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Adult Learners Going Back to School Online Outperform Younger Students

Older adult learner going to school online

Adult learners going back to school online can be as successful as younger students — or even more so — if they receive training in online educational technology, according to a new study in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.

Researchers at the University of Kansas compared three age groups of teachers enrolled in an online graduate course in special education. One segment of the class consisted of adult learners, ages 50 to 65, who were classified as “late-career” adults. The class also included early-career students (ages 21 to 35) and mid-career adults (ages 36 to 49).

The study found that the older adult students felt less confident in their technical skills at the beginning of the course, asked more technology-related questions and required higher levels of technology support.

Nonetheless, the adult learners exhibited “stellar performance on all assignments” and reported high satisfaction levels after the course was finished.

Older adult students are a growing market in higher online education, note the study’s authors. They call for additional research to be conducted on the perceptions and performance of adult learners going back to school in online learning environments.

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