Considering Adult Learner Needs and Learning Styles
Students learn in different ways but may prefer a certain modality to another. Some learn better by reading, others by seeing, others by hearing, others by doing. Most often, students learn best by combining modalities. Online continuing education provides an opportunity to combine teaching modalities to reach students with different learning styles. At the low end of the technology scale, text-based modules with activities and discussion provide an effective means of delivering content. Multi-media approaches including audio and video can help meet other learner preferences.
In continuing education courses, you are teaching the adult learner who has unique needs and requirements. Adults tend to be goal oriented learners and appreciate opportunities to connect what they are learning to their own life experience. Encourage students to share their knowledge and if possible request their input on the focus of the course. It may be that you cannot change the written material in the course, but maybe the online discussion is modified to accommodate what a particular group of students would like to learn about the topic.
Developing strategies for presenting materials to a variety of learners
- Incorporate several options for helping the students learn the material, for instance, each module may include some text or lecture material, an activity for "hands-on" experience, an interactive test, and an opportunity for dialogue to put what have been learned into context
- Make sure that the activities or supplementary readings enrich their course experience, students tend to resent reading extraneous material that does not directly relate to the learning objectives
- If using outside reading, make sure to relate it back to the class