Institutions need to provide three crucial elements that will ensure adult students' success in their post-secondary endeavors. With the increase in literacy levels and technology advancement, many new learning opportunities are opening up. It then results in the rising expectation in various fields, thus driving many adults back to school for their degrees. The adult students are now referred to as new traditional students from their previous non-traditional students.
These students have a special category with characteristics that include being of age 24 and above. They also are in the working class with family responsibilities to balance. They often have stringent obstacles compared to their younger counterparts. Most of them have had experiences in higher education, but they are incomplete. For instance, it is common to find someone with delayed goals with many undergraduate transfer credits. For this reason, higher learning institutions need to find thoughtful ways to keep them engaged and help them succeed in their quest for education.
Society today is so advanced that higher education is becoming an essential requirement. The shift is due to evolving job expectations, advanced degree requirements, and career changes. Online learning is also making it easier for new traditional students to access education conveniently. Below are the key elements required that will make a life for new traditional students easier.
Contrary to the younger students that choose courses depending on their interest, the new traditional student makes their choices in line with their careers. Their main focus is gaining credentials to boost them in their careers and gain the relevant experience to advance in their professional lives.
It then leaves it for the institutions to ensure that they offer field and internship applications, project-based learning, and prior learning assessment. They can also use the online platform to boost competency-based education. Those not comfortable with the CEB can opt for the program that gives them real-life connections.
Every student stands a better chance of success when they have some level of contact with the faculty. Unlike the traditional students that rely more on social support and a range of associates that include fellow students, staff and faculty members, and friends, new traditional students have their preferences. They include friends outside the campus and family networks. So within the campus, their closest point of interaction will be the faculty staff. An adult student will naturally seek faculty association since they have things in common. They include the mutual agreement that they are all professionals, seeking validation for their experience and professional advice.
Also, an adult student will get better, positive, actionable, consistent, and accurate feedback from the faculty than fellow students. It brings about a sense of commitment and community within the campus when the students and faculty staff relate positively.
New traditional learners are exposed to various challenges attributed to their different ages. They will most likely need more support compared to someone that has been in the education system recently. Also, they may lack the necessary experience of the campus process, such as registration and access to facilities, if they are the first person in the family to go to an institution of higher learning. One of the best ways to offer learners support is to offer multiple options on access to services. Such an option may include online FAQs, self-guided tutorials, on-demand webinars, phone helplines, or individual tutoring. Student support should prioritize higher learning institutions to deliver an exceptional educational experience to students.
For a new traditional student, going to higher learning institutions is not just something they want to check off their bucket list. They need the assurance that they have the administration's support in ensuring their success in pursuit of their dreams. They need assurance that they will get the engagement and support that is relevant and relatable to their careers and lives. However, adult students come with unique challenges to the institutions. The university management needs to think of ways to create a better learning environment that will be flexible for the students and, at the same time, not water down the quality of education. The universities and colleges have the perfect opportunity to carry on their mission by making learning and teaching more authentic, accessible, and innovative.