An Active Learning Cohort Model for Adult Education

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

We present an Active Learning Cohort Model for adult students that restructures content delivery, rethinks student participation, and reimagines how students learn and succeed.


Dr. Eric Malm: Eric is an Associate Professor of Economics and Business Administration at Cabrini College in Radnor PA. His research interests are varied and include campus technology policy, engagement scholarship, and environmental issues. Eric unites themes through the lens of community-building; whether sharing best practices in a faculty technology community, or negotiating faculty, staff and student roles in a campus-community partnership, the ability for people to work together for a common cause is key. Prior to joining Cabrini Eric co-founded two businesses- a market research company serving the utility industry, and a venture-backed e-marketing company. He has earned a B.A. in economics and business from Lafayette College, and a Ph.D. from Temple University.

Extended Abstract

Restructuring programs to meet the needs of working adults is a challenge. This paper presents an Active Learning Cohort Model for adult students that restructures content delivery, rethinks student participation, and reimagines how students learn and succeed. In this model, cohorts of adult students (typically adult students with Associates degrees or significant previous college credits) take sets of interlinked courses, with significant online content delivery, along with mediated face-to-face work sessions where students apply their learning to challenging problems. Students typically take two interlinked courses at a time. Most course content is delivered online, with online personal interaction with instructors. During weekly face-to-face sessions students are led by a non-faculty Learning Mentor who facilitates activities and discussions provided by the course instructors. Students apply what they've learned during the online classes to challenging problems that often incorporate aspects of both courses. The mentor helps engage the students in questioning and problem solving, and acts as an intermediary between students and faculty. In this presentation we describe how an innovative use of technology is reducing barriers for adult learners.
This new model asks faculty to significantly rethink many aspects of their teaching. As the core content of the courses is delivered primarily online faculty must be comfortable teaching online. Students meet in face-to-face weekly sessions with a non-faculty Learning Mentor, so faculty need to learn how to best utilize the Mentor. The Learning Mentor acts as an intermediary between the students and the faculty member, facilitating conversations, and identifying areas of student confusion or concern. The Mentor plays the role of a ëcapable peer', probing student understanding, encouraging conversation, and modeling possible responses. The relationship with the Mentor is new to most faculty.
The face-to-face time is used primarily as a time for students to actively engage with the content they learned online, using the concepts to solve challenging problems. This activity-based learning may require faculty to consider new types of assignments and assessments- beyond papers and exams.
The model also uses a linked course model, where courses are paired and taken concurrently. This means that faculty must work collaboratively with their faculty partner to coordinate content and create some linked assignments that are completed during the face-to-face session. These assignments typically combine concepts from both classes, creating a single ëdeliverable' that may be assessed independently by each faculty member.
In this Emerging Ideas Session we present a snapshot of how this model works in a ëtypical' week, illustrating the essential components of the model and providing opportunity for discussion among attendees.