As an instructor, one of the barriers to engaging adults in the learning process is making their learning relevant. While comfort with new technology often correlates with age, is it possible that requiring technology-use in the learning process could create additional relevance for the adult learner?
In Building Community and Creating Relevance in the Online Classroom authors Erickson and Neset identify the importance of regular communication, and creating relevance through current events, online content and social media:
Students crave relevance, so consider connecting the unit material to current affairs. Share links to news stories, Twitter feeds, or articles that make the learning material applicable to life outside the classroom. If you teach business, marketing, public relations, among others, there are numerous opportunities to wrap an assignment or discussion around the public movements (or missteps) of high-profile companies. If you can make it applicable, you can even use celebrity news stories, as students enjoy hearing about this type of material. Perhaps there is a poetry slam or book reading you’d like your students to attend. Maybe a future art exhibit is relevant to your content or a well-known speaker is giving a lecture on campus. All of these strategies keep students apprised of current events and demonstrate your efforts to connect their classroom with the real world. Sharing this information via e-communication frees up valuable classroom time that you can spend engaging students in the content of course material rather than administrative details.
The commentary on technology in adult learning has caused me to reflect critically on the classroom, pen and paper learning format. Technology offers new strategies for engaging and providing relevance for learners.