Week 2 Overview

Site: SCoPE - BCcampus Learning + Teaching
Group: Facilitating Learning Online - Fundamentals 2019 OER
Book: Week 2 Overview
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 15 April 2024, 1:51 AM


Week 2: Overview


In the past, teaching took place primarily in face-to-face environments and teachers taught a relatively homogenous group of individuals. The learner audience that well-known educational researcher, Malcolm Knowles studied to develop his “andragogical” perspective on what adult learners need and want from teachers was much less diverse than you are likely to encounter as you explore teaching and facilitating online. Many factors contribute to this increasing diversity and there are various perspectives on how best to respond. Although the general principles of adult learning are still helpful to consider, the diversity of online learners requires a flexible and responsive teaching approach.

Your adult learners are likely to appreciate knowing why and how they are to learn (and be evaluated) and enjoy learning activities that are relevant, applicable, and meaningful. But they may need you to offer more assignment choices, to communicate in different ways, or to offer different types of support to help them participate successfully in the learning environment. You’ll need to balance the possibilities of the technologies available for online learning with the beliefs, expectations, and abilities of your diverse audience.

When you teach online, you have to adapt your teaching strategies and the way you develop learning activities, to accommodate the impact of the change in learning environment and the ways in which you can monitor, interact and adapt your practice with each new group of learners. You will need to think about how your beliefs about teaching might affect how you approach online teaching and learning.

During this week, you'll explore some ideas that may help you respond to the rapid changes in technological possibilities, the diverse expectations and needs of your online learners, and your own beliefs, knowledge and skills as an online facilitator.

The least important thing this week is becoming an expert on any learning theory, technology or teaching strategy. The most important thing is understanding the main IDEAS, and being able to USE them to inform your thinking and problem-solving when you are deciding how to facilitate a course, workshop or learning activity online.


Weekly Activity

During this week, you'll be guided through an online learning activity by a team of your peers in FLO. The facilitation team will provide further details in a Instructions and Schedule document that will be posted above the week's activity forum. A launch message will be sent out late Sunday evening or first thing Monday morning.

Focus for the Activity

You’ll be asked to explore the differences between face-to-face and online learning environments from the potential perspectives of adults of various ages, cultural backgrounds, economic conditions, and personal and educational backgrounds. Online learning environments also present different opportunities and challenges for learners (and new facilitators!)


Explore the opportunities and challenges of online learning as they relate to the diverse needs of adult learners. Or, put differently:

  • What supports do learners need in online learning environments?
  • What opportunities exist online that can be used to make learning more effective or interesting for adults online?
  • What challenges exist about online that might affect your learners?

Online and Adult Learning

Seminal research among adult learning theorists (e.g., Knowles, 1973; Merriam and Caffarella, 1999; Merriam, 1993) revealed that:

  • adults continue to learn after completing their formal education
  • adults learn differently than children
  • adults learn in purposeful, self-directed ways

Malcolm Knowles was a big name in adult education. He argued that adults...

  • need to know why they need to learn something
  • need to learn experientially
  • approach learning as problem-solving
  • learn best when the topic is of immediate value

Although Knowles' research (and others who contributed to ideas about adult learning) caused a paradigm shift in the way courses were designed and how teachers taught, the world of higher education has become increasingly complex.

Due to many changes in society, teachers needs to be sensitive to the learning needs of an increasingly diverse audience; adult learners come from different cultures, are at various stages in their educational path, experience different demands from personal circumstances and work demands, and have far greater access to educational choices due to the development of an increasingly connected world with ubiquitous access and mobile devices.

The array of learning technologies, the pace of change in different academic fields, the possibilities introduced by educational technologies, and a renewed emphasis on experiential, inquiry, project-based and mastery learning approaches, makes the task of teaching adults effectively online one that requires all the creativity and skills that teachers can apply.

We hope that you'll share what you know and have experienced about teaching adults, and explore new ideas around improving your practice in the online environment.

How do we meet the needs of adult learners online?

Certain strategies and approaches seem to work well, including providing choice and inviting adult learners to leverage their experience, using coaching, dialogical models, and team-based learning reinforce a facilitative rather than directive approach to instruction. And meeting adult learners where they are, with active (experiential), relevant, applicable learning experiences will go far to support engagement and ultimately learning.

Optional Reading and Viewing

The following optional readings and videos are provided as references for the topics discussed in this week's Overview.