The topic I chose to research was andragogy and online communities among adult learners. Most of my research during this graduate program has been in the terms of childhood learning up to the middle school level since I teach sixth grade. However, outside of my paid profession, I have spent many hours volunteering at my church teaching adult faith formation and even adult citizenship classes for those preparing to take the exam that will help them become US citizens. I am interested to find what the research says about adult students’ motivation to participate in online communities as well as what strategies or technologies will be more suitable for adult learners. I used EbscoHost in order to locate the articles below. The keywords I used were distance learning, andragogy, online learners, adult learners, online communities, and social media in learning. I located over twenty useful articles but chose five for my annotated bibliography.
Galbraith, D. D., & Fouch, S. E. (2007). Principles of Adult Learning. Professional Safety, 52(9), 35–40.
This article examines adult learning theory as well as andragogy in order to find a better suited training system for adults in the area of work safety. This was a limited study that was performed in Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers measured behavior changes in laboratories after employees had received safety training. The researcher used OSHA violations as a means to measure laboratory behaviors. In the literature review of this study, Malcom Knowles’ characteristics of adult learners are cited. There are six: 1) self-directed; 2) accumulation of life experience; 3) goal-oriented; 4) relevancy-oriented/immediacy; 5) Practical; 6) respect. There are similarities between the way adults and children learn. For example, both need to play, take initiative, and have choices. The difference lies in the amount of life experiences that adults and children bring to training or class. The actual research conducted in this study aimed to decrease the number of accidents reported in the labs. There was an existing training program that did not include accommodations for adult learning theories as discussed in the literature review, thus there were many accidents. The new program was designed to include the learners in the process, material in smaller chunks, and an explanation of relevancy. Twenty lab employees were broken up into two groups- one group used the “old” training program while the other group used the “new” program. Researchers looked to OSHA standards for measurement and only looked at post-training behavior rather than learner surveys to determine whether or not the new program was of a stronger value for this group of employees. After analyzing the data, the new training program resulted in a decrease of safety violations.
This article informed me on the various characteristics of adult learners. It is a common misconception that with age, there should be less planning to make lessons come to life for learners; that learners could be given textbooks and even audio versions of books and they will learn and apply the learning. Being an adult learner, I know that I appreciate courses that emphasize problem solving rather than textbook questions. This article confirmed that a commonality between adult learners and child learners is the need to play, discuss, and be involved in the learning process rather than given reading material in book form or even on a PowerPoint presentations in order to master learning objectives. In an adult course such as the one I aim to outline and eventually develop, this is a highly valuable article because it describes the effects of not using teaching strategies that are appropriate for an age group. Poor developed training programs could result in poor learning and even horrendous accidents.
Manganello, F., Falsetti, C., Spalazzi, L., & Leo, T. (2013). PKS: An Ontology-based Learning Construct for Lifelong Learners. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 104–117.
This paper focused on self-directed Life Long Learners (LLL) and the integration of social media in their online courses. This paper uses the term “Personal Knowledge Space” (PKS) as a description for the learning architecture self-directed LLLs utilize and demonstrates how Web 2.0 tools (social media) may be useful within. The PKS model is based on the social-constructivist learning theory in which the learner is empowered with control over his/her learning. The purpose of this article was to define the tools a LLL could use to develop their own Personal Learning Environment. They looked at LinkedIn as a location to develop their own learner profile and share files within a community of similar LLLs.
I was a bit confused by the end of this article because I didn’t really find any actual results from the study. What I did take from this article was the importance of selecting the Web 2.0 tool that will be tailored to your needs as an online social learning community. It is necessary to develop your online profile and to be explicit about the fields you are interested in learning about.
Sierra, C., & Folger, T. (2003). Building a Dynamic Online Learning Community among Adult Learners. Educational Media International, 40(1/2), 49.
This is an action research to promote adult learners’ participation in online communities as well as effective strategies to build strong online communities. This study was on Instructional Design students within an online community using a web-based chat, email, and one-way podcasts. The researchers used the transcripts from the chat, emails, and log-in times of podcasts in order to find evidence of participation, sharing of identity, and establishment of social network. The web chats had the highest level of participation from students, mostly because it was more interactive than the webcasts/podcasts and email. More studies need to be conducted on the differences between the ways men and women interact in web-based discussion. This study confirmed that small group collaboration helps build and solidify a social network within the learning community. That social network, in turn, results in positive learning outcomes for students.
This article was very creative in investigating the building blocks of a dynamic online learning community of adults. I will take the lessons gained from this article to design authentic learning output for an adult course I develop in the future. When designing learning tasks for adults, I must integrate a balance of independent tasks and collaborative tasks. This will help build a social network, which in my case, is essential to community building.
Thompson, E. W., & Savenye, W. C. (2007). Adult Learner Participation in an Online Degree Program: A program-level study of voluntary computer-mediated communication. Distance Education, 28(3), 299–312. http://doi.org/10.1080/01587910701611336
The researchers of this article sought to answer the following question: Do learners participation levels vary by experience with previous courses, the course, or the instructor? This team found that students who are given the task to participate in online discussion will only post the minimum that is required, while the counterparts, self-selected and voluntary participants will incorporate high level, deep thinking in their posts. The researchers of this study selected 149 participants in an MBA program who were on average of 32 years old, and self-selected one of three sections. The three sections were set up into 5 weekly sessions/modules. The courses were composed of delivered course materials on the LMS, textbook readings, electronically delivered articles and case studies, voluntary interaction on the discussion board, and 2 assessments. The researchers gathered data from the discussion boards of the three courses: a total of 15 threads were evaluated for participation. Student participation was measured by the message per course count. It was found that experience in other courses would determine the level of participation in an online discussion. The more experience, the more a student would post. The type of course also impacts the level of participation. In this study, Accounting courses scored lower in participation than Logistics, no matter who the professor was.
This article reaffirms that adults need to find relevance in the topics in order to participate in their learning. What I hadn’t thought of before was the relationship between experience and participation in the community of inquiry. I am looking to build an online course for a church group with mixed experiences in online learning. That will be a factor I will need to take into account when designing the course and assignments.
Zembylas, M. (2008). Adult learners’ emotions in online learning. Distance Education, 29(1), 71–87. http://doi.org/10.1080/01587910802004852
This study focused on adult learners in their first experience of distance learning and aimed to investigate how these learners engaged in discussion of emotions in the learning community. There is not much study on the correlation between emotion and learning, though adult educators are now beginning to understand that there is a relationship between the two. Although much of the research in online learning regards eLearning as lacking emotion, quite the opposite is true. This project analyzed adult learners’ emotion talk and unveils how the learners experience during the online course evolved throughout the learning process. The researcher sought to answer three questions: 1) How do adult learners talk about their emotions as they learn how to become online learners? 2)How does this emotion talk change over a long period/does it change? 3) What is the relationship between adult learners’ emotion talk and their social and gender roles and responsibilities? The participants of this study were extracted from the researchers online courses that she taught entirely online at Open University in Cyprus. It was a qualitative study in which journals were kept and then collected, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were held, email messages were coded, research field notes were analyzed, and learners’ work was analyzed. It was found that the negative feelings on anxiety and stress about learning online decreased as the course continued. Learners were open about positive emotions when discussing the collaboration components of learning, while stress and anxiety surfaced when discussing exams and content. There was a high level of stress when talking about the various means of communication within one online course (emails, discussion, LMS announcements).
Since I am looking to design an outline for my first adult course, I need to ensure that my students are not overloaded with stresses that would make them want to drop the course. This article served as a warning to allow students to give me feedback throughout the course in order to determine if I need to alter my content delivery, or even slow down on the use of various communication methods. This is the second article that I review that includes a highlight on the differences of gender roles within an online community. It stresses the need to build an equitable online community where both genders are comfortable and confident to participate.