Trends and Roles (3100)

Managing the Overwhelmed Adult Learner

It has been several years since I last took a course online. During the time I was away

from online learning, technology has exploded at a rate I simply have not kept up with!

Being a little out of touch would be an understatement as I am not savvy with the multiple

forms of social media nor have I tried to understand them. Welcome to the Provincial

Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) and the instant requirement to familiarize myself

with new modes of communication used in online learning and teaching on a go forward

basis. Instant Stress!


My learning partner and I chose the topic of the educator’s role in managing the

online adult learner who may be feeling inundated with work, family, social and

school responsibilities. The cyber anxiety and adjusting to working in isolation create

a learner that is in need of an educator’s attention. There are a variety of ways the

online educator can promote success so we chose this topic to explore.


New Insights

Online teaching and learning can be defined as a method of instruction that is

delivered using the internet.   Instruction is given in real-time (live chats, audio and video

conferencing) and/or anytime, anywhere interactions (e-mail, threaded discussions, file

sharing).  It is fair to say, the use of this technology in learning is just the way our future is

unfolding. As a result, online learning can be anxiety provoking for any type of student but

particularly so for the adult learner who is typically managing several roles (spouse,

parent, employee) and may have limited familiarity with the array of applications that may

be required in online course content. To accommodate, educator’s have responded by

expanding their role in the learning process that takes into consideration these factors.


So what are the identified stressors associated with online learning? Typically, the

student is working in isolation which is very different from traditional classroom learning

where interaction is ongoing. As a result, communication, or lack of, can be stressful. If

instructor response time to assignments or questions is delayed or infrequent, anxiety

peaks and learning can be impacted.   This mode of learning requires a significant amount

of reading and writing. For many, the requirement to type most interactions (emails,

postings and blogs) can be far more time consuming to complete which only creates

additional pressure. As for technology, it is constantly changing. If a learner is not familiar

with a form of media being used, cyber anxiety is ignited.


Managing the overwhelmed online student, particularly in the area of cyber anxiety,

has gradually become an expected part of the educator’s role. Thus creating an ongoing

need to refine the way instruction is provided. To do this, educators are now responsible to

adequately assess and prepare the learner. It is no longer enough for instructors to simply

prepare a lesson plan with learning objectives, deliverables, methods and expected

outcomes. Online teaching requires a student preparation phase in lesson planning. This

would include assessing the current level of comfort and experience with technology,

outlining in detail the required hardware and technical expertise required for success in

the course.  In addition, the student preparation phase must include clear course

requirements such as a course outline, expectations, timelines and teacher availability in

order to create a solid foundation for the learner. However, beyond these basics, educators

must ensure guidelines for accessing technical support are clear and that there is the

opportunity for students to engage in tutorials if not familiar with the requirements.

Lastly, the role of supporting the student is pivotal for student success online. To do this

well, educators might feel they need to be available 24/7 but many role models suggest

offering set ‘office hours’ via synchronous tools which allow students real-time response to

their concerns.


My online experience has provided insight to managing the overwhelmed adult

learner. The role educators are playing in online teaching appears to be evolving and

changing in response to students needs through ongoing class experiences.



In an effort to assist online students to feel connected with their learning community,

educators are engaging the use of synchronous tools such as chat rooms and online

conferencing. These tools enhance participation, provide support to the learner, offer a

venue for sharing information, brainstorming, and discussion (Kosalka, 2010). The use of

these tools help make the classroom ‘real’ which often provides a better sense of

attachment for the student and has shown to improve learner engagement with

asynchronous tools also being used in online course delivery.


Also trending in this area is a role change where the professional is focused on

providing support and navigating the content and methods students use to understand the

material. Educators are placing a greater focus on assisting the student to take more

ownership of their learning which is in line with our knowledge based society of learners

who want to apply more critical thinking, independent learning and acquisition of new and

more challenging technology.   With this change it has become evident that students are

engaging in a more supportive role with fellow learners through social media,

discussion/study groups, or online study groups that are overseen by a professional who

can guide and respond to issues as they arise.


As we know the use of technology in online education today continues to increase as

new applications arise. However, the latest trend is placing less of a focus on using

technology to deliver the content and more on using technology to support and encourage

students manage their learning. For those with cyber anxiety issues, the addition of this

type of support is critical and will be the essential ingredient for success in online



In my role as an educator I plan to stay in touch with the trends related to readiness to

learn and potential learner anxieties. It was a valuable learning for me to experience the

feeling of being overwhelmed in a world of technology I was not familiar with. For me the

significant learning is that a comprehensive student preparation phase is essential and will

be incorporated in my lesson planning.


Value in Web-Conference

Web-conferencing for the purpose of this assignment was invaluable.  Feeling very

isolated and unsure of my thoughts, I was relieved my partner was feeling some of the

same stress related to the volume of work, comfort level with technology and timelines.

Because of this we were able to talk through our ideas and found clarification in a

comfortable environment. I really appreciated how the Skype session made the course feel

it had a human component not just words posted on a screen and as a result, I was

encouraged to complete the task.


A valuable point raised related to the overwhelmed adult learner was to recognize

that in an intimidating environment such as video conferencing, educators must recognize

that adult learners, need to be given more time to respond. They generally fear

embarrassment and therefore might need a little more time to compose a thought or to

reply in real time situations.   Additionally, it is essential that their contributions are

recognized which is a key learning for an instructor to be aware of.


Reflecting on my experience with the online student preparation phase provided by

VCC School of Instructor Education following this research, I recognize how thorough

the content and prep work was. Personally, I think more attention could be given to

relieving cyber anxiety through optional tutorials on related course requirements (creating

a blog, links,uploading etc.), but overall the SIE sets a really good example to draw from in

my future as an online educator.


About bevstanwood

I am a student of VCC's Provincial Instructor Diploma Program. I began the program in July 2015 and am currently working on course content that requires posting my assignments, journal entries and resources on a personal blog site.
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