Today’s online learner does not fit the traditional profile of adult, employed and goal-oriented student, although these attributes still define many online learners. Besides the above characteristics, the online learner now is young, grasps and works with technology quickly, and fits into a dynamic and heterogeneous population in particular localities around the world. Overall, online students take at least one course via the Internet.
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The statistics show that there was a noticeable increase in online learning students from 2007 to 2008, with a significant characteristic being that students were taking computer science or business-related courses more than other courses. On the other hand, students with mobility issues enrolled into online learning options more than other students did (Radford 3). Data also shows that students were most enrolled in distance education programs in institutions with more than 20,000 students across the United States. At the same time, degree-granting programs were most popular with online students (National Center for Education Statistics 4).
The statistics describe me; I am enrolled in an online learning program that offers a certification at the end of the program. The qualification is useful for obtaining a job and advancing my career. My goals motivate me. Besides, I made an independent choice on where to enroll. This shows that I fit the characteristic of other learners. However, I am not taking a computer or business course, which makes me an exception to the popular choice as indicated by the statistics. Additionally, I have taken an online course while being an undergraduate student.
A study by Nakayama, Yamamoto, and Santiago revealed no major differences between bachelor and master’s online students or those who were graded highly and those who were in the next grade in a Japanese online university learning program (195). However, the study showed that masters students seemed to understand better the online learning program, and were more motivated compared to the bachelor’s students. The researchers also concluded that bachelor students did not understand learning strategies needed for university work, which extended to their interaction with online courses. The findings of the study support the conclusion that student characteristics determine the suitability of a course design.
The performance of adult learners is enhanced by employing customized strategies. Unlike children, adult learners go through a transformation. Their instructor must act as a change agent; therefore, the design and teaching of online courses for adults appears to reflect these needs and the maturity level of adults as being capable of directing their learning experience (Cercone 137-138).
The psychology course for adult learners online will use a hypercontent design that allows students to follow their preferences in various aspects of self-directed learning. On the other hand, the instructors and the faculty staff will retain the privilege of deciding units for coverage on the course and criteria for assessment. The rationale behind the design is the need to make the faculty buy into the idea of online courses. In non-computer related courses, faculty exhibit skeptic behavior that has to be handled with an appropriate design and room for faculty input (Allen and Seaman 5). Instruction will be delivered through video, written documents, and social media tools like chat and forums. Students will do oral examinations and participate in various group activities virtually through online forums with text, sound, and video options.
The proposed course will target adult learners who are enrolled in undergraduate and master’s programs in universities around the world. The target students are looking for affiliation, but cannot attend traditional programs (Dabbagh para. 23). The content of the course will take students through bachelor level psychology, with a basic introduction that assumes no prior knowledge of the subject. Students will cover eight units to complete the course. Apart from the introduction, students may choose to arrange their units as it suits them. Also, students will have the option to stop a unit midway and commence another one. When ready, students will inform instructors and afterward do a written assessment test and any other test administered by the faculty.
As students make choices, progress through units, and do the test, they develop a profile that helps the faculty to assign an additional task and intervene with new forms of instruction to address both faculty and student concerns. The learning outcomes for the course will include the ability to identify career prospects after the course, the relation of individual work, and a career in the field of psychology. Interpretation of psychological knowledge in the design of machines and systems, as well as the differences and characteristic features of groups across the world will be other outcomes. Students will be introduced to theories and experiments to inform and test their knowledge of the subject.
The course will also assess instructors based on the performance of students becoming knowledgeable about concepts such as conformity, leadership, and attribution style as they vary across cultures and in terms of gender. The feedback of students taken during lessons and group assignment will also contribute to staff evaluation and course assessment. Overall, the course is using hypercontent design, with inputs from learner-directed design.
Allen, Elaine I, and Jeff Seaman. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011. Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group, 2011. Web.
Cercone, Kathleen. “Chatacteristics of Adult Learners with Implications for Online Learning Design.” AACE Journal 16.2 (2008): 137-159. Print.
Dabbagh, Nada. “The Online Learner: Characteristics and Pedagogical Implications.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 7.3 (2007). Web.
Nakayama, Minoru, Hiroh Yamamoto, and Rowena Santiago. “The Impact of Learner Characteristics on Learning Performance in Hybrid Courses among Japanese Students.” Electronic Journal of e-Learning 5.3 (2007): 195-206. Print.
National Center for Education Statistics. “Enrollment in Distance Education Courses, by State: Fall 2012.” 2014. Web.
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Radford, Alexandria Walton. Learning at a Distance: Undergraduate Enrollement in Distance Education Courses and Degree Programs (NCES 2012-154). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2011. Web.