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Title: From face-to-face to online learning : the experiences and perceptions of non-traditional students
Authors: Vancell, Joseph
Keywords: Adult learning
Distance education
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Academic Conferences International Limited
Citation: Vancell, J. (2018). From face-to-face to online learning : the experiences and perceptions of non-traditional students. International Conference of e-Learning
Abstract: There are great concerns about the sustainability of welfare systems and the supply of labour in many European member states due to increasingly aging populations. In the past decade, urged by the European Commission, national governments have tried to motivate more workers to remain in employment beyond their retirement age through various incentives and initiatives that included a more widespread provision of continuous education and training programmes. However, older workers face many challenges to attend classroom-based courses because of their employment, social and family commitments. They want courses that offer more accessibility and flexibility. Online courses can, in part, answer this demand. The transition from face-to-face education to online learning however presents many challenges. This paper attempts to identify these challenges and barriers by exploring the findings of a grounded theory investigation of an online course by the University of Malta. It reports on the students' experiences and perceptions of their transition from local face-to-face education characterised by schooling practices that are dominated by the transmission of knowledge teaching model, to an online course that uses methodologies inspired by constructivist learning theories. The findings indicate that this shift from brick-and-mortar to online courses may be problematic for non-traditional students who grew up, were educated and worked in a society where banking education practices are pervasive if this shift is not well-planned, gradual and involves a process of scaffolding. In this process, the instructor must play a central and determining role. Through his or her presence, the instructor must create activities, in which dialogue is a key element. These activities must create adequate social and cognitive presences in order to sustain an active and democratic community of enquiry. It is also essential that each student's motivation is maintained through constant communication and formative assessment tasks, and, above all, the students are treated as adults and their prior knowledge and experiences are built into the course.
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