Trends in Adult Education

Dr. Carol Kasworm is Professor of Leadership policy and Human development at North Carolina State University. I am posting my first blog from her article that appeals to me as it is one of best credible resource that provide good explanation on how trends in adult education incorporated in today’s work force. I hope it will benefit to many enrol in PIDP.

Main centre of this article is how the future of adult higher education is focused upon three important trends in relation to preparing an information economy workforce and how adult higher education is providing leadership for knowledge engagement beyond information dissemination.

The first key trend is its leadership in creating contextual authentic learning designs for workforce enhancement. Secondly, as AHE gains competence to be digital providers of education, it will continue to face the paradox of creating accessible and universal opportunities for adult learner participation. AHE is creating meaningful learning programs which draw upon information technology, while also innovating best practices for valid adult learning. Because knowledge is ephemeral and quickly dated, the last trend for AHE programs and related research in adult learning is focused towards developing critically reflective adult learners who can create and adapt knowledge for new understandings and practices in the knowledge economy.

Challenges to adult higher education

1) Creative contextual authentic learning for initial and continuing workforce enhancement,

2) Digital support for access and universal participation of adult learners.

3) Knowledge creation through critically reflective engagement- learning for continuous change.

Creative contextual learning for initial and continuing workforce enhancement

Historically, adult education has been the key provider for workforce education to adults, with particular emphasis on the support of the undereducated, the disenfranchised, and often the dislocated worker. These needs continue and are significant to all of our countries. . In particular, business and industry adult education providers no longer believe it is sufficient to have a didactic classroom experience as the base for updating workers’ abilities. Thus, experiential, active learning experiences and the use of information technology as an information supplement and social networked learning experiences provides important value that impacts one’s work, one’s sense of self efficacy, and one’s key contributions to community and society.

Digital age providers: Paradox of access and universal participation

The second trend in adult higher education is new understandings for the management and for the design of programs as part of the digital age economy. As suggested by the World Bank, in 1990, it took six years to go from concept to production in the automobile industry. In today’s environment, that process takes two years (The World Bank, 2003, p. 2). With this rapid innovation and change, what does it suggest for the education and continuing development of adult learners? Consider your current use of information technology as a support of your work, of your programs, of your instruction, and of your connections to adult learners. For example, I am astonished at the rapid use and innovation of social networking with Face book, Twitter and others technology supports for learners, with over 60 million adults, or approximately 1/3rd of the population – in the US visit social networks in less than four years of availability (Ostrow, 2009, p. n.p.). For example, in 1999, 92 percent of the larger US corporations were piloting Web-based training programs; today most of these US corporations are now engaged in both online and computer-based adult training and continuing education (Moore, 2010, January 10; The World Bank, 2003). In 2004-2005, approximately one-third (32 percent) of USA adults reported participation in adult educational activities with some form of distance education (O’Donnell, 2006). A number of sources suggest that formal and informal online adult learning programs now includes 60% of US adults.

Knowledge creation through critically reflective engagement

The third trend is embedded within the other previous discussions and represents a key understanding of our unique contribution to adult learners in this knowledge economy. The rhetoric of this knowledge economy historically was focused upon an educated workforce. However, now there is changing focus towards research and development – of creating new knowledge that can generate new opportunities, new option, and greater efficiencies and effectiveness in the workforce. Underlying this focus is the unique contribution of adult higher education, which integrates contextual work knowledge with the development of critically reflective learners. This focus on critically reflective engagement is based in current theory and literature of adult learning theory, as well as new understandings of competencies for a global economy.

AHE is creating new understandings of this culture of the digital education provider, of a culture of quality learning engagement through technology. This second trend represents innovative development of key standards for the provider and the learner, as well as interactive learning designs that make best use of technology as a tool for instruction and learning. Adult higher education has become a key advocate for quality digital learning in the adult workforce.


1-                   Trends in adult higher education: New possibilities for preparing the information workforce access through by CAROL KASWORM



Adult Learner Traits

Adults are characterized by maturity, self-confidence, autonomy, solid decision-making, and are generally more practical, multi-tasking, purposeful, self-directed, experienced, and less open-minded and receptive to change. All these traits affect their motivation, as well as their ability to learn


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