Academic journal article Adult Learning

Teaching and Technology in Higher Education: CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Teaching and Technology in Higher Education: CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

Article excerpt

Colleges and universities are beginning to change the way they do business. Why? Because their students are changing, and they way they want to learn is changing, and the tools to accommodate these demands are changing.

Are institutions of higher education doing it cheerfully and quickly? No. There are many reasons, but the greatest deterrents seem to be the faculty, the costs, and the reluctance to change their perception of themselves as the "only show in town" as purveyors of knowledge.

Students Are Changing

It used to be that most students went to college immediately out of high school, left home for the first time to live on campus, and completed a degree in four years to commence to the world of work in their chosen profession, perhaps never to return to the university again, unless to get an advanced degree. Today, fewer than 25 percent represent this traditional student who is 18-21 years old (Twigg, 1994). The growing college population are adult students over the age of 25 who are non-residential, working full-time, perhaps with a family from diverse backgrounds (Katz et al., 1999).

Consequently, they expect the college or university to adjust to their time constraints and to offer courses that are more accessible than just on-campus (Twigg, 1994). Frequently, they view themselves as equals to faculty and do not want to sit idly at the knees of the masters as passive listeners. The "one-text/one-test/ one-delivery-mode-fits-all" approach to instruction is becoming less and less appealing. Adult students are more like consumers. They shop for the service-provider that best fits their personal and professional needs (Kember & Gow, 1994). They are becoming more attracted to institutions like the University of Phoenix and the Western Governors University Virtual University whose greeting is, "We're a new type of university centered around you, the student."

The significance of this new group of adult learners should not be ignored by institutions of higher education. Rowjan, Lujan and Dolence (1998) warn: "If this group is dissatisfied, their support for the academy will decline. This dissatisfaction will spread to potential students of all types, to funding sources and to policymakers".

Further, it is becoming more and more apparent that the university's role in developing "life-long learners" is critical. As knowledge in many fields increases exponentially, one cannot learn all that is needed in any profession in a four year program, even if one were to stay in that profession for a life-time. As the global economy changes, new jobs are replacing old ones to the extent that forecasters predict most people will change jobs six or seven times (Twigg, 1994). The ability to be a skillful, motivated life-long learner is a requirement to survive in the world of work. People are seeking educational opportunities to meet these demands. Consequently, the mission of higher education must expand in order to include these goals of adult learners (Katz et al., 1999).

Technology is being used more and more by companies to facilitate the instructional needs of their employees, and they are finding ways to do it themselves, rather than depending on universities. Some are going even further by establishing universities to offer degrees up to the master's level that aim programs at non-traditional students. Harcourt Brace and Bergdorf Goodman, for example, is creating a university and will offer all of its courses via distance learning technologies (Blumenstyk, 1999b). The company plans to apply for accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and to begin offering courses by the fall of 2000. They have hired former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci as the director of this project and as president of Harcourts' new division called Harcourt Learning Direct (Blumenstyk, 1999b).

Tools Are Changing

Using technology as a teaching tool is not new As each new technology has been introduced into society, its use in education has been tried and tested. …

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