience (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007).
The popularity of online courses continues to grow and gives the adult learner the opportunity to learn at their own pace and answer the question of why they need to learn something (Knowles, 1984). The growing popularity of these kinds of online courses that are free and have open attendance serves as proof that adults deliberately learn on their own and on discovering how they go about doing this (Merriam, et al., 2007).
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge Books
Knowles, M.S. (1984) the adult learner: A neglected species. P. 84 (3rd ed.). Houston, Gulf.
McLeod, S. A. (2015). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., Baumgartner, L.M., (2007) Learning in Adulthood A Comprehensive Guide. John Wiley & Sons