Every adult learner is different, but many of them share common concerns about their ability to  handle going to college while also holding down a job. Some fear they simply are too old to earn a degree. Understanding these concerns among adult learners – and how to get past them – is part of andragogy, a term that refers to the science and practice of teaching adult learners. 

Millions of adult learners have earned a college degree after entering the work world. Each provides a real-world example of how it is possible to succeed when entering an online college degree program as a working adult.  

Point Park University offers a variety of online degree programs that appeal to adult learners looking for flexibility in their college education. And the number of such learners is expected to continuing growing. An estimated 6.6 million college students are adult learners, about 35% of all students enrolled in college.  

The Theory of Andragogy 

Much of what constitutes the theory of andragogy came from Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, the educator and researcher who established the term in the first place. Knowles, who taught at Boston University and other institutions, developed six assumptions about adult learners.  

  • Need to know: Adults need to know why there is a need for learning something. 
  • Foundation: Experience is the basis for learning activities 
  • Self-concept: Adults want responsibility for decisions on their education 
  • Readiness: Adults have the most interest in subjects with immediate relevance to their work 
  • Orientation: Adult learners want an education that is problem-centered rather than content-oriented 
  • Motivation: Adults respond better to internal motivators rather than external motivators 

Keeping these motivations can help educators who focus on andragogy better at their jobs. It also provides a framework for what adult learners should look for when researching academic institutions that offer online degree programs. 

Common Questions For Adult Learners 

While every student is different, these are some of the concerns adult learners often voice. Those engaged in andragogy will likely hear these concerns over the course of their career. Below are factors both they and adult learners should keep in mind. 

Will I Have The Time? 

Universities developed online classes with working people in mind. One of the major advantages of online college degree programs is that they allow you to schedule study time around your professional and personal schedule. You don’t need to take the time to drive to a campus to go to class. You just end an internet connection and a computer. 

Will I Be Able to Balance School, Work and Family?  

One of the best adult learning strategies is to develop time management skills that help balance  all aspects of life with pursuing a degree. Many think they cannot accomplish everything they need to accomplish, but it’s possible if they approach education with a plan that incorporates balance. Online learning offers the control needed to better manage time issues. 

Will I Be Able to Navigate the Online Classroom? 

Technology used to scare off many adult learners, although today that is no longer the case with as many students. That’s because people of all ages have gotten used to working with technology in both their professional and personal lives. That said, you don’t have to be a computer whiz or even great with a smartphone to learn what you need to know about working with an online learning system. Adult learners also get support from Point Park University advisors who work with them to ensure they have a compatible computer system and understand how to navigate the learning system. 

Am I Too Old to Learn? 

It’s just the opposite. Even the most educated people who earned college degrees at a young age continue to learn. You are never too old to learn something. You also are never too old to achieve your educational dreams and earn the college degree you always wanted. You carry a wealth of knowledge through experience that you might not even realize you have – your contributions will be valued.