Reframing the needs of older adult learners in higher education online courses

Concurrent Session 3

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Brief Abstract

Reframing the needs of older adult learners in higher education presents technology opportunities to apply innovative approaches for student success.  In “conversation that works” we will share a variety or pedagogical methods for creating high touch and in-person feel with older adult learners in an online course. 


Brenda Riddick, ABD-Public Admininstration is currently teaching as an adjunct lecturer at California State University Dominguez Hills, Carson California. She has taught in the disciplines of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Political Science since 2006 in online, distance learning and traditional campus classroom environments. Brenda is E-Learning Instructional Design Certified and enjoys engaging her students in a variety of pedagogical methods and high impact practices to faciliate successful learning outcomes. Brenda is a doctoral candidate at the University of La Verne writing her dissertation with a focus on federal, state, and local housing policies impacting communities in the South Los Angeles region. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, skiing, and spending time with family and friends.

Extended Abstract

Online and hybrid courses are increasing in popularity as potential students seek advanced degrees but also convenience. Studies show that more students are older adult learners who desire to further their education to realize their dreams of earning an advanced degree and/or to advance in their current careers. In doing so, they are finding that today’s distance courses are highly technology driven. The focus on technology in distance, online, and hybrid courses can serve as a barrier to older adult learners who have more experience and comfort with traditional face-to-face classes in brick and mortar settings.


Moreover, research shows that older adult learners in higher education are challenged by other hurdles including but not limited to demographic, attitudinal and structural barriers (ACE 2008).

Instructors must consider this population of students when designing online courses to meet the various modalities of course content to facilitate a rich learning experience.  Faculty’s intentional awareness of dynamic technological platforms within an array of learning management systems will facilitate the delivery of course content.  The inclusion of high impact practices embedded in the online course content may minimize the barriers experienced by older adult learners. Coupled with high impact practices and the adaptation of highly driven technology, older adult learners may find it less cumbersome or restrictive to actively engage in the learning process for themselves and with their peers. This session will focus on high-impact practices intentionally designed to engage the older adult learner. Specifically, shared in “conversation that works” will be methods of creating high touch and an in-person feel with older adult learners in an online course.