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What Type of Online Education Provides the Most Support for Adult Learners?

What Type of Online Education Provides the Most Support for Adult Learners? Going back to school as an adult can come with some unique challenges, but the right online program will understand these challenges and provide support to help you succeed on your terms. Let’s look at some important considerations for adult learners looking for an online education program that offers the right support.

Flexibility Through Asynchronous Learning

Adult learners are often working around other life commitments while completing schooling. This might include a part-time or full-time job, personal commitments, and family or parenting responsibilities.

Research shows what many adult learners know firsthand—one of the most common challenges adult learners experience is the inability to create a balance between education and work or between education and family or social life.

Adult learners have to balance many responsibilities, so flexibility is key. You need a program that allows you to further your education while continuing to be a great employee, spouse, parent, or whatever role you find yourself in.

Choose an asynchronous online program.

By choosing an online program, you’ve already afforded yourself more flexibility than you would have with an in-person program. However, not all online programs are designed the same. One important distinction to understand is between synchronous versus asynchronous learning:

  • Synchronous: Synchronous online classes require students to attend class virtually at specified times. This live instruction mirrors the experience of attending classes in person, although you can attend these classes from any location with an internet connection.

  • Asynchronous: Asynchronous learning does not include a live class component. Instead, it allows students to watch prerecorded instructional videos or complete readings at a time that works best for them. Students should complete assignments by specified due dates, but they are free to complete the work any time before those checkpoints.

Asynchronous programs typically work better for adult learning strategies. They afford more flexibility because they allow students to choose the times they want to dedicate to schoolwork. For example, a working adult may do coursework in the evenings and on weekends when they’re not working.

Access to Trusted Advisors

If you have attended college before, you may not think you need as much assistance this time around as you did as a younger student. However, no matter what age or stage of life you’re in, you shouldn’t have to figure things out alone. Look for an online program that offers services to support adult learners.

These services may include: 

  • Student success or tutoring services: Academic assistance—like expert online tutoring—helps guide students who need one-on-one help, including essay reviews, writing support, and more. These services are often on-demand, so adult learners can request tutoring times that work with their flex schedules. You should seek out a program that offers these resources and take full advantage of them.

  • Financial aid advisors: Financial aid advisors can help you plan how you’ll cover the cost of your education. They can provide resources and advice to help you apply for financial aid. They may even direct you to scholarships specifically targeted toward adult learners.

  • Academic advisors: Academic advisors are valuable resources. They can help you choose the right program and courses to meet your career goals. They can also help you fulfill all the degree requirements necessary to graduate when you intend to.

  • Career advisors: A program tailored to adult learners may have career advisors on staff who can help you explore various career paths or advance your career with a resume upgrade and job-hunting tips.

Which of these goals do you think will have a stronger impact? The second goal is an example of a SMART goal. The SMART goal has become a popular tool for effective goal setting.

When it comes to academic advising, a recent study found three key themes define successful advising relationships for adult learners: cultivating trust, comprehensive communication, and clear program documents. These themes highlight the importance of transparency for adult learners. You should have access to all the information you need and to someone who can help you navigate it all.

Different learners may want different levels of support, so it’s helpful to find a program that affords you as much flexibility and autonomy as you’re comfortable with coupled with access to trusted advisors who can assist wherever needed.

Support Through Community

You’ve developed a healthy sense of independence, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Returning to school is a big step, and having a support system can help you take on this challenge with more confidence.

The support of your family and friends is a good starting point, but it’s also helpful to have support from people sharing your experience as an adult learner. Some online education programs may leave you feeling a bit isolated. Programs that foster a sense of community, on the other hand, will enrich the experience and help you learn more.

You’re not alone, so you shouldn’t feel alone.

You may feel alone or like the odd one out as an adult learner, but the reality is that adults over 25 represent roughly 40 percent of enrollment in U.S. higher education. Especially in an online program, you will likely be learning alongside many other adults who share your life experience and can relate to the joys, opportunities, and obstacles of going to college while also parenting, working, or staying involved in other activities.

Community often forms more naturally when you’re taking classes in person, but that doesn’t mean you should assume online programs can’t offer a sense of community. Online programs and courses can promote community in various ways. One way is through a cohort model. This model groups learners together, giving them a pod of peers who move through the program alongside each other.

You will also want to enroll in a program with an institution that prioritizes real connections with faculty and staff. Your instructors and advisors can provide valuable support to help you succeed even when you doubt your abilities or decision to invest in your future.

Learn More About the Best Online College Programs for Adult Learners

Going back to school as an adult is a big step that can come with some apprehension, but you can thrive in the right online program designed with your needs in mind. At Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU), our online programs cater to working adults. We provide robust support for adult learners while respecting your autonomy to work on your schedule.

We have experience developing effective learning programs for adults that can help you advance your knowledge and skills on your terms.

Learn more about our programs and apply today!