I can be easily mislead by a title. “Paying attention to adult learners online: The pedagogy and politics of community” by Kristine Blair and Cheryl Hoy (2006) appealed to me in that I mostly work with adult learners and pedagogy and community sounded like two topics that would complement the required reading for this module. The article questions, as outlined by the authors, “if the virtual learning environment presents different challenges and prospects for the adult learner versus the traditional student learner, along with an extension and complication of the more social metaphors of “virtual community.”” The abstract alluded that based on their observations, a change in the relationship between the student and the instructor is required and that there needs to be more recognition for teaching adult learner online classes in faculty workloads.
This article brings up several good points to consider:
Administrators who assign workloads for faculty who teach online should be more aware of the time involved in developing and in the teaching on an online course. Besides being financially compensated, acknowledgment of the value of online teaching needs to be considered through “merit, tenure, and proportion” opportunities (p. 45). Many administrators do not have the personal experience to understand that teaching in an online environment often requires a more 1:1 instructor:student role in maintaining motivation and reading out to “virtually absent students” (p. 36).
Supervising administrators or Senior faculty who are mentoring and evaluating junior teachers or graduate students may be not be seeing where the actual teaching is taking place. It became apparent to the supervisor who was observing the graduate student in the specific course referred to in this article, that a lot of the interaction between the student and the teacher was taking place in private emails, rather than in the more open discussion board or through the design of the course (p. 33).
Adult learners in online courses have different needs than traditional students. Adult learners often have full-time jobs, need consideration for absences due to family obligations and job requirements (p. 36). It was also expressed that success could be accomplished by both those students who participated in the group community or by those who chose to work alone, work ahead and communicate only with the instructor (p. 34 and p. 42).
This seems more like an opinion or observational piece rather than a research article and it almost seems like there may have been a research piece (or one in the works) but the data analysis didn’t take place in the article as written. One thing that stands out to me is the type of course that was used in the observation. The particular class that was reviewed for this article was actually a unique class that pertained specifically to adult learners who were preparing information in order to receive credit for prior learning. Designated as a composition course of which most student would have to complete, the objective for the course was to prepare documents necessary to submit to the academic program to ask for credit for previous work and life experience. Documents such as a resume, biography and life experiences, professional goals statement, progress report, course credit proposal and documentation to support asking for the credit were all assignments required in the course (p. 34-35). Based on this highly personalized content, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that an adult learner would seek personal and individualized feedback from the instructor to make sure the work was being finalized in such a way as to be successful in obtaining the credit the student wished to receive. Later in the article the author’s stated that it looked like the course was heading towards being offered as an independent study style course rather than a typical 16-week format (p. 46).
The most prominent and recurring point of this article is the need for the administration to have a greater appreciation and understanding for those teaching online classes. I have to admit that I as I continued to read through the article, I became more confused and unclear as to where it was leading. Many of the statements made seem contradictory, for example when talking about classroom community, “increased demand of motivated students to receive assistance from the instructor as opposed to peers…” seems to be an issue of ineffective classroom management and a flaw in the design of the course to advise students of expectations for peer review rather than in the course design itself or as a consideration for adult learners (p. 36). The conclusion that was reached in the abstract didn’t really come clear to me through the evidence presented in the article.
Blair, K., & Hoy, C. (2006). Paying attention to adult learners online: The pedagogy and politics of community. Computers & Composition, 23(1), 32-48.