Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution a Case Study: M. LeNoue, T. Hall, & M.A. Eighmy. Adult Learning Vol. 22 No. 2 p 4-12, Spring 2011

The world is changing, and now social media and web-based tools are a part of adult education. The paper by LeNoue, Hall, & Eighmy (2011), Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution," discusses this phenomenon. Given their academic backgrounds in education, including a specialization in education of adults, the authors present arguments with considerable force and knowledge from experience.

This study addresses a variety of issues, effects, and usage situations that they have experienced in teaching student/adults. The modern e-learning process has evolved to include a variety of means that enable the student/adult to participate and overcome inherent barriers. Indeed, LeNoue and colleagues (2011) summarize their work with the critical point that so many strategies now exist to make e-learning effective that it is incumbent upon the instructor/guide to find and properly utilize these strategies. Within this paper, the focus will be to address how e-learning for student/adults functions, as well as addressing lessons, outcomes, barriers, setting, and participants.

Participants in the program

LeNoue, Hall and Eighmy (2011) discuss an adult education program, where 'adults' are defined generally as being older, non-college, or post-college individuals. For these student/adults, the purpose of learning is defined, having precise objectives such as new attitudes, values, knowledge and skills. Student/adults in particular are interested in information of immediate potential use in their own work environment.

The instructor in a learning situation with student/adults is in a slightly altered role, wherein he/she has become more of a guide and/or tutor to a more active learner. The instructor/guide is disseminating and/or sharing the information, in this case via computers or digitally-mediated. Part of the role of the instructor/guide is to assist the student/adult to evaluate their ongoing experiences and learning processes as well as enabling them to contribute both to their own learning and to the situation as a whole (p.6). Thus, because this article does not address a one-on-one tutorial, but the use of social media and a classroom setting, there is more to consider than merely the student/adult and the instructor/guide.

Essentially, because social media is being used as the learning platform, that brings these media into play as part of the learning situation. Applications that might be used include Flickr, Twitter, Google Groups, Myspace, Wikipedia, Facebook, Second Life, and Youtube (p. 6). As well, Blogger and WordPress -- microblogging applications- may be a part of student/adult e-learning programs (Pauschenwein & Sfiri, 2010). Further learning and assistance may come about through Google Hangout and Skype as well. That means one can consider these platforms and/or their designers, as participants in student/adult e-learning.

During learning, the environment can vary considerably (Illeries, 2008), and the 'transfer of information' can occur in settings that are informal, non-formal, and formal. Of these three: (a) Informal learning is, in a sense, analogous to daily life, in that it is continuously ongoing in all of our activities. (b) Non-formal learning is more like that of a classroom, and may include an instructor and a 'lesson', but does not involve any 'credentials' being earned. Finally, (c) Formal learning is generally (but not always) more highly structured and includes credentials as well as a set curriculum (Jarvis, 1985).

According to Brookfield (1986) adult learning can occur in any of the three settings described above, and the fact that the educational 'lesson' includes social media does not mean it is not 'education'. While corporate usage of the various types of social media might rank them differently, this does not negate their potential value in an educational setting (Greenhow, 2009), As well, video conferencing may be a part of e-learning and adult education, as may Google groups. Thus, the platform used is distinct within the adult and e-learning situation, and the typical definitions of 'formal, informal, and non-formal' are differently utilized within e-learning. As well, because some e-learning situations for adult/students may not actually include 'certification', it becomes less clear in another way as to how e-learning should be defined.

Participation Barriers

Adult students who are enrolled in programs using e-learning and social media may have many barriers and challenges that are difficult to overcome and block their full participation. The challenges can be human-based and there are also technological barriers. On the whole, however, because adult/student learning of e-materials has now been taking place for some years, many difficulties have been resolved to better facilitate adult e-learning, particularly using social media as the learning platform. One particular tool that works well is called 'Web 2.0', and this method is very helpful (Greenhow, 2009). Thus the development and testing of various tools means that most challenges and problems have been solved and what was once called 'e-learning' is now called 'digitally-mediated learning' (DML).

Adult student learning faces one particular difficulty, which is the inherent barrier for adults to learning new technology -- the barrier is a seriously known issue and is in fact typical for adult learners (p.8). Pauschenwein & Sfiri (2010) discuss the fact that social media and the revolutionary social changes it has made have all occurred within only the last ten years.

However, for many adults, typical biases and habits are barriers to the consumption and adoption of new technology, and may not even view their resistance as a barrier (Brookfield, 1986). However, the new digitally-mediated learning requires the student/adult to be able to use a computer and/or the newest mobile devices -- tablets and phones. There is simply no way to participate in social media if the student cannot use either a computer or a mobile device.

As discussed by Hanson (1996), this means that the initial phase of a course with adult learners requires training in the use of the tools for the digitally-mediated learning course: the computers and/or mobile devices. In this manner, by establishing that the first portion of the course is used to overcome the technology 'gap', then the student/adult can move forward into the next portion of the lessons. Other approaches were discussed by Merrian and Caffarella (1991) to ensure adult participation and learning.

The next step to digitally mediated learning is to use specific 'portals', which might be a tool such as Blogger, Wordpress, and/or Wikipedia. These cannot simply be used without some basic understanding, so this is the next lesson that must be given to the student/adult. Such portals as these can and do have infinite potentiality for different use once the student sees how to access them, and then move into what is the intended lesson (p. 9). First the student must learn how to locate the portal using a URL (uniform resource locator), or at the least, how to use a search engine to get to the portal. While the search engine can find Wikipedia readily, without the correct URL, the search engine cannot locate a specific blog on WordPress or Blogger. Thus, again, the student must now not only now how to use the particular 'equipment' -- the computer or mobile device, but now must use this equipment to get to the portal, such as Wikipedia, for the 2nd step of the lesson to be effective. Once again, given the progressive development of adult learning courses, instructors are familiar with not only the 'resistance' issue for adult learners, but know that they need to provide the lessons and step-by-step protocols to help the students get to the various portals.

Digitally-Mediated Learning outcomes

The success and/or effectiveness of DML for the adult student has now been evaluated in more than one study. In [1] "The use of e-learning tools in adult learning: A comparative study between Cypress and five other European countries," Papadopoulou, Aristodemou, & Laouris (2008) have addressed DML; [2] the study by Pauschenwein and Sfiri,(2010), was titled "Adult Learner's Motivation for the Use of Micro-Blogging during Online Training Courses."

The 2008 study by Papadopoulou et al., (2008) addresses e-learning and its effectiveness in universities and other higher learning institutions. In 2008, the field of e-learning had not evolved to fully become digitally-mediated learning as it is called today. However, professional growth for adults is seen as being of significance for not only business but also social and personal success, so these authors compared the results obtained in Cyprus with those from other countries for adult learners. Papadopoulou et al. (2008) compared e-learning results for Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain, using results from a single university in each country, obtained from a questionnaire that was posted online.

In their work, these researchers sought to determine the reason that the adult students initially signed up for an e-learning course, how they had first learned about the course, and any motivation for taking the course. As well, the questionnaire asked participants to evaluated their e-learning experience, with a focus on the environment for learning, the e-learning venue. The study participants included 155 women and 129 men, for a total of 284 adult students;…

Sources Used in Document:


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Brookfield, S.D. (1986). Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning. A comprehensive analysis of principles and effective practice, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Cross, K.P. (1981). Adults as Learners. Increasing participation and facilitating learning (1992 edn.), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Greenberg, D., Pae, H.K., Morris, R.D., Calhoon, M.B., & Nanda, A.O. (2009). Measuring adult literacy students' reading skills using the Gray Oral Reading Test. Annals of Dyslexia, 59, 133 -- 149.

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