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Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

Literature Summary

This section includes a summary of sources. Table 1 includes a summary of academic journal articles and Table 2 includes a summary of government and research reports. Both are listed in chronological order.

Table 1. Summary of Academic Journal Articles

Article Overview Findings
Zirkle, 2003 Research synthesis of 71 studies focused on distance education in CTE.

Three main research areas include learner access and institutional barriers, learner characteristics and performance, and educator involvement.

In CTE, no differences were found in learning outcomes based on delivery method. Many studies reported positive learner experiences, some with mixed results.

Porter, 2004 Provided historical context for adult education and distance learning in California. Used state data to establish a profile of adult learners participating in distance education, evaluate existing programs, and make recommendations.

The most popular distance learning methods included audio/video checkout, online instruction, and telecourses; with Internet resources growing in popularity.

There was no significant difference found in program effectiveness between distance and traditional education.

Quality distance learning programs met three criteria: effectiveness (learner outcomes), efficiency (cost), and equity (access).

Semmar, 2006 Explored the impact of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and motivation on learner outcomes in distance learning in adult education. Self-efficacy, self-regulation, and motivation impact learner outcomes. Higher levels can help learners be successful, while lower levels lead to decreased success in accomplishing goals.
Blondy, 2007 Analyzed andragogical assumptions related to adult education, specifically in online learning environments.

Andragogical assumptions can guide the design of online learning environments to better support adult learners.

Online learning environments designed for adult learners should: foster collaboration, allow learner input and flexibility, establish clear expectations, and foster high levels of interaction between learners and educators.

Falowo, 2007 Literature review that examined distance learning and potential barriers in adult education.

Andragogical assumptions can guide the design of online learning environments to better support adult learners.

Online learning environments designed for adult learners should: foster collaboration, allow learner input and flexibility, establish clear expectations, and foster high levels of interaction between learners and educators.

Falowo, 2007 Literature review that examined distance learning and potential barriers in adult education. While distance learning is growing in popularity and includes multiple benefits, learner, faculty, and organizational barriers exist. For effective course design and implementation to occur, these barriers need to be addressed.
Long et al., 2007 Questionnaire conducted with deaf, hard-of-hearing, and ESL learners in a blended learning college course.

Hearing and ESL learners shared positive attitudes about blended learning.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners reported a higher quantity and improved quality of interactions with professors and other learners through online learning tools.

Benson et al., 2008 Conducted a national study of distance learning in postsecondary CTE, including identification of existing trends and a look toward the future.

The quality of learning design is most important for learning outcomes (not learning format).

Primary reasons for offering distance education: reaching nontraditional learners, expanding access for learners, and providing flexible learning options.

Cercone, 2008 Examined adult learning theories and learner characteristics, and how both can influence the design of online learning environments.

Adult learning theories (andragogy and others) emphasize flexibility, self-directed learning, a focus on processes over outcomes; a learner-centered and personalized learning approach.

In online learning environments, educators should focus on the adult learner as an individual and themselves as a change agent.

Olesen-Tracey, 2010 Shared best practices and strategies learned during the implementation of an online GED test preparation curriculum.

Technology can increase learner access to meaningful educational opportunities.

For successful implementation of a new online learning program, adult education providers should create a blueprint that includes benchmarks for success, curriculum selection, deployment planning, and identifying target learners for participation.

Dracopoulos & Pichette, 2011 Examined the impact of computer and writing anxiety on ESL adult learners enrolled in an English grammar course, with comparison between in-person and hybrid classroom settings. No significant differences were found across learning environments on any measures (learner survey, anxiety assessments, course performance).
Schultz, 2012 Case study that examined an adult learning program for professionals looking to advance their geospatial skills.

Technology-based adult learning programs must facilitate learner input in content, how they learn content, and program options.

The main differences of adult learners (from undergraduates) is the need for immediate relevancy and a bigger influence from past experiences.

Key components of successful online courses for adult learners: modular schedule, clear expectations, regular communication and feedback, learner control, providing real-world connections, and respecting the unique characteristics of adult learners.

Rapchak & Behary, 2013 Described the design and implementation of a multimodal approach to online information literacy instruction for adult learners in undergraduate and graduate programs.

For adult learners, ‘learner’ is only one aspect of many competing roles (e.g., caregiver, employee).

Adult learners need active, experiential learning and to control pace, timing, and learning methods.

Discussion boards can facilitate peer-peer communication online.

Halpern & Tucker, 2015 Described the design and implementation of asynchronous, online learning objects to engage adult learners in library instruction at USC, incorporating andragogical principles.

Adults prefer online learning because of flexibility in location and scheduling.

Strategies for engaging adult learners online: use interactive elements and scenario-based tutorials, strategically embed videos within course curriculum, include opportunities for discussion and self-reflection, and use asynchronous learning to facilitate self-directed learning.

Dimous & Kameas, 2016 Presented a quality assurance model for adult education digital learning materials.

Adopts the software quality standard ISO/IEC 9126 for digital learning materials.

Educational material, existing knowledge, and a learner’s past experiences should all connect with content.

Learners should clearly define goals and take an active, autonomous role in learning.

Smythe & Breshears, 2017 An ethnographic study of a public-access digital café in a Vancouver suburb. Focused on how digital access and inclusion impact adult learning opportunities.

Digital literacy is ongoing, developing, and dependent upon the specific task to be accomplished.

Public computer spaces can serve as important access points for hardware, internet, digital skills development, and technical support.

Williams, 2017 Case study of an active learning experience used with adult learners in an online course.

Active and experiential learning activates emotional presence, particularly with adult learners.

Online learning environments can provide more intimate spaces for activating emotional and social presence.

Chametsky, 2018 Discussed andragogical principles and how they can impact the online learning experience.

Online courses for adult learners should be based on elements of comfort, respect, support, and trust.

Recommendations for using andragogical principles in online learning: provide learner choice, connect subject matter to a familiar topic, understand learner purpose and motivation for course participation, design authentic learning activities, create meaningful connections between content and real-world.

Turner et al., 2018 Literature review that examined digital game-based learning for nontraditional learners participating in postsecondary education. Explored the impact of digital game-based learning on learner achievement and outcomes.

Potential impact of digital game-based learning on nontraditional learners: increased retention, engagement, motivation, problem-solving, critical thinking, and academic achievement.

A direct alignment must exist between digital games, learner feedback, learner outcomes, and assessments.

Follow andragogical principles to meet the needs of nontraditional learners.

Bin Mubayrik, 2020 Literature review that examined different formative and summative evaluation approaches for adult learners.

Assessment for learning, not assessment of learning.

Adult learners are better suited for formative assessments.

Assessments designed for adult learners should: be learner-centered, acknowledge past experiences, provide timely feedback, and use a variety of tools to personalize learning.

Housel & Oranjian, 2021 A convergent, mixed-methods study that investigated the effectiveness and usability of Newsela PRO in an intensive, pre-college ESL program in the Northeast U.S. in the Northeast U.S.

The program helped learners become more autonomic, develop academic skills, and provided reading support.

Program features facilitated differentiated instruction and student progress monitoring and allowed for more targeted learner feedback.

Lotas, 2021 Case study of an ABE charter school in D.C. and how they handled adult literacy education during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, adult learners struggled with access (often using mobile phones to learn or sharing devices with other family members).

In addition to access and curriculum support, learners needed social support services (e.g., finding housing).

Recommended adult literacy education programs focus on “facilitating educative spaces” (p. 53) for meaningful learning.

Miles, 2021 State director of adult education sharing strategies for reimagining adult education in a post-pandemic world.

Challenges with the sudden shift to distance learning included lack of access, lack of digital skills (for both educators and learners).

Recommended approach: “one that comprehensively fosters student-centered environments, provides professional development for teachers, promotes adult education, and builds and expands partnerships” (p. 44).

Additional recommendations include having a positive attitude, providing flexible options, encouraging and supporting learners, and respecting learners as adults with competing interests.

Mortrude, 2021 Outlines key policy issues in adult education and makes recommendations for adult educators.

“If the field of adult education is to play a vital role in the education ecosystem into the future, we will need an increased focus on digital skills and digital resilience in life, family, and at work along with critically important human- centered skills” (p. 57).

Under WIOA, digital literacy is a component of workforce preparation, but is often not funded as a key activity in adult education classrooms because there is no way to report digital literacy skills gained through NRS.

The pandemic highlighted the need for blended learning in adult education to mitigate potential barriers (e.g., childcare, transportation) and better prepare learners for the future through digital skills development.

Roumell, 2021 Described WIOA policy and explored current policies.

Areas of need in adult workforce education (AWE): digital literacy skills development, digital inclusion, technology-related professional learning, multimedia content, flexible delivery options, AWE policy reform, and stronger equity and inclusion policies.

Based on current policy analysis, recommendations include increased access to opportunities, effective curriculum strategies for adult learners, social-emotional supports, and equity and inclusion efforts.

Table 2. Summary of Government & Research Reports

Article Overview Findings
Askov et al., 2003 Examined the feasibility of online distance education to meet the needs of adult learners.

Online distance education can expand access, engage new adult learners, and provide opportunities to rethink adult education.

To design effective online distance education programs, all stakeholders must be involved including practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and learners.

Silver-Paculla, 2008 Investigated the language and literacy skills adult learners need for independent, online reading. Used large-scale surveys, existing literature, and field research.

Even adult learners with low literacy levels can engage with online learning.

Key findings: to support learners, design differentiated, flexible learning experiences; utilize existing family and social networks for authentic learning; self-directed learning can be facilitated online; free, online resources receive high volumes of traffic (but effectiveness is unknown); access and connectivity still a challenge in low-income communities (urban and rural); emerging technologies (e.g., AR/VR, mobile phones) have potential to facilitate authentic learning and communication skills.

Prins et al., 2011 Identified existing GED distance education programs in rural Pennsylvania, described learner demographics, evaluated effectiveness, assessed cost, and explored the advantages and disadvantages of GED distance education programs.

Distance education programs were found to be as effective as traditional delivery methods.

75% of learners were in blended programs, 25% of learners were in distance learning only programs.

Multiple advantages and disadvantages exist at the learner, educator, and institutional level.

Finkelstein et al., 2013 Examined the potential impact and value of digital badges in adult education.

Core components of a badge: who earned it, who issued it, description, criteria, date awarded, and certificate.

Benefits of digital badges include portability, increased learner motivation, and alignment between learners, adult education providers, and employers.

A state or national badging framework, including identified skills and related assessments, would create compatibility across locations and programs.

Johnston et al., 2015 Explored digital learning tools and their use in distance learning for ABE programs. Included classroom vignettes and description of specific digital learning tools for classroom use.

Educators use a variety of digital tools to engage learners, facilitate collaboration, share instructional materials, provide feedback, and meet learners’ unique needs.

Organized digital learning tools into four categories: academic skill building, communication, productivity tools, and learning management systems.

Murphy et al., 2017

Explored the potential of digital learning tools to facilitate “more efficient and effective learning opportunities” (p. ES-1) for adult learners in ABE programs through field testing of existing digital learning tools.

Measurements included classroom observations, interviews (administrators, educators, learners), surveys (educators, learners), product usage statistics, and standardized assessments.

Most educators and learners reported positive experiences with digital tools and found significant value.

Four main use models emerged: online (product primary mechanism of instruction), blended (product integrated with face-to-face instruction), hybrid (product use and face-to-face instruction not linked), and supplemental (product used as supplemental tool).

Program usage varied widely across sites; teachers reported lack of time and inadequate training as challenges.

Sharma et al., 2019 Field tested digital learning tools to explore potential for addressing the employment opportunity gap.

Effective digital learning tools had the following qualities: “mobility, accessible onboarding, personal connections, screening-in, and rich media” (p. 6).

Recommendations for adult education providers: use social media to encourage participation, use competency-based assessments as recruitment, facilitate personalized learning pathways, and collaborate with employers to understand what skills are in-demand.

Belzer et al., 2020 Examined how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted adult education and distance learning. Conducted interviews and surveys with educators and program administrators in adult education.

Even programs with prior distance learning experience found the sudden shift to total remote learning challenging.

Provides key takeaways and innovations to address challenges in distance education and instruction, access, engagement, learner support, educator support, professional development, and program changes.

Program providers see some benefits in distance education, particularly related to flexibility for adult learners; anticipate permanent distance education or blended learning options.

Digital US Coalition, 2020 Conducted a six-month landscape analysis to identify and explore strategies to facilitate digital resilience and a “connected approach”.

Digital literacy skills are “both an essential on-ramp to finding and getting a good job and a pathway to future opportunities” (p. 5).

Digital inclusion includes affordable, high-speed internet; internet-enabled devices; tech support; apps and online content that meet user needs; and digital literacy training.

Other recommendations for expanded access include embedding digital literacy in social services and partnering with employers.

Effective digital instruction includes customized learner pathways, differentiated instruction, competency-based assessments, and data-driven instruction.

EdTech Center @ World Education, 2020 Led eight studies on adult education's response to emergency remote teaching and learning during COVID-19. Collective research efforts were analyzed, and key findings presented.

Moving forward, distance education should be a required component of adult education programs.

Distance education provides flexibility to learners.

Challenges to remote learning: access, digital literacy skills, non-academic demands, and negative teacher attitudes.

Rosen & Vanek, 2020 A guide for implementing blended learning in adult education programs.

Blended learning has been proven to be more effective for ABE learners than face-to-face or online learning.

Blended learning benefits: enable differentiated instruction, strengthen digital literacy skills, flexible programming, extended learning time, and improved monitoring of learner progress.

Blended learning challenges: access, inadequate funding, and negative teacher attitudes.

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.