6 Ways Adults Learn Differently and How They Affect the Classroom

April 24th, 2012 by admin

Adults are returning to school in record numbers – to start new careers or just pursue a passion for learning. As these students take their place next to the “typical” younger learners in classrooms across the country, instructors in all subject areas must make adjustments in lesson plans and teaching styles to accommodate the different learning characteristics and goals of these mature learners.

Adult learners take an egalitarian approach to learning. Because in most cases these learners have chosen to return to school, they evaluate learning in terms of their own goals and interests, and prefer to feel in control of the process. This perspective presents a marked contrast to the traditional classroom model of young students taking direction from an instructor just to pass the course. Adult learners differ from their younger counterpart in several key ways. These learners are:

1. Problem solvers. Adult learners tend to be problem oriented. They identify a situation that needs to be changed and are back in school to find a solution. Because of this perspective, adult learners also focus on results and outcomes from the material being studied. Unlike younger students, they need clear explanations about the relevance of the material to their goals.

2. Self-directed. Because adult learners generally have made a choice about returning to school, they take charge of their own learning, and view teachers as peers rather than authority figures. These learners require guidance rather than mandates, and prefer to take an active part in the learning process.

3. Questioners. Because adult learners typically bring decades of life experience to the classroom, they tend to be skeptical about material being presented, and evaluate it in terms of knowledge outside the course. Younger students are more likely to accept information without thinking critically/

4. Context-oriented. Adult learners want to see the relevance of education to their own lives and the world they live in, rather than acquiring knowledge that might be useful later. Because they tend to be problem solvers, they want to apply knowledge directly to current situations.

5. Eclectic learners. Because of diverse life experience, adults learn in varied ways and prefer to be actively involved in learning. Because adult students may process information through reading or hands-on learning, instructors need to build in a variety of activities around the learning objectives and actively involve these learners in the process.

6. Goal-focused. Adult learners typically have definite reasons for returning to school. Since these learners are highly self-directed and independent, they prefer to shape their learning experience rather than letting an instructor or curriculum shape it for them.

Adult students bring curiosity, independence and vast life experience to the classroom. Instructors who recognize their different needs, expectations and learning styles can create an educational environment that enriches both adult students and their younger counterparts.

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5 Reasons Why We Love the Show Community

November 12th, 2011 by rebeccac

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to television. You’ve got your soap opera drama enthusiasts who still DVR Grey’s Anatomy, your reality TV fans who tune into Real Housewives of Something-Something, your sitcom aficionados who are hooked into every new episode of How I Met Your Mother.

For our money, you should be watching underrated, cult-classic-in-the-making Community, a comedy about a collection of outrageous personalities on a community college campus who form a dysfunctional little family, and we’ve got five reasons why you should watch.

The people
You’ve got to see this first one coming, right? It’s Nontraditional Student Week, and we love Community because it features – say it with us, now – nontraditional students. We’ve pointed out how many people qualify in the nontraditional category, so now we’d just like to thank the creators for actually noticing that and turning it into a TV show.

The diversity
This sort of piggybacks on the last one – Community features people from all walks of life, there for different reasons, in need of different things. Our favorite is Abed, the Palestinian/Polish-American movie fan who’s both highly intelligent and socially awkward to the point of probably having Asperger’s.

The details
This is probably better to show and not tell. But just watch the story unfolding way in the background while the rest of the episode forges on.

The humor
Probably the most common words you could use to describe the show are “quirky” and “snarky,” and the truth is the show embraces both those kinds of humor and more. Awkward humor, pop culture humor, parody

The heart
Okay, here’s the “awwww” moment where we point out that, as silly as Community gets, it grounds itself in moments that can pack a punch. Just watch the third episode of the first season, “Introduction to Film,” and watch how the characters chuck the zaniness aside for just long enough to show some serious development and layers.

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Q & A with a Nontraditional Graduate Who Made it All Work

November 11th, 2011 by rebeccac

Dave Admire is an advertising professional, parent and former non-traditional student who graduated not too long ago. For part 5 of our series celebrating National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week, we asked him to answer our questions from the vantage point of having successfully finished her schooling endeavor.

What degree program did you pursue?
I have a Bachelor’s in Management and Human Relations.

Why did you choose to pursue that degree?
I like that it encompassed business, leading people from a strong relational basis.

What experience had you had with postsecondary education before you went back to school?
I had been back to college several times and always ran into a time crunch.

What did your typical week look like as far as your schedule went?
I had class two nights a week from 6-10. The rest of the week was either reading or preparing individual or group projects. There was always part of my week focused on my thesis that I had to turn in and present.

What did you enjoy most about being back in school?
I enjoyed class conversations with other experienced business professionals.

What did you find most challenging?
Deciding between work and school; however, once you make the decision to go back, you just have to dedicate yourself to the end goal in mind.

How did you make it all work? Any tips/tricks? Any adjustments you found that helped you out?
My wife was so supportive. Like I stated earlier, you just have to commit to the end goal in mind. You always have time; it is just what you choose to do with that time.

What advice do you have for others who are considering taking a big leap and going back to school?
I will steal Nike’s quote. “Just Do It.” Believe me – you will be glad you did.

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Q & A Interview with a Current Nontraditional Student

November 10th, 2011 by rebeccac

Jessica Gronquist is a non-traditional student and parent who’s currently nearing the end of her studies. For part 4 of our series celebrating National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week, we asked her to swing by and talk a little bit about her experiences and how she’s juggling all the aspects of her life.

What degree program are you pursuing?
A Bachelor of Science in Business with a Concentration in Human Resource Management

Why did you choose to pursue that degree?
I decided to pursue this degree because I wanted a degree in an area that would give me multiple options for different career paths I may choose down the road. Having a business degree will allow me to use my degree in numerous different fields.

What experience had you had with postsecondary education before you enrolled in this program?
I had little experience in postsecondary education before enrolling with my online courses. I attended a community college for a short period of time before dropping out for four years. Once I was ready to go back to school, I chose the first one that I had heard a lot about at the time. If I could go back and do things differently, I would have researched more online classes.

What does your typical week look like as far as your schedule goes?
My typical week consists of classes Tuesday through Sunday. I have assignments due each week on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The online university I attend also has what they call “participation,” which consists of posting to online discussions twice a day on at least four days of the week.

What are you enjoying most about being back in school?
I love being back in school, knowing that I am setting a good example for my daughter. I want her to realize that education is important and a necessity instead of an option.

What do you find most challenging about this experience?
The most challenging part of doing online courses is finding time to fit studying and homework into my already busy lifestyle. There are many evenings where my daughter has something going on with her school or my family would like to go out and spend time together. School can interfere with doing these extra fun activities due to lack of time.

How do you make it all work? Any tips/tricks? Any adjustments you’ve found have helped you out?
Making it work is the only option. I have found that making a schedule for doing homework and finding time to study each day is the best way to go about it. I know that as soon as I get off of work, I have a routine that must be followed. Studying is part of that routine. Procrastinating is the absolute worst possible thing you can do when doing online schooling. It is so easy to say, “I’ll do it later” when you don’t have a teacher telling you that it needs to be done right then. However, this will cause you to fall behind, and once you are behind, it is nearly impossible to catch up. Stay on top of assignments and stay a few days ahead of the curriculum.

What advice do you have for others who are considering taking a big leap and going back to school?
Do it! Don’t wait … do it now. When you first start it will seem like the end date is never going to come. Take it from me; it will fly by and be done before you know it. I have 6 months left before I receive my degree, and it feels like I just began. Though it may make life more difficult and your schedule a little hectic for a few years, it is so rewarding when you are finished.

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5 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Non-traditional Students

November 9th, 2011 by rebeccac

A bit of a switch up in our National Nontraditional Student Week blog series line up. We will be featuring our interview in tomorrow’s post.

You want to know how trendy it is to be a nontraditional student these days? Even Hollywood has jumped on the bandwagon. In fact, celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Michael Jordan and Natalie Portman have a long history of going back to school to finish or expand on a college education. In part three of our National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week series, we are profiling a few of our favorite celebrities who have both “student” and “star” on their resumes.

Courtesy lwpkommunikacio via Flickr

Steven Spielberg
Like many nontraditional students, Steven Spielberg wanted to give college a try but did not have the time to finish an academic program. Spielberg was turned down – twice – by the University of Southern California’s Cinema School before he was officially enrolled in and then dropped out of the school’s film program. After working in the industry, somewhat successfully we might add, Spielberg returned 35 years later to complete his degree and graduated with the Class of 2002.

Bill Cosby
Though a high school dropout himself, Bill Cosby has always been an advocate for education and has endorsed higher education in many of his television programs. After leaving high school, Cosby earned a GED and joined the Navy. After the Navy, Cosby was admitted to Temple University but did not complete his studies due to his blossoming acting career. Later in life, Cosby re-enrolled at Temple where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. Cosby went on to earn a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts at the age of 39.

Courtesy Troileh via Flickr

Christy Turlington
Known as one of the world’s most famous supermodels, Christy Turlington has proven she has both beauty and brains. After a successful modeling career, Turlington earned a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy from New York University. At age 40, Turlington added another degree to her belt with a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia.

Michael Jordan
While Michael Jordan gained nationwide attention as a star basketball player at the College of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, he left the college a year before he was expected to graduate to pursue a successful career in the NBA. In 1986, Jordan returned to his alma mater to complete his degree in Geography.

Natalie Portman
In addition to being a successful actress and star of the recent blockbuster Black Swan, Natalie Portman also has the distinction of being a Harvard University graduate. Taking time off from acting, Portman earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2003.

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Fun Facts to Know and Tell about Non-traditional Students in the U.S.

November 8th, 2011 by rebeccac


When people think of college students, they probably envision teenagers fresh out of high school. They should think again. More and more often, the face of today’s college student is a single parent, a military veteran, a retired person or someone who got a job straight out of high school.

In part two of our series celebrating National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week, here are some fun facts for all those hard-working people out there who are returning to school later in life:

  • Women make up the majority of nontraditional students. They account for 58 percent of all adults returning to school. In fact, when considering only students over the age of 35, two out of every three of them are women.
  • While women make up the largest percentage of re-entry students (as they are sometimes called), men are returning to school in record numbers, too. Career advancement is often cited as the main reason, as is the need to update professional skills. Other reasons include finishing a degree started years ago, changing careers or simply fulfilling a lifelong dream.
  • Many educators believe that having nontraditional students in their classes, especially veterans, enhances the classroom experience for everyone. Nontraditional students, they say, bring real-world understanding to classes like history and political science.
  • Using the criteria of part-time attendance, full-time employment, parenthood or having earned a GED to define nontraditional student status, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that 73 percent of all undergraduate college students in the 1999-2000 academic year were considered nontraditional. That makes nontraditional students the absolute majority of all college students in the U.S. Maybe nontraditional will soon be the new traditional!
  • Even when separated into individual groups, nontraditional students still present in impressive numbers. Figures from 2008 show that at that time 47 percent of students were financially independent, 46 percent were only enrolled part-time, 32 percent had full-time jobs and a whopping 13 percent were single parents.
  • Present employment seems to play a role in whether or not a person returns to school. According to an NCES study, participation in adult education was highest for those employed in professional and managerial positions. People who worked in sales, service or support jobs were the next most likely to return to school, while those who worked in trades returned to school in the smallest numbers. Someone who already had one degree was also more likely to return to college than someone who did not.
  • The 10 most popular degree programs for nontraditional students are, in descending order, business, education, engineering, computer science, protective services, communications, manufacturing and social services.

For whatever personal reasons people choose to return to college as nontraditional students, they are in good company. Adults are returning to school in swarms and proving that nontraditional is the new-traditional.

Ready to start your college search? Get started at US College Search or find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also start searching by zip code.

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Happy National Non-traditional Student Recognition Week!

November 7th, 2011 by rebeccac

High five! It’s National Nontraditional Student Week.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year. No, we’re not referring to that post-Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving calm before the holiday storm – instead, we’re talking about National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week. A full week of celebrating the efforts, triumphs and go get ‘em attitudes of the millions of students in our nation who are pursuing higher education later in life, while also balancing jobs, lives and families.

The annual event is sponsored by the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education and is held during the first full week of November. Every year, ANTSHE encourages colleges and universities to celebrate their nontraditional student populace with events and recognitions and to continue their efforts to improve the adult student environments on their campuses. More and more schools are taking part each year, too, which makes sense considering that the percentage of their student populations that falls under the umbrella of “nontraditional” is growing rapidly.

Celebrations at schools run the gambit. Some campuses have extensive schedules, and some only host a few events, but they often include:

  • Discussions and panels
  • Charity drives
  • Family events
  • Open houses
  • Breakfast, lunch or dinner receptions and social gatherings

We at US College Search may not have a campus or alumni center where we can host a brunch, but we do recognize and support nontraditional students everywhere and feel strongly about celebrating National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week, so we’re hosting a week-long series on our blog covering all things nontraditional.

TUESDAY: Fun Facts to Know and Tell about Nontraditional Students in the U.S.

WEDNESDAY: Q & A Interview with a Current Nontraditional Student 

THURSDAY: 5 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Nontraditional Students

FRIDAY: Q & A with a Nontraditional Graduate Who Made it All Work

SATURDAY: Why We Love the Show Community

So tune in all week – or follow us on Twitter or Facebook – for our blog events embracing nontraditionals for what they are: the future of higher education.

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What is fire science?

October 7th, 2011 by rebeccac

Fire Science ss_91063604If you’re looking to further your education, you’re probably familiar with the typical degree offerings: nursing, accounting, graphic design, etc. Chances are, you decided to read this blog because you have no clue what fire science is. Well, if you’ve ever thought about a career as a firefighter, you can definitely benefit from learning more about this field of study.

Firefighting is a lot more complex than pulling a truck up to a fire hydrant, connecting a hose, and spraying water toward flames. While that may have been an accurate description in the past, today’s firefighter needs to be an expert in several areas.

So what else do firefighters do?

Firefighters are experts in life safety skills, such as CPR and dealing with trauma. They perform educational functions in their communities; they have in-depth knowledge of hazardous materials, arson, and fire law. In addition, firefighters have to be physically fit and excellent communicators with people in crisis. Imagine how stressful it could be for someone who is untrained to deal with the kinds of unexpected, stressful situations that are part of the everyday life of firefighters?

Schools that offer Fire Science degree programs typically offer students several learning objectives that are critical. Students usually focus on managing, suppressing, and extinguishing fires. And once a fire is extinguished, firefighters must also work to figure out the cause of the fire. Students who want to move into management positions also find fire science programs beneficial to the development of their knowledge and skills.

Plus, the great thing about fire is that it’s not some passing fad. Which means that going into a career that involves fire science is probably a safe bet if you’re looking for a secure field. So now that you know a little more about what fire science involves, find out about fire science programs in your area, or online. Once you find a few schools that you’re interested in, reach out and talk to their faculty to find out what their program entails and what kind of successes their graduates have experienced.

One thing that should not be overlooked is that firefighters play an important role in their communities. Regardless of which path you take with your degree in fire science, you will have an opportunity to make the world a safer place, and have a positive impact on countless lives.

So now that you know what the heck fire science is, what do you think? Join the conversation by leaving your comments below!

Ready to start looking for fire science colleges? Begin your college search at US College Search or find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also start searching by zip code.

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The pros and cons of day, evening, weekend and online classes

September 23rd, 2011 by rebeccac

nontraditional-students-stk162318rkeTime. It’s our best friend and worst enemy. When you need it, you never have enough of it, but when every minute seems like an hour, it doesn’t go quick enough. It’s something we’ll never have complete control over – something you just have to learn to work around.

This particularly comes into play when you’re contemplating going back to school. As a busy adult, you already have your fair share of responsibilities – work, family, friends, hobbies, etc. Do you really have time to fit in an education? The answer is yes!

Schools everywhere are offering students flexible scheduling options so that they can go back to school and not worry about having enough time. For those who can’t make the drive, there are online classes. For those that work the night shift, there are day classes. For those that work during the week, there are weekend classes. And for those that work during the day, there are evening classes.

So what are the pros and cons of these flexible class schedules? Read on to find out.

Online Classes

Online Classes: Pros

Learning at your own pace
Online classes are time-friendly because students can learn at their own pace. Some students learn faster than others and, as a result, instructors in larger, more traditional classrooms might overlook those slower paced learners. With online learning, you control how fast or slow you comprehend the material at a pace that’s right for you.

Studying when and where you choose
Just because you have time doesn’t mean that you have the opportunity to learn. Online classes allow those students who are already pressed for time the ability to take tests, study and discuss lectures all online – anywhere and everywhere. Whether you’re traveling for business, on vacation or just don’t feel like getting out of bed, online classes can give you the freedom to learn at a place and time of your choosing.

Online Classes: Cons

No face-to-face interaction
Online classes are flexible and convenient, but sometimes questions are hard to convey via an email or phone call. They’re just not as effective as sitting down one-on-one with the professor and going through the material. Although some online courses offer once-a-week, in-class discussions, not all schools provide this feature or have the means to do so.

No motivational force
Learning at your own pace was a pro, but it can also lead to a con where online learning is concerned. Since you’re following your own time table, sometimes lacking that physical classroom or professor can lead you to put off or not take online classes as seriously. Sometimes an instructor’s push is what we need.

Day Classes

Day Classes: Pros

The traditional route
Day classes have been around since schools were formed, and as a result the pros are simple. You wake up, go to class, do your homework and then have the rest of the evening free to complete any other obligations or responsibilities. It’s the way it’s been done since the beginning.

Evening family time
If your family is like most, then odds are that the time everyone is going to be around the house is the evenings, when the standard work and school hours are over, and day classes allow you to be home when they are.

Day Classes: Cons

The 8-to-5 job
Day classes are the traditional route, but for the nontraditional student, they’re not as time-friendly. Those who have full-time day jobs obviously can’t attend classes during the day and maybe can’t afford to quit said job in order to make the traditional schedule work. It’s just too inconvenient for most adult learners.

Not a morning person
Even if you don’t have a job to contend with, daytime classes may still prove way too much of a scheduling challenge. It could conflict with school drop-off, school pickup, practices and games and lessons, errands, appointments – all of the little things you have to do that add up … and can’t be done after work hours.

Weekend Classes

Weekend Classes: Pros

Avoiding the weekday dilemma
Taking classes on the weekend is an excellent way to avoid having to compromise time and travel if you work a job throughout the week. This way, you still get your education without having to sacrifice your existing weekday responsibilities.

Hit me with your best shot
Instead of stringing out subjects over the course of the week – during which you have to juggle divided attention and a string of distractions – weekend classes allow you to hit a whole cluster of learning all in one go. It might be more like three hours than one hour, but you have the advantage of sitting down and learning in one clean sweep.

Weekend Classes: Cons

The 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 rule
Weekend classes can help you avoid disrupting your normal weekday routine, but they may cause you to prolong your total time span spent in class. Weekday classes may meet 2 to 3 times each week, but the weekend is a much shorter time period. Classes often meet just once – generally on Saturdays – but they still have to cover the necessary information, so you’ll end up sitting at your desk for a longer time period.

Use it – don’t lose it
Since weekend classes only meet one time per week, students may suffer from a decline in comprehending subject material compared to traditional students who would meet 2 to 3 times throughout the week. With such a big gap between classes, students may find it more difficult to build on the material. You know what they say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” In this case, it could be true.

Evening Classes

Evening Classes: Pros

Have your cake and eat it too
Similar to taking weekend courses, evening classes can help you dodge the 8-to-5 dilemma. Got a daytime job or other responsibilities? That’s fine! You can save the classroom for the nighttime – hit the books after the sun sets. This is especially handy if you’re working and can’t afford to quit your job in order to start school.

Scheduling freedom
A lot of times, evening classes run on the longer side, which means they often only meet once or twice a week. What does this mean for you? In addition to having your days available for work, appointments, school events or practices, you also have some wiggle room on your calendar for the later hours as well.

Evening Classes: Cons

Working the graveyard shift
Most of the world may function during the day, but there are those who work graveyard shifts. After all, gas stations, retail stores, and 24-hour convenience stores and restaurants need to have someone operating their stores during the night hours. As a result, evening classes don’t quite fit everyone’s schedule.

Busy and busier
Night classes can allow you to squeeze in that much-needed education on top of your current day job, but chances are that you’re in for a long day. You go from work to class, maybe with errands squeezed in between, and there’s still homework, too. It’s tough – but definitely doable with some juggling, a little organization and a drive to succeed.

Begin your college search at US College Search or find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also start searching by zip code.

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Tom Hanks: Hollywood’s Nontraditional Student

July 8th, 2011 by rebeccac

It’s easy to miss it amid another reboot, another sequel, another homage or doppelganger. Hollywood hasn’t been given a lot of credit for originality of late, which is probably why it’s taken them this long to make a movie focused on one of the key, growing demographics in the United States: the non-traditional student.

Likeable silver screen veteran Tom Hanks’ latest pet project casts him in the role of Larry Crowne, an everyday guy who decides to go back to school and get his degree after a layoff.

Sound familiar? It should. Maybe the circumstances aren’t exactly the same – a layoff isn’t always the impetus, Larry Crowne’s moped isn’t exactly ideal for anyone who has to worry about a child seat, and I’m fairly certain that Julia Roberts won’t pop up as a convenient love interest for 99.9% of us.

But the overall idea behind it – one guy, using education to make a better life for himself – well, that should resonate with a lot of people. After all, the majority of the U.S. student population exhibits at least some nontraditional characteristics, and that number is going up, not down.

We’re a varied group, not only in our backgrounds but in our reasons why we got to this point of looking for an education to jump-start our futures. Some of us are single parents. Some of us have to work full-time. Some of us are trying to change the path we chose after high school. And some of us are like Larry Crowne – needing a leg up in a tough economy.

Despite the differences, nontraditionals are united in the same purpose: learning, growing, changing their futures.

It’s a pretty important movement, and it’s about time Hollywood paid real attention to it.

If you are thinking about returning to school, start your college search at US College Search or find us on Facebook and Twitter or if you are thinking about a career as a medical assistant.

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