Reflecting on Adult Education/Training

Adult education is poised to become accessible to more individuals that wish to pursue their studies outside the formal institutions such as colleges, vocational schools, and universities that continue relying on the face-to-face learning paradigm (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). With school leavers dominating admissions to conventional or face-to-face learning institutions, the accessibility that technology offers has become a counterweight to the challenges that adult learners face. Increasing accessibility options, rising costs, rapid technological advances, remote learning, the emerging trend of reskilling and upskilling at the workplace, mental health benefits, and infrastructural constraints are all factors that adult education paradigms need to address (Escueta et al., 2017). 

Unlike their younger counterparts, adults have the agency to determine the course of their studies, in no small part because they finance their own way through education. Agency also means that it is not possible to constrain adult learners within the traditional education delivery structures, most of which are exclusory to adult learners as subsequent discussions show (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). Education policies and conventional learning institutions have demonstrated over recent decades an unwillingness to accommodate potential adult learners not affiliated with the prevailing learning structures (Escueta et al., 2017). That means an adult learner that wishes to advance their skills but did not attend a formal institution prior to joining the workforce will find it difficult to find a place in a formal learning institution. Apart from dealing with inflexible admission processes, the learner might also have to contend with high tuition expenses and inflexible lesson hours (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). 

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Socially, adults learn better when among peers, as opposed to learning in environments dominated by younger students. Typically, adults rely on previous experience to absorb new knowledge, a characteristic that distinguishes the way they learn from school leavers (Malik, 2016). As a result, the methodologies that work for younger learners might not be effective for adults (Drovnikov et al., 2016). In practice, adults have varied experiences and professional backgrounds among others that make the collective classroom ineffectual (Escueta et al., 2017). Contrariwise, e-learning makes it possible for adult learning instructors to customize learning material to suit their students (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Further, many adult students find the age disparity between them and their colleagues daunting, a discomfort that age discrimination might aggravate. Therefore, learning remotely grants adult learners the assurance of learning in settings they find comfortable.

Technology has become central to the learning processes and experience (Malik, 2016; Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Technology is driving the increasing popularity of remote learning where learners with access to basic equipment can attend classes, submit assignments, and perform evaluations from locations of their choosing (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). The remote learning paradigm is supportive of adult learning in many ways other than its accessibility (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). Many adults cannot participate in the face-to-face learning format because of their careers, family obligations, or health-related limitations. As a result, technology-driven remote learning has become a desirable and convenient option. 

For example, the growing popularity of hubs or business parks where industry, civic, and academic instructions converge, have highlighted the role of technology in continuous learning particularly for professionals (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Increasingly, various urban and regional governments worldwide are recognizing the need to not only cultivate new talent, but also make more use of the ready talents that adults have to offer (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). Technology-driven e-learning is, therefore, driving the focus of policymakers towards rediscovering the importance of adult education in maintaining sustainable business models.

Cost is also another factor that encumbers adults’ participation in the traditional learning paradigm. Many conventional institutions of higher learning have over time concentrated on school leavers at the expense of adults who had accommodated in the past (Leu et al., 2017). The emphasis on school leavers coupled with government policies not supportive of adult students meant that adult education received ever-diminishing attention and funding (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). Further, rising costs in education and shrinking wages meant that conventional learning institutions had become un-conducive for adult learners. Additionally, the admittance of international school leavers to local universities continues to fuel the meteoric rise in education-related expenses, putting conventional learning institutions beyond the reach of potential adult learners (Drovnikov et al., 2016). The increasing costs at conventional learning institutions have resulted in pushing adult education into the technologically driven, cost-effective, and remote learning paradigm.

Remote learning has presented adults learners with numerous benefits, the most prominent being it is cost effective. Adult learners are able to access diverse learning materials and tutorials at a fraction of the price they would have had to pay had they opted to attend conventional learning institutions that require the learner to be present in person (Escueta et al., 2017). In addition to saving on tuition costs, adult learners that have opted for remote learning also save on transportation and boarding expenses, as well as, other indirect costs such as being away from their family and spouse (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Additionally, online learning affords adult learners with demanding careers the option of maintaining their work practices without sacrificing their professions, a feature that enables them to save considerably. 

Infrastructural constraints are also a contributing factor to the growing popularity of remote learning. With the influx of both local and international school leavers to conventional learning institutions, adult learners have been constantly sidelined overtime, diminishing their participation (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). On the other hand, advances in information technology are redressing the balance, with the demand for classroom space diminishing with the increase in remote students (Piper, Garcia, & Brewer, 2016). In effect, E-learning has made it possible to take the classroom to the students, with features such as live video conferencing and real-time messaging encouraging participation (Escueta et al., 2017; Rashid & Asghar, 2016). With learning institutions facing funding constraints, as well as, building regulations limiting the expansion of existing campuses, e-learning enables adults to circumvent such impedances.

Inflexible policy frameworks encumber the traditional delivery of instruction. Typically, face-to-face learning involves among other requirements, that the enrollee presents him or herself in person after completing the necessary paperwork. Processing the correct paperwork may take some time and this is not something that most adults can perform, time being the limiting factor (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). Additionally, admission requirements favor school leavers more than they do adult learners, as does funding to further one’s education. 

The rapid technologizing of any number of occupations that presently require human labor, from services at fast-food restaurants to long-distance trucking, are compelling adults to go back to school (Drovnikov et al., 2016). Reskilling as a way to adapt to the job market constitutes a major segment of adult education. Due to the brisk pace at which the employment market is changing, adults are finding that they have to update their education every few years (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017; Escueta et al., 2017). The rapid changes in the employment marketplace are compounded by the fact that the average adult now lives longer compared to previous advances, as a result of advancements in the medical field (Piper, Garcia & Brewer, 2016). As a consequence, the static nature of employment that previous generations revered, where a typical adult could retire after a lifetime performing in a specific field of endeavor, has given way to the ever-changing employment paradigms (Drovnikov et al., 2016). 

In essence, working adults have to retool themselves to take on new roles in the ever-changing employment marketplace and one corporation that exemplifies this shift is the communication conglomerate AT&T (Caminiti, 2018). With some 250, 000 employees, AT&T was faced with either terminating some of its employees or assisting them to transition into new roles as the corporation transitioned from its legacy innovations like landline and voice transmission (Caminiti, 2018; Leu et al., 2017). Presently, AT&T’s products include internet connectivity, mobile phone, satellite television, and cloud computing provider among other modern innovations (Caminiti, 2018; Piper, Garcia & Brewer, 2016). Consistently, in order not render the bulk of its workforce jobless, AT&T elected to retrain its employees in a massive reskilling scheme. AT&T’s undertaking is actually a demonstration of industry developments that are now fueling the growth of adult education, a trend that appears to be here to stay.  

Adult learning has also been demonstrated to influence positively, mental health. Studies have shown that adults that keep themselves occupied with mental tasks are less likely to develop deleterious mental conditions such as depression (Lansford et al., 2016). Equally, adults that continue their education improve their social outlook, particularly as the aging process begins to take its toll (Luo, Zhang & Qi, 2017). Therefore, alongside proper diet, rest, and exercise, health experts are recommending that adults pursue studying as a life-long habit, perhaps learning a new skill or cultivating a new hobby (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). Technology now dominates the learning process and with it comes new approaches to learning that face-to-face learning did not offer (Escueta et al., 2017). 

Not only is it easy to access information, but it is also easy to access learning material in different formats that include audio, video and interactive user interfaces that enable learners actively participate in their studies (Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, & Santiague, 2017). In addition, technology has enabled users worldwide to collaborate on any number of projects in different ways, accelerating the learning process among peers in a way that the traditional classroom cannot (Escueta et al. 2017). Previously neglected and looked down upon, adult learning has become an exciting field that invites the participation of those wishing to further their careers, retired professionals, and individuals that did not get much conventional schooling (Escueta et al., 2017). Importantly, health experts have highlighted the benefits of adult education and technology has made it easy to maintain lifelong learning habits.

Other factors such as lengthy commutes and the attendant social issues such as climate change are also driving the popularity of e-learning among adults (Luo, Zhang & Qi, 2017). The global community has become acutely aware of the far-reaching issues such as climate change, the devastating effect of fossil fuel handling and use, and the decimation of entire ecologies with plastics among others. Consequently, e-learning has become a promising alternative to the face to face learning and its attendant carbon footprint. 

In conclusion, technology-driven adult education has gradually regained prominence in adult learning. Traditional learning institutions have in recent decades failed to accommodate the unique needs of adult learners, a development that remote learning is gradually redressing. Increasing costs at formal institutions of learning, changing work environments and the positive effect on adult’s mental health are some of the challenges that e-learning is mitigating with the attending benefits.


Caminiti, S. (2018). AT&T’s nearly $1 billion gambit: Retraining nearly half its workforce for jobs of the future. CNBC LLC. Retrieved from

Drovnikov, A. S., Nikolaev, E. L., Afanasev, A. S., Ivanov, V. N., Petrova, T. N., Tenyukova, G. G., … & Povshednaya, F. V. (2016). Teachers professional competence assessment technology in qualification improvement process. International Review of Management and Marketing6(1), 111-115. 

Escueta, M., Quan, V., Nickow, A. J., & Oreopoulos, P. (2017). Education technology: an evidence-based review (No. w23744). National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Kebritchi, M., Lipschuetz, A., & Santiague, L. (2017). Issues and challenges for teaching successful online courses in higher education: A literature review. Journal of Educational Technology Systems46(1), 4-29. 

Lansford, J. E., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2016). A public health perspective on school dropout and adult outcomes: A prospective study of risk and protective factors from age 5 to 27 years. Journal of Adolescent Health58(6), 652-658.

Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., Castek, J., & Henry, L. A. (2017). New literacies: A dual-level theory of the changing nature of literacy, instruction, and assessment. Journal of Education197(2), 1-18. 

Luo, N., Zhang, M., & Qi, D. (2017). Effects of different interactions on students’ sense of community in e-learning environment. Computers & Education115, 153-160. 

Malik, M. (2016). Assessment of a professional development program on adult learning theory. portal: Libraries and the Academy16(1), 47-70. 

Piper, A. M., Garcia, R. C., & Brewer, R. N. (2016). Understanding the challenges and opportunities of smart mobile devices among the oldest old. International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction (IJMHCI)8(2), 83-98.

Rashid, T., & Asghar, H. M. (2016). Technology use, self-directed learning, student engagement and academic performance: Examining the interrelations. Computers in Human Behavior63, 604-612. 

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