Adult Learners: Higher Ed Leaders Consider These Points to Build Online Curriculum

adult learnerss study at their own pace

Adult learners who enroll in online courses have unique needs. They often have to balance coursework with full-time employment, family responsibilities, and multiple competing interests. With that in mind, colleges and universities can make necessary changes to attract and retain adult learners. Therefore, higher ed leaders should consider the following strategies for building an online college curriculum for adult learners that succeed.


Understand the Unique Needs of Adult Learners

Firstly, adults who enroll in online learning courses frequently do so because they need flexible scheduling. They are almost always choosing to pursue higher education instead of being required to do so. Bearing in mind the unique needs of adult learners, higher ed leaders should strive to design curricula that fit these criteria: 


  • Make student progress status easily accessible to students since adult learners need to set individualized, flexible study schedules.
  • List course outcomes, such as core knowledge, skills, or certification, so students can decide if a course will be worth their time.
  • Outline learning objectives for assignments so learners know why they are completing them and what they will gain.
  • Create e-learning courses relevant to adult learners’ career and life skill needs, so they can apply what they learn.
  • Incorporate hands-on experiences for an online curriculum, so students can learn by doing.
  • Show frequent, incremental status of learning benchmarks. It keeps students motivated to continue learning.
  • Design immersive and engaging courses to compete with the multiple distractions in adult learners’ lives.


Provide Full Transparency Concerning Course Quality

Additionally, adult learners read online reviews before making a purchase decision. They will approach signing up for an online course in the same way. Therefore, schools and publishers should list the qualifications and credentials of both the college and instructors with each course description. Be fully transparent by including detailed bios of instructors and accreditations and recognitions of the school. In the same regard, allow students who have completed a course to post online reviews. Students will be more likely to enroll in an online course when they see evidence of qualifications and positive outcomes.


Sync Academics With Career Training

Besides that, most adult learners are primarily concerned with sustaining a viable income and advancing careers. Therefore, the online curriculum should be directly related to career training. Courses should be accelerated and high-quality to meet the needs of professionals and those making a career change. Overall, higher ed leaders should design curricula based on student career needs while addressing the needs of businesses and industries.


Make Information Easily Accessible for Adult Learners 

Furthermore, adult are busy, and anything that saves them time and effort is an asset. To accommodate, leaders of colleges and universities can apply strategies for easy accessibility, such as:


  • Organize all links to course material and resources in one location, so they are quickly and easily accessible to busy students. 
  • Include a timetable so students know how much time they will need to commit to the course. This schedule should include the course’s duration, whether it is two months or two hours. It also should state how much time the student should expect to study to pass the course.
  • Make all policies and student requirements clear and displayed prominently on the school’s website, social media pages, and course pages.


In sum, adult learners have unique needs and expectations for online courses. By applying these strategies, higher ed leaders can help attract and retain students while providing quality, relevant online adult education.


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