Tips for a successful online learning experience

  1. Look for courses that apply to your real-life experiences. Topics can be fun, like a hobby you want to explore, or they can be relevant to your profession. Many adult learners seek educational experiences that relate specifically to their career goals. So if you are still in the workforce (or want to return), speak to your employer or other professionals to get an idea of what skills and knowledge are valued. Then look for courses that have a self-assessment built in so you can monitor your progress and understanding of the subject. A certificate or other proof of completion may also be an impressive addition to your resume. A good rule of thumb is to avoid courses that provide no real-world transferable or otherwise useful knowledge or skills.
  2. Determine how much ‘stick–to–itiveness” you have and try to get some good intelligence about the level of expertise of the course instructor. You’re not a kid anymore and your time is valuable. If the outcomes promised by a course instructor sound too good to be true, they probably are. ‘Google’ the course facilitator to see if they are who they say they are. Find a trustworthy online course and you’ll be more likely to see it to completion.
  3. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a pretty motivated individual. To that end, look for courses that offer an environment of “exploration” rather than a passive learning experience. You’ll learn more by doing than by watching and listening. Many courses are adding in a component of gamification; that is they incorporate the engaging elements of online games that help you solve problems related to the subject you’re studying. Others may involve storytelling and asking students to share their own experiences rather than relying strictly on lectures full of statistics and charts.
  4. As an adult, you’ll see a better outcome from a course where you’re actually doing rather than memorizing, so choose one that relates to your personal experiences or ties the subject matter to real-world situations.


When it comes to generational differences between you and younger students, don’t worry – you’re not alone. There has been an explosion of adults returning to college over the past decade. More than six million adults attend college in the United States and the average age of  college students continues to rise. You will almost certainly not be the only adult in the class and even if it turns out that your online teacher is younger than you, you may be helping that instructor gain more experience as you do the same!

The reasons for this growth in adult learners are numerous: changing demands in the workforce; the need to learn new job skills or to update existing ones; employer requirements to secure certification; pursuit of a new career path; or simply a desire to grow on a personal level.

The evolution of how higher education is delivered is another contributing factor. The internet has opened doors for many new adult learners. Online access has made furthering an education much more convenient, allowing people with busy work schedules, family commitments and other responsibilities the opportunity to learn without traditional barriers of time and proximity. With the growing affordability of new technology like high-speed internet and Wi-Fi, new tools like laptops, tablets, and mobile devices, and innovative instructional delivery methods, online learning is getting better all the time.

For a comprehensive Q&A to help you debunk the myths and understand the realities of eLearning for the adult learner, READ ON>