In today’s busy world, hundreds of thousands of people seek to learn new skills whether in a formal or informal environment of education. Let’s explore two specific courses within two Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) learning management systems and identify aspects of adult learning theories. Both courses are a self-paced asynchronous course which hinges on the learner’s ability to be autonomous with their learning, and meets the criteria for specific stages in Grow’s Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Stages model. As with Grow’s model, there are similarities and connections to Kolb’s Learning Cycle as well, and both will be discussed further below.
The first course to explore is Get Beyond Work-Life Balance found on the MOOC edX. The teaching style matches Stage 1 of Grow’s Learning Stages with low self-direction includes learning through videos, introductory subject matter, and discussion forums. These components align with the group discussion and copying notes from the reflective observation portion of Kolb’s Learning Cycle; as well as the lectures, films and documents from the abstract conceptualization portion. Having a non-instructor led course necessitates better organization to keep questions related to the subject matter. Videos and Transcripts can be downloaded allowing participants to take notes and re-review for self- reflection. While the transformation learning is thin, it uses rational reflective activities. As working adults, this particular material is relevant given that flexibility is a must. Effectiveness is necessary as opposed to “balance” and this material is related to most people’s working current circumstances during this pandemic. Finally, the knowledge checks and learning objectives are indicative of SDL as explained by Knowles “in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating those learning outcomes.”
The second course is in the Coursera platform and the title is Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19. This course is designed like the formal education environment of a college class, focusing on abstract conceptualization with lecture videos. Unlike the videos in the first course, these were longer in length which may be difficult for some learners to stay focused on. When participating in an online course, even more so when self-directed, learners obtain more information when chunked into a smaller “micro-learning” style that keeps the information engaging and less time-consuming according to Nikos Andriotis in his article What is Microlearning: A Complete Guide for Beginners. In this course, learners were asked to establish a goal for themselves before starting the course, and were consistently motivated by the instructor to apply the basics of this material in interesting ways, which aligns with the teaching style of a stage two learner according to Grow’s self-directed learning stages.
Klob and Grow’s model appear to overlap, with abstract conceptualization corresponding to learner stage 1, and reflective observation to stage 2. Both courses integrate learning strategies from these models while also appealing to andragogy by incorporating the learner’s self-concept, reservoir of experience, immediate application of the content and their need to know it. They primarily do this through their videos and reading components but are also supported by infographics, personal journals, and review of case studies as well. Both topics are also quite relevant to what is happening in the lives of workers everywhere around the world during this pandemic.