How adult learners structure their physical learning environment in a Web-based graduate course: A case study
Peggy Lin McCann, The University of Akron, United States
The University of Akron . Awarded
This study focused on factors that impacted the decisions that adult learners enrolled in web-based graduate courses made regarding their learning environment and learning strategies. Literature describing how adult learners enrolled in web-based courses structure their physical learning environment and how they choose learning strategies is limited. Bronfenbrenner's (1977) ecological systems theory provided a framework for developing questions that focus on how adult learners construct learning strategies and learning environments that can be applied to a web-based course. Through case study research methodology three research questions were examined throughout this study: (a) How do adult learners in a web-based graduate course organize and plan their schedule to include learning situations? Why? (b) What factors influence the decisions that the adult learners makes regarding their learning situations? Why? (c) How does the adult learner structure their learning environment and what factors influence this structure? Why?
Three study participants, possessing three levels of expertise (i.e., Novice, Average and Experienced) in web-based learning, provided evidence that organizing and planning decisions for learning and the structure of a physical learning environment is based upon various factors associated with various subsystems that impact an adult learners' life. As those factors within the various subsystems evolve time, so does the organizing and planning decisions for learning and the structure of the physical learning environment as created by the adult learner. The various factors that emerged as themes within this study were: (a) life experiences/resources for learning; (b) motivation factors; (c) problem-centered/relevancy-centered; (d) self-directedness/field-independent; (e) social roles; and (f) traditional vs. web-based instruction.
Based on the findings of this study, additional research is indicated within the areas of course design, course implementation, institutional expectations and resource allocations. As the popularity of web-based education grows, it will be imperative for those individuals and entities responsible for the design, development, delivery and maintenance of web-based courses to examine the factors that impact the adult learners' success with this mode of education.
McCann, P.L. How adult learners structure their physical learning environment in a Web-based graduate course: A case study. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Akron.
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