Apr 11 2017

3 Ways to Leverage Technology to Help Nontraditional Students

For older learners in particular, tech can be a great tool if used properly.

Nearly half of the students enrolled in higher education are considered nontraditional. For a quarter of them, this nontraditional aspect is that they are over the age of 30, NPR reports.

In spite of the large amount of older students who are enrolled, an article on Forbes reports that no matter what kind of degree they are seeking, older students are completing them at lower rates than their peers.

Just as technology can do a lot for today’s “traditional” students, universities can leverage it successfully to help those who are a bit older complete their degrees.

1. Adaptive Tech and Flipped Learning Create Flexibility

For National Louis University in the Chicago area, adaptive learning programs that alter the education experience to suit individuals have been one way it’s trying to increase undergraduate degree completion.

“We wanted quality options for students who have traditionally struggled in academic settings,” says Aarti Dhupelia, NLU’s vice president of strategic initiatives, in an Acrobatiq article.

Because these tools are cloud-based, the article reports that students have more flexibility with their schedules. The flipped learning model, where students come into class on a less frequent basis, also boosts face-to-face collaboration while remaining flexible.

2. App-Based Communities and Social Media Create Support

For a Gates Foundation study, nine community colleges used an app to help connect students with each other. The study found that students using the app had higher GPAs and rates of continued enrollment. For older students, however, the app had the benefit of fostering community.

“In particular, their posts tended to be of a more personal nature, exposing their emotions and vulnerabilities,” reads the study. “They used the app to seek connection with others similar to themselves and to offer guidance to others in similar circumstances.”

Southern Illinois University, which was honored earlier this year for its stellar nontraditional student programs, has also leveraged social technology like social media and videos to help create “a sense of belonging and a culture of success in this diverse group of students.”

3. Tech Initiatives Should Consider Learner Skills

A recent Pew Research Center study found that when it comes to learning technology, adult learners run the gamut in terms of digital readiness.

Those who are 50 and older are more likely to not recognize technology used as a tool for learning, and those in their 30s and 40s are confident using tech but not familiar with online class structure.

As schools look to roll out technology university-wide, Dave Doucette, director of West Coast higher education sales for CDW•G, writes that schools must really consider the needs of all their students.

“[Universities] need to recognize that different generations may approach technology in distinct ways, and that has implications for new rollouts.”


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