Adult learners face all kinds of challenges when they enroll in an online course.
But there are 3 particularly hairy ones lurking out there.
These are the worrying issues that your students find embarrassing, overwhelming, and difficult to talk about.
They’re not sure what to do, and often don’t want to ask for help.
Let’s look at how you can fix them – simply, and painlessly.
Adult Learner Problem No. 1: No time for study
Many of your adult learners are either juggling too many demands – or have rusty time management skills.
They need urgent help to find their feet, and fast access to relevant information.
How you can help
- Give them a crash course in orientation
Adult learners often need directions to the relevant parts of the LMS.
You might tell them where to find essential course information in your welcome email.
Or you could use my free done-for-you orientation templates, The Little Box of E-Learning Miracles. The templates are designed to help students adjust to e-learning more quickly. They can then spend their time working on the course, rather than wondering what to do next.
- Aim for clarity in all online materials
Crystal clear learning materials make it easier for your adult learners to find key information quickly.
- Are all instructions completely unambiguous, and self-explanatory?
- Have you eliminated the need to ask questions before getting started?
- Is all course and assessment information incredibly easy to find?
Adult Learner Problem No. 2: Fear of the unknown
Many new online students are on a steep learning curve. They often sit somewhere on the spectrum between slightly nervous, and secretly terrified.
This can lead to resistance and attitude problems.
These adult learners need reassurance, and gentle guidance.
How you can help
- Acknowledge their anxiety
Explain in your welcome email or in your staff profile that it’s common and quite natural for new students to be nervous.
So many online teachers never acknowledge the fears of new students.
But when you do, you reassure your learners and reduce their anxiety.
Remind your students that they’re not alone. Tell them exactly where to find additional help and support. (If you need one, there’s a template that does this for you in the free resource The Little Box of E-Learning Miracles.)
- Build learner confidence with your feedback style
Constructive feedback on assignments can help to encourage and inspire worried adult learners.
Be positive, and generous with praise where possible, especially with initial assignments. Online students have no points of reference – they don’t know if they’re doing well, or are totally off track.
A few encouraging words from you can help make them feel less worried, and more confident.
Without traditional face-to-face contact, many students find e-learning an isolating experience.
They need to know there are other living, breathing humans involved in the course.
How you can help
- Make sure they don’t feel ignored
Asychronous learning means there’s a delay in transmission. That’s the way it works. But the gap between student question and facilitator answer can leave learners feeling ‘stuck,’ and frustrated.
You can help adult learners to keep moving forward by letting them know when to expect an answer from you. Set up an autoresponder message that acknowledges their email, and lets them know you’ll respond personally within 24 hours (or whatever your communication time frame is).
- Use a friendly tone
By consciously using a warm tone in your welcome email and in the course announcements, you help to create a more supportive environment. If students are too intimidated to ask for help, they’ll struggle on alone (often with disastrous results).
As you can see, these adult learner problems may be hairy, but there are plenty of practical ways of addressing them.
By making these small tweaks to your practice, you can create a more supportive environment, and encourage new students to get off on the right foot.
Confident, capable learners are more likely to do well.
Happier students tend to get better results – and give good feedback.
That produces a smoother outcome all around.
Do your adult learners struggle with a different hairy problem? Tell me about it in the comments!