By Brian Fleming, Analyst
Online programs need to tackle tougher objectives to keep pace in today’s mature and competitive online market. Effectiveness in online teaching and learning is a critical area for ongoing improvement, particularly toward shaping more impactful online learning environments for adult learners. Adults struggle with online in large part because online courses are not always designed effectively with their needs, preferences, and learning styles in mind. Often courses seek to replicate, rather than innovate, traditional face-to-face learning with little attention to how adults learn in general, particularly how adults learn effectively online.
Eduventures recommends attention to integrating a more effective blend of adult learning strategies to better shape the online student experience.
We suggest attention to the following four principles:
1) Design online programs to reflect greater effectiveness in the principles of adult learning.
Teaching and learning strategies geared to adults, commonly called andragogy, are critical for online programs to adopt at all stages and be able to demonstrate in a variety of ways. Andragogy encourages highly experiential, problem (not content) centered learning, and is practically-oriented and linked to professional outcomes. Online programs lacking in robust andragogy will struggle to retain adult learners, and will rarely capture effectively the distinct advantages online offers adult learners. It’s more than just flexibility and convenience for busy adults “on the go”, but also the chance to engage in a highly self-directed, participatory, and collaborative learning environment (be it online) which is proven to serve adult learners effectively.
2) Teach adults how to learn effectively online.
Part of effective andragogy is something called heutagogy (or “double-loop” learning), which means not just learning itself but teaching learners how to learn. Good heutagogy fosters skills, principles, and practices that improve a student’s ability to succeed online and to achieve program outcomes. Effective heutagogy online might include student success strategies, revising focus on study skills, and offering a host of highly self-directed exercises and practices to inform synthesis and interpretation of ideas, critical thinking, and active learning for success in more problem-centered, experiential, and professionally-oriented experiences.
3) Take into account the unique advantage technology-enabled learning offers for improved learning outcomes.
Another narrower term to describe this is cybergogy, which as implied refers to teaching and learning strategies mediated by connecting technologies. Cybergogy aims to propose ways online learning can actually be just as, if not more effective than face-to-face. Good cybergogy may include chat and video capture tools and experiences intended to foster collaborative engagement among learners connected digitally. Of course, cybergogy requires balancing the limits of online with the advantages and then integrating principles and practices that capture the unique advantages of digital learning environments to enhance overall effectiveness in andragogy.
4) Encourage peer learning.
De-centralized approaches to online learning are often highly effective, including intentional integration of peer-learning models. Peers learning from peers, sometimes called peeragogy, creates interdependence and community-centered learning, opportunity for creative group activities mediated by connecting technologies, and engagement through interactive discussion boards and exercises that encourage sustained engagement among students. Peeragaoy powerfully enhances the objectives of andragogy.
The Four “Gogies” of Online Effectiveness
To improve adult learner engagement online, focus on andragogy, and with this, heutagogy, cybergogy, and peeragogy. These compelling principles will drive greater quality in your approach to online programming and promise to enhance the student experience and program outcomes for adult learners.