Adult Education And The Social Media Revolution

Adult Education and theSocial Media RevolutionTBy Marvin LeNoue, Tom Hall,Myron A. EighmyMarvin LeNoue is an ABD doctoralcandidate in Occupational and AdultEducation at North Dakota StateUniversity, Fargo, ND. He is currentlyserving as an instructor at the Universityof Oregon American English Institute,Eugene, OR. His research interestsinclude technology-enhanced educationdelivery and the use of educationalsocial software. (Email: mlenoue@uoregon. edu)Tom Hall has an Ed. D. in Adult andHigher Education from the Universityof South Dakota. He is currentlyserving as an Assistant Professor in theEducational Leadership Program atNorth Dakota State University, Fargo,ND. His research interests includeadult education in the 21st Century, theimpact of different generational cohortsin today’s workplace, and communityeducation in rural America. (Email: thomas. e. hall@ndsu. edu)Myron A. Eighmy is a professor andprogram coordinator for the EducationDoctoral Program at North Dakota StateUniversity. Research interests includealternative delivery modes, learningcommunities, and graduate studentself-efficacy. (Email: myron. eighmy@ndsu. edu)A4Adult Learninghe advent of Web 2. 0 and the spread of social software tools havecreated new and exciting opportunities for designers of digitally-mediated education programs for adults. Whether working in fully online, blended,or face-to-face learning contexts, instructors may now access technologies thatallow students and faculty to engage in cooperative and collaborative learningdespite being separated in space and time. By supporting the use of interactivemethods and multi-media materials, social software offers educators more waysto engage learners than any preceding educational technology. Social softwarealso empowers curriculum designers to more effectively accommodate manyof the core principles of adult learning than was possible with earlier e-learningtechnologies. This article offers a basic introduction to some new possibilitiesin the design and delivery of digitally-mediated education, and an overview ofthe compatibility between the capabilities of social software and the principlesof adult education. Digitally Mediated LearningSelf-directed learning is largely unconstrained in terms of time andlocation and has traditionally been a primary affordance of distance education(Holmberg, 1995). From its inception, distance education has been marketedas a solution for adults whose occupational, social, and/or family commitmentslimit their ability to pursue educational goals (Holmberg). In the decades sincethe 1970s, demand for distance programs has increased as the globalizationof national economies creates a competitive atmosphere that drives people tobecome life-long learners in order to be successful in the workplace (Merriam,Caffarella, &amp, Baumgartner, 2007). For many people, the term distance education now conjures up images ofcomputers, the Internet, and online learning. In fact, with advances in mobiletechnology, the delineation between computers and various other electronicdevices (e. g. mobile phones, music players, personal digital assistants, digitaltablets) is blurring, and what was once termed e-learning or computer-mediatedlearning has become more commonly referred to as digitally mediated learning(DML). This term implies that a medium for learning is provided by digitaltechnology of some sort, and that interaction between participants and betweenparticipants and learning materials is not direct but rather carried out throughthe technology (Grudin, 2000). The use of networked devices, local networks,and the Internet is a key facet of DML, and online networked technologiesare the delivery systems of choice for distance education offerings (Allen &amp,Seaman, 2006). The accessibility and convenience of online DML is positioning the onlineenvironment as the primary context for adult/post-secondary education andtraining in general (Allen &amp, Seaman, 2007, Kim &amp, Bonk, 2006, McLoughlin&amp, Lee, 2007). A Sloan Foundation study of more than 2,500 colleges anduniversities found online enrollments growing substantially faster than overallhigher education enrollment, and the 17 growth rate in online enrollmentsfar exceeds the 1. 2 growth rate in the overall highereducation population (Allen &amp, Seaman, 2010). Allen andSeaman classified an online course as one in which morethan 80 of content is delivered online and reported thatover 4. 6 million students were taking such courses duringthe fall 2008 term. aspects in a powerful way (Daniel, 2003). Technologyenhanced delivery revolutionizes education by offeringgreatly expanded access to quality educational resourcesdelivered at a much lower per-student cost (Daniel, 2003,Jung, 2005). The Social Media RevolutionDesigners of online education have tendedtoward an emphasis on constructivist modelsWhether working in fully online, blended, or faceof education, with a focus on skills consideredto-face learning contexts, instructors may nowto be essential in a knowledge-based economy,access technologies that allow students andincluding knowledge construction, problemfaculty to engage in cooperative and collaborativesolving, collaborative learning, critical thinking,learning despite being separated in space andand autonomous learning (Bates, 2008, Sanchez,time. 2003). There is a need for delivery systems thatcan maximize learner independence and freedomIby supporting open-enrollment and self-pacedlearning while providing the capabilities for communication and collaboration demanded by constructivistThere has also been a trend toward the use of blendedpedagogies (Anderson, 2005). learning or approaches that combine online and face-toLearning management systems (LMS) that integrateface delivery modes. As part of efforts to enrich students’geographically dispersed learners in asynchronous educalearning experience, maximize efficiencies in time andtional interactions have been widely available for severalfacilities use, and enhance program marketability, manyyears. However, they tend to be institution- and contentinstitutions are increasing their offerings of blendedcentric, lacking in support for the affordances that leadcourses (Mossavar-Rahmani &amp, Larson-Daugherty, 2007). to the establishment of flattened communication networksThis method is becoming increasingly common in K-12,and collaborative information flows (Dalsgaard, 2006,higher education, corporate, healthcare, and governmentalSiemens, 2004), An LMS is well suited for managingtraining settings (Allen, Seaman, &amp, Garrett, 2007, Bonk,student enrollment, exams, assignments, course descripKim, &amp, Zeng, 2005, Watson, 2008). The overall result is ations, lesson plans, messages, syllabi, and basic courseblurring of the boundaries between traditional classificamaterials. However, these systems are developed fortions of instructional approaches. Palloff and Pratt (2007)the management and delivery of learning, not for supcomment on the changes that digitally-mediated deliveryporting the self-governed and problem-based activitieshas wrought on our definition of distance learning: of students. Therefore, an LMS does not easily supportToday we know that distance learning takesa social constructivist approach to digitally-mediatedseveral forms, including fully online courses,learning. It is necessary to move beyond learning manhybrid or blended courses that contain some faceagement systems to engage students in active use of theto-face contact time in combination with onlineweb itself as a resource in self-governed, problem-baseddelivery, and technology-enhanced courses,and collaborative activities (Dalsgaard, 2006). which meet predominantly face-to-face but inWeb 2. 0 technology can facilitate this move. This techcorporate elements of technology into the course,nology consists of Internet applications (small software(p. 3)tools that can deliver active and interactive content toA future is visible in which schooling is dominated bya browser window) that support interaction betweendelivery models that feature multiple instructional modesmobile devices and the Internet, and allow interactivityfluidly combined within the affordances of technologybetween the user, the web, and the tool itself (O’Reilly,enhanced delivery and interaction (Bonk, 2009, Kim &amp,2005). These applications have provided Internet usersBonk, 2006). The scalability of these delivery modelswith the ability to easily create, contribute, communicate,allows for the design of courses that can accommodateand collaborate in the online environment without needlarger numbers of participants than has ever been possiblefor specialized programming knowledge. Applications ofin the past (Siemens &amp, Downes, 2008). As experience withthis type have become known as social media or socialthe operation of mega-universities demonstrates, thesesoftware. Comprised of a suite of tools that can supportmodels combine human, technological, and organizational5 Alearner choice and self-direction (McLoughlin &amp, Lee,2007), social software can be used to create open-endedlearning environments that provide multiple possibilitiesfor activities, and surround the student with differenttools and resources which support the problem-solvingprocess (Dalsgaard, 2006, Land &amp, Hannafin, 1996). Anderson (2008) referred to social software technologyas a new genre of distance education software emergingfrom the intersection between earlier technologies thatgenerally support delivery and engagement with content,and new interactive technologies that support multimodaldigitally-mediated human communication. Social software can &quot,create opportunities for radicallynew conceptions of independence and collaboration indistance education&quot, (Anderson, 2008, p. 169). Social software takes many forms, encompassing butnot limited to (a) groupware, (b) internet forums, (c) onlinecommunities, (d) RSS feeds, (e) wikis, (f) tag-based folksonomies, (g) podcasts, (h) e-mail, (i) weblogs, (j) virtualworlds, (k) social network sites, (1) instant messaging,texting, and microblogging, (m) peer-to-peer media-sharing technologies, and (n) networked gaming (boyd, 2008,Greenhow, Robelia, &amp, Hughes, 2009, McLoughlin &amp, Lee,2007). Well-known applications include Google Groups,Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Second Life,Flickr, and Twitter. The use of social software centers oncontacts between people (Shirky, 2003). Social softwaresupports fluid interaction among people, and betweenpeople and data, that may lead to the creation of usergenerated online content (boyd, 2007). Among social media, social network sites (SNS)are particularly useful in digitally-mediated educationdelivery. SNS are defined by boyd &amp, Ellison (2007) asweb-based services that allow individuals to (a) constructa public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,(b) articulate a list (network) of other users with whomthey share a connection, and (c) view and traverse theirlist of connections and those made by others withinthe system. Although SNS users may be able to meetstrangers online and make connections that would nothave been made otherwise, this networking function isnot the primary feature of these sites. The unique aspectof an SNS is that it allows users to articulate and makevisible their social networks (boyd &amp, Ellison, 2007). In educational contexts, articulation and visibility mayrecede in importance, giving way to other common SNSfeatures including (a) a suite of associated social mediatools that support interaction, communication, and collaboration, (b) provisions for the storage and display ofaudio and video media, and (c) hosting for customizablepersonal profile pages that support the establishment andA6Adult Learningmaintenance of individual presence in the online learningenvironment. A well-designed SNS offers course participants multi-modal and multi-media communication andcontent delivery capabilities that facilitate and stimulatebroad and dense interaction patterns, collaborative information discovery and processing, and multiple-stylelearning opportunities. Andragogy and the Internet AgeAn array of technological media can be an idealeducational tool when correctly deployed within effectiveinstructional designs. However, instructors working intechnology-enhanced learning environments must understand that it does not replace good teaching (Stammen &amp,Schmidt, 2001). To maximize learning, instructors mustbe able to accommodate the needs of a student populationthat is becoming more and more diverse due to factorsincluding increased access to learning, lifelong learningpursuits, recertification needs, immigration, longerlife spans, and better course marketing (Bonk, 2009),Instructors also need to be equipped to meet the demandsof teaching in an age when &quot,the Internet is, inexorably,becoming the dominant infrastructure for knowledge both as a container and as a global platform for knowledgeexchange between people&quot, (Tapscott &amp, Williams, 2010,para. 6). Trainers and educators today will encounter cohortsof learners who have come of age in the presence of theInternet. They make up what Tapscott (1999) termed asthe net generation, and are &quot,forcing a change in the modelof pedagogy, from a teacher-focused approach based oninstruction to a student-focused model based on collaboration&quot, (Tapscott, 2009, p. 11). Students today want toparticipate in the learning process, they look for greaterautonomy, connectivity and socio-experiential learning,have a need to control their environments, and are usedto instant connectivity and easy access to the staggeringamount of content and knowledge available at their fingertips (Johnson, Levine, &amp, Smith, 2009, McLoughlin &amp,Lee, 2007, Oblinger, 2008, Tapscott, 2009). A world increasingly characterized by high digitalconnectivity and a need for life-long, demand-drivenlearning calls for the development of andragogies(Knowles, 1980) specialized to DML environments. Ina context of limitless access to information, instructorsmust take on the role of guides, context providers, andquality controllers while simultaneously helping studentsmake their own contributions to content and evaluationsof the learning experience (Prensky, 2009). Palloff andPratt (2007) note that &quot,In effective online learning, the instructor acts as a facilitator, encouraging students to takecharge of their own learning process&quot, (p. 125). Qualityonline instruction will include learners as active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of instructional content, and frame learning as a participatory,social process intended to support personal life goals andneeds (McLoughlin &amp, Lee, 2007, Tapscott &amp, Williams,2010). Social Software and Adult EducationThe ideals of quality online education as notedabove can be seen to mesh well with the basic principlesof effective adult education. Drawing on the work ofKnowles (1980), Knowles, Holton, and Swanson (2005),Tough (1979), Mezirow (1991 ), and MacKeracher (2004),some of the primary principles of adult education can besummarized: • Adults develop readiness to learn as they experienceneeds and interests within their life situations. • Adult learners in general are autonomous individualscapable of identifying their personal learning needsand planning, carrying out, and assessing learningactivities. • Adults have a need to be self-directing in theirlearning processes. • In adult education, the teacher should be positionedas a facilitator engaged in a process of mutualinquiry rather than as a transmitter of knowledge. • Relationships and collaborations with others makeimportant contributions to the adult learning process. • Adults learn throughout their lifetime and engage inmany informal learning projects outside of educational institutions and programs. • Individual differences among people increase withage, therefore, adult education must make optimalprovision for differences in style, time, and pace oflearning. • Adults bring life experience and prior learningto bear on current learning projects. &quot,As individuals mature, their need and capacity tobe self-directing, to use their experience in learning, toidentify their own readiness to learn, and to organizetheir learning around life problems increases steadily&quot,(Knowles et al. , 2005, p. 62). Adults learn most effectivelywhen new knowledge, understandings, skills, values, andattitudes are presented in the context of application toreal-life situations (Knowles et al. ). Thus, the problembased, constructivist, collaborative approaches to learningthat have become prevalent in online education deliveryare suitable to adult learning styles (Knowles et al. ,Merriam et al. , 2007, Palloff &amp, Pratt, 2003, Täte, 2004). Adults generally adapt well to active roles as co-creatorsof the instructional process, they learn best when they(a) have a role in selecting content and developing thelearning experience, and (b) are able to build immediaterelevance between learning activities and the necessitiesof their daily lives (Knowles, 1980, Täte, 2004). Open-ended learning environments built on the affordances of the Web itself allow for self-direction andindividualized adaptation/creation of content and instruction, while social software use is often centered oncollaboration. For an example, social bookmarking andtagging tools like Delicious allow learners to developand share personalized resource sets, while tools such asGoogle Docs, Wikispaces, and VoiceThread are expresslydesigned to support collaborative work by allowingmultiple users to work together either synchronously orasynchronously in the creation of text documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, and audio/video productions. For adults, learning is an interactive phenomenon,not an isolated internal process (Jarvis, 2006). Adultlearners generally value learning as a way to meet aneed for associations and friendships. They need regularfeedback from peers and instructors, and readily involveothers in their learning projects (Billington, 1996, Lieb,1991, Merriam et al. , 2007, Zemke &amp, Zemke, 1984). Connection, interaction, and dialogue can be consideredcrucial elements of the adult learning context. Theseare also primary aspects of community membership,implying that adult learners are predisposed to favor workand study as members of a community. It is now clearthat learners build and maintain communities of learningin online environments by engaging in many of theprocesses and behaviors associated with offline communities (Haythornthwaite, Kazmer, Robins, &amp, Shoemaker,2004, Kazmer, 2000). These processes and behaviorsinclude (a) sharing common meeting places and histories(e. g. course discussion boards or chat rooms), (b) supporting common goals and commitment to the purposes ofthe community, (c) establishing identity and membershipmarkers and rituals, (d) taking positions iñ hierarchies ofexpertise, and (e) socially constructing rules and behaviors(Haythornthwaite et al. , 2004). Ongoing interaction is the foundational themeunderlying all of these community-building behaviors. The media chosen by instructors as the main meansof contact for the class will play the dominant role inestablishing and shaping the interactions among allclass members (Haythornthwaite &amp, Bregman, 2004). Successful course designs for adult online learning willdeploy tools and activities that facilitate and encourageinteraction (Billington, 1996, Hill, 2001). To this end, aclass social network site built on a platform such as Ning,7 AELGG, or Social Media Classroom, can provide a virtualcommunity space where participants can meet and takepart in various formal and informal interactions centeredon shared learning objectives. This type of social spacecan be a positive component of an online course (Palloff&amp, Pratt, 2003), and can encourage the development of theobject-centered social structures (Engstrom, 2005) thatarise naturally around the content, activities, and learningobjectives that constitute the commonalities shared bycourse participants. Along with providing personal profilepages that afford the establishment of emotional andcognitive presence in the online environment (Dalsgaard,2008, Garrison &amp, Anderson, 2003, Rovai, Ponton, &amp,Baker, 2008), an SNS will commonly include useful communication tools such as chat rooms, discussion boards,support for blogging, and private messaging capabilities,all of which empower extensive interaction. A varied set of presentation tools can support denseinteraction, and allow participants to establish whatHaythomthwaite and Bregman (2004) referred to asvisibility in the online learning environment. From theavailable means of communication, participants mustchoose the mediums through which they will presentthemselves to others in the community. More optionsmean more opportunities for all participants. Accordingto Haythomthwaite &amp, Bregman (2004), it is &quot,importantwhen supporting collaborative activity to provide multiplemeans of communication so that individuals and subgroupswithin the full set of participants can use means that suittheir needs and preferences&quot, (p. 137). Adult learners havefully-developed personas, and are facile and diverse intheir use of self-expression to negotiate social interactions(Knowles, 1980, Merriam et al. , 2007). They will readilymake use of alternative modes of individual expressionincluding choice in the design of personal pages or spaces,the ability to produce and display digital photographs andart forms, the capability to play and share music, and soforth. Instructors must also go beyond text to make useof all available tools and delivery modalities as appropriate to content and context. Meeting the requirement forproviding a diverse set of tools for expression, communication, and content delivery will help ensure a successfulexperience for adult online learners. Informal learning happens naturally in numerousand varied places in the lives of adults as they engagein a wide variety of activities to satisfy needs or providesolutions in everyday life (Merriam et al. , 2007). Adultsare capable of independently choosing and constructingtheir own learning experiences in whole or part, and oftenprefer to do so (Knowles et al. , 2005, Zemke &amp, Zemke,1984). They are self-motivated to engage in the learningA8Adutt Learningprocess to the extent that the learning will help themperform tasks or deal with problems that they confront intheir life situations (Knowles et al. , 2005). Therefore, instructional designs for digitally-mediated learning shouldexploit the adult propensity for self-directed informallearning. This can be accomplished by offering dynamiclearning environments where students may go beyondcontent presented by the instructor to explore, interactwith, comment on, modify, and apply the set content andadditional content they discover or create through thelearning process (Reynard, 2007). Dynamic learning environments can be constructedfrom suites of social software tools by instructorsworking within the Personal Learning Environment(PLE) paradigm. In general, PLEs are digitally-mediatedfront-ends, or what may be thought of as dash-boards orhomepages, that serve as organizers and access pointsthrough which students interact with an online information cloud that offers nearly infinite resources for knowledge-building and training of all sorts. Workable PLEscan be built upon individual participant profile pages on aclass social network site, or around blogs/web pages suchas those offered by Word Press or Blogger. Another possibility is the use of the online portfolio concept, as withDigication, online educational software that combineselements of e-Portfolios and learning networks. An important characteristic of mature learners is thewealth of life experience that they bring to the learningprocess (Knowles, 1980, Knowles et al. , 2005, Merriam etal. , 2007). While this experience is the richest resource fortheir learning, it is also a source of mental habits, biases,and presuppositions that tend to make it difficult for adultsto open up to new ideas, fresh perceptions, and alternativeways of thinking (Knowles et al. ). Mature learners maybe resistant to the use of new technologies. They may alsosimply lack experience, skill, or access. Even youngerstudents, those generalized as the net generation, shouldnot be presumed to be fluent in the tools and techniquesneeded to take advantage of social software. . .

Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution

Read the article “Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution,” available in the eReserves section of the classroom. Pay particular attention to the references these authors make to the works of others. Every citation within this article is essentially a head nod to other authors who have written about the same or similar topics. Were they all in the same room, you could imagine the authors of this article pointing to or calling out those other authors while speaking. This is what we mean when we refer to research and writing as one big conversation, with all of the participants listening and responding to one another. In a discussion post, point to an example from this article and explain how the authors do one of the following: refer to another work in order to give legitimacy to their own point,refer to another work in order to build upon the ideas of others, orrefer to another work in order to challenge that work. Explain why you’ve chosen this example. Then, describe an example from your own life in which you rely upon the work of others to complete a task or accomplish a goal. (This example might be from your workplace, community, or academic life. )

Adult Education and the Social Media Revolution

Question

Adult Education and the
Social Media Revolution

T

By Marvin LeNoue, Tom Hall,
Myron A. Eighmy
Marvin LeNoue is an ABD doctoral
candidate in Occupational and Adult
Education at North Dakota State
University, Fargo, ND. He is currently
serving as an instructor at the University
of Oregon American English Institute,
Eugene, OR. His research interests
include technology-enhanced education
delivery and the use of educational
social software.
(Email: mlenoue@uoregon.edu)
Tom Hall has an Ed. D. in Adult and
Higher Education from the University
of South Dakota. He is currently
serving as an Assistant Professor in the
Educational Leadership Program at
North Dakota State University, Fargo,
ND. His research interests include
adult education in the 21st Century, the
impact of different generational cohorts
in today’s workplace, and community
education in rural America.
(Email: thomas.e. hall@ndsu. edu)
Myron A. Eighmy is a professor and
program coordinator for the Education
Doctoral Program at North Dakota State
University. Research interests include
alternative delivery modes, learning
communities, and graduate student
self-efficacy.
(Email: myron.eighmy@ndsu.edu)

A

4

Adult Learning

he advent of Web 2.0 and the spread of social software tools have
created new and exciting opportunities for designers of digitally-mediated education programs for adults. Whether working in fully online, blended,
or face-to-face learning contexts, instructors may now access technologies that
allow students and faculty to engage in cooperative and collaborative learning
despite being separated in space and time. By supporting the use of interactive
methods and multi-media materials, social software offers educators more ways
to engage learners than any preceding educational technology. Social software
also empowers curriculum designers to more effectively accommodate many
of the core principles of adult learning than was possible with earlier e-learning
technologies. This article offers a basic introduction to some new possibilities
in the design and delivery of digitally-mediated education, and an overview of
the compatibility between the capabilities of social software and the principles
of adult education.

Digitally Mediated Learning
Self-directed learning is largely unconstrained in terms of time and
location and has traditionally been a primary affordance of distance education
(Holmberg, 1995). From its inception, distance education has been marketed
as a solution for adults whose occupational, social, and/or family commitments
limit their ability to pursue educational goals (Holmberg). In the decades since
the 1970s, demand for distance programs has increased as the globalization
of national economies creates a competitive atmosphere that drives people to
become life-long learners in order to be successful in the workplace (Merriam,
Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007).
For many people, the term distance education now conjures up images of
computers, the Internet, and online learning. In fact, with advances in mobile
technology, the delineation between computers and various other electronic
devices (e.g. mobile phones, music players, personal digital assistants, digital
tablets) is blurring, and what was once termed e-learning or computer-mediated
learning has become more commonly referred to as digitally mediated learning
(DML). This term implies that a medium for learning is provided by digital
technology of some sort, and that interaction between participants and between
participants and learning materials is not direct but rather carried out through
the technology (Grudin, 2000). The use of networked devices, local networks,
and the Internet is a key facet of DML, and online networked technologies
are the delivery systems of choice for distance education offerings (Allen &
Seaman, 2006).
The accessibility and convenience of online DML is positioning the online
environment as the primary context for adult/post-secondary education and
training in general (Allen & Seaman, 2007; Kim & Bonk, 2006; McLoughlin
& Lee, 2007). A Sloan Foundation study of more than 2,500 colleges and
universities found online enrollments growing substantially faster than overall
higher education enrollment, and the 17% growth rate in online enrollments

far exceeds the 1.2% growth rate in the overall higher
education population (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Allen and
Seaman classified an online course as one in which more
than 80% of content is delivered online and reported that
over 4.6 million students were taking such courses during
the fall 2008 term.

aspects in a powerful way (Daniel, 2003). Technologyenhanced delivery revolutionizes education by offering
greatly expanded access to quality educational resources
delivered at a much lower per-student cost (Daniel, 2003;
Jung, 2005).

The Social Media Revolution
Designers of online education have tended
toward an emphasis on constructivist models
Whether working in fully online, blended, or faceof education, with a focus on skills considered
to-face learning contexts, instructors may now
to be essential in a knowledge-based economy,
access technologies that allow students and
including knowledge construction, problemfaculty to engage in cooperative and collaborative
solving, collaborative learning, critical thinking,
learning despite being separated in space and
and autonomous learning (Bates, 2008; Sanchez,
time.
2003). There is a need for delivery systems that
can maximize learner independence and freedom
I
by supporting open-enrollment and self-paced
learning while providing the capabilities for communication and collaboration demanded by constructivist
There has also been a trend toward the use of blended
pedagogies (Anderson, 2005).
learning or approaches that combine online and face-toLearning management systems (LMS) that integrate
face delivery modes. As part of efforts to enrich students’
geographically dispersed learners in asynchronous educalearning experience, maximize efficiencies in time and
tional interactions have been widely available for several
facilities use, and enhance program marketability, many
years. However, they tend to be institution- and contentinstitutions are increasing their offerings of blended
centric, lacking in support for the affordances that lead
courses (Mossavar-Rahmani & Larson-Daugherty, 2007).
to the establishment of flattened communication networks
This method is becoming increasingly common in K-12,
and collaborative information flows (Dalsgaard, 2006;
higher education, corporate, healthcare, and governmental
Siemens, 2004), An LMS is well suited for managing
training settings (Allen, Seaman, & Garrett, 2007; Bonk,
student enrollment, exams, assignments, course descripKim, & Zeng, 2005; Watson, 2008). The overall result is a
tions, lesson plans, messages, syllabi, and basic course
blurring of the boundaries between traditional classificamaterials. However, these systems are developed for
tions of instructional approaches. Palloff and Pratt (2007)
the management and delivery of learning, not for supcomment on the changes that digitally-mediated delivery
porting the self-governed and problem-based activities
has wrought on our definition of distance learning:
of students. Therefore, an LMS does not easily support
Today we know that distance learning takes
a social constructivist approach to digitally-mediated
several forms, including fully online courses,
learning. It is necessary to move beyond learning manhybrid or blended courses that contain some faceagement systems to engage students in active use of the
to-face contact time in combination with online
web itself as a resource in self-governed, problem-based
delivery, and technology-enhanced courses,
and collaborative activities (Dalsgaard, 2006).
which meet predominantly face-to-face but inWeb 2.0 technology can facilitate this move. This techcorporate elements of technology into the course,
nology consists of Internet applications (small software
(p. 3)
tools that can deliver active and interactive content to
A future is visible in which schooling is dominated by
a browser window) that support interaction between
delivery models that feature multiple instructional modes
mobile devices and the Internet, and allow interactivity
fluidly combined within the affordances of technologybetween the user, the web, and the tool itself (O’Reilly,
enhanced delivery and interaction (Bonk, 2009; Kim &
2005). These applications have provided Internet users
Bonk, 2006). The scalability of these delivery models
with the ability to easily create, contribute, communicate,
allows for the design of courses that can accommodate
and collaborate in the online environment without need
larger numbers of participants than has ever been possible
for specialized programming knowledge. Applications of
in the past (Siemens & Downes, 2008). As experience with
this type have become known as social media or social
the operation of mega-universities demonstrates, these
software. Comprised of a suite of tools that can support
models combine human, technological, and organizational
5 A

learner choice and self-direction (McLoughlin & Lee,
2007), social software can be used to create open-ended
learning environments that provide multiple possibilities
for activities, and surround the student with different
tools and resources which support the problem-solving
process (Dalsgaard, 2006; Land & Hannafin, 1996).
Anderson (2008) referred to social software technology
as a new genre of distance education software emerging
from the intersection between earlier technologies that
generally support delivery and engagement with content,
and new interactive technologies that support multimodal
digitally-mediated human communication.
Social software can "create opportunities for radically
new conceptions of independence and collaboration in
distance education" (Anderson, 2008, p. 169).
Social software takes many forms, encompassing but
not limited to (a) groupware, (b) internet forums, (c) online
communities, (d) RSS feeds, (e) wikis, (f) tag-based folksonomies, (g) podcasts, (h) e-mail, (i) weblogs, (j) virtual
worlds, (k) social network sites, (1) instant messaging,
texting, and microblogging; (m) peer-to-peer media-sharing technologies, and (n) networked gaming (boyd, 2008;
Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009; McLoughlin & Lee,
2007). Well-known applications include Google Groups,
Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Second Life,
Flickr, and Twitter. The use of social software centers on
contacts between people (Shirky, 2003). Social software
supports fluid interaction among people, and between
people and data, that may lead to the creation of usergenerated online content (boyd, 2007).
Among social media, social network sites (SNS)
are particularly useful in digitally-mediated education
delivery. SNS are defined by boyd & Ellison (2007) as
web-based services that allow individuals to (a) construct
a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,
(b) articulate a list (network) of other users with whom
they share a connection, and (c) view and traverse their
list of connections and those made by others within
the system. Although SNS users may be able to meet
strangers online and make connections that would not
have been made otherwise, this networking function is
not the primary feature of these sites. The unique aspect
of an SNS is that it allows users to articulate and make
visible their social networks (boyd & Ellison, 2007).
In educational contexts, articulation and visibility may
recede in importance, giving way to other common SNS
features including (a) a suite of associated social media
tools that support interaction, communication, and collaboration, (b) provisions for the storage and display of
audio and video media, and (c) hosting for customizable
personal profile pages that support the establishment and
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Adult Learning

maintenance of individual presence in the online learning
environment. A well-designed SNS offers course participants multi-modal and multi-media communication and
content delivery capabilities that facilitate and stimulate
broad and dense interaction patterns, collaborative information discovery and processing, and multiple-style
learning opportunities.

Andragogy and the Internet Age
An array of technological media can be an ideal
educational tool when correctly deployed within effective
instructional designs. However, instructors working in
technology-enhanced learning environments must understand that it does not replace good teaching (Stammen &
Schmidt, 2001). To maximize learning, instructors must
be able to accommodate the needs of a student population
that is becoming more and more diverse due to factors
including increased access to learning, lifelong learning
pursuits, recertification needs, immigration, longer
life spans, and better course marketing (Bonk, 2009),
Instructors also need to be equipped to meet the demands
of teaching in an age when "the Internet is, inexorably,
becoming the dominant infrastructure for knowledge both as a container and as a global platform for knowledge
exchange between people" (Tapscott & Williams, 2010,
para. 6).
Trainers and educators today will encounter cohorts
of learners who have come of age in the presence of the
Internet. They make up what Tapscott (1999) termed as
the net generation, and are "forcing a change in the model
of pedagogy, from a teacher-focused approach based on
instruction to a student-focused model based on collaboration" (Tapscott, 2009, p. 11). Students today want to
participate in the learning process; they look for greater
autonomy, connectivity and socio-experiential learning,
have a need to control their environments, and are used
to instant connectivity and easy access to the staggering
amount of content and knowledge available at their fingertips (Johnson, Levine, & Smith, 2009; McLoughlin &
Lee, 2007; Oblinger, 2008; Tapscott, 2009).
A world increasingly characterized by high digital
connectivity and a need for life-long, demand-driven
learning calls for the development of andragogies
(Knowles, 1980) specialized to DML environments. In
a context of limitless access to information, instructors
must take on the role of guides, context providers, and
quality controllers while simultaneously helping students
make their own contributions to content and evaluations
of the learning experience (Prensky, 2009). Palloff and
Pratt (2007) note that "In effective online learning, the instructor acts as a facilitator, encouraging students to take

charge of their own learning process" (p. 125). Quality
online instruction will include learners as active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of instructional content, and frame learning as a participatory,
social process intended to support personal life goals and
needs (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007; Tapscott & Williams,
2010).

Social Software and Adult Education
The ideals of quality online education as noted
above can be seen to mesh well with the basic principles
of effective adult education. Drawing on the work of
Knowles (1980), Knowles, Holton, and Swanson (2005),
Tough (1979), Mezirow (1991 ), and MacKeracher (2004),
some of the primary principles of adult education can be
summarized:
• Adults develop readiness to learn as they experience
needs and interests within their life situations.
• Adult learners in general are autonomous individuals
capable of identifying their personal learning needs
and planning, carrying out, and assessing learning
activities.
• Adults have a need to be self-directing in their
learning processes.
• In adult education, the teacher should be positioned
as a facilitator engaged in a process of mutual
inquiry rather than as a transmitter of knowledge.
• Relationships and collaborations with others make
important contributions to the adult learning process.
• Adults learn throughout their lifetime and engage in
many informal learning projects outside of educational institutions and programs.
• Individual differences among people increase with
age; therefore, adult education must make optimal
provision for differences in style, time, and pace of
learning.
• Adults bring life experience and prior learning
to bear on current learning projects.
"As individuals mature, their need and capacity to
be self-directing, to use their experience in learning, to
identify their own readiness to learn, and to organize
their learning around life problems increases steadily"
(Knowles et al., 2005, p. 62). Adults learn most effectively
when new knowledge, understandings, skills, values, and
attitudes are presented in the context of application to
real-life situations (Knowles et al.). Thus, the problembased, constructivist, collaborative approaches to learning
that have become prevalent in online education delivery
are suitable to adult learning styles (Knowles et al.;
Merriam et al., 2007; Palloff & Pratt, 2003; Täte, 2004).
Adults generally adapt well to active roles as co-creators

of the instructional process; they learn best when they
(a) have a role in selecting content and developing the
learning experience, and (b) are able to build immediate
relevance between learning activities and the necessities
of their daily lives (Knowles, 1980; Täte, 2004).
Open-ended learning environments built on the affordances of the Web itself allow for self-direction and
individualized adaptation/creation of content and instruction, while social software use is often centered on
collaboration. For an example, social bookmarking and
tagging tools like Delicious allow learners to develop
and share personalized resource sets, while tools such as
Google Docs, Wikispaces, and VoiceThread are expressly
designed to support collaborative work by allowing
multiple users to work together either synchronously or
asynchronously in the creation of text documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, and audio/video productions.
For adults, learning is an interactive phenomenon,
not an isolated internal process (Jarvis, 2006). Adult
learners generally value learning as a way to meet a
need for associations and friendships. They need regular
feedback from peers and instructors, and readily involve
others in their learning projects (Billington, 1996; Lieb,
1991; Merriam et al., 2007; Zemke & Zemke, 1984).
Connection, interaction, and dialogue can be considered
crucial elements of the adult learning context. These
are also primary aspects of community membership,
implying that adult learners are predisposed to favor work
and study as members of a community. It is now clear
that learners build and maintain communities of learning
in online environments by engaging in many of the
processes and behaviors associated with offline communities (Haythornthwaite, Kazmer, Robins, & Shoemaker,
2004; Kazmer, 2000). These processes and behaviors
include (a) sharing common meeting places and histories
(e.g. course discussion boards or chat rooms), (b) supporting common goals and commitment to the purposes of
the community, (c) establishing identity and membership
markers and rituals, (d) taking positions iñ hierarchies of
expertise, and (e) socially constructing rules and behaviors
(Haythornthwaite et al., 2004).
Ongoing interaction is the foundational theme
underlying all of these community-building behaviors.
The media chosen by instructors as the main means
of contact for the class will play the dominant role in
establishing and shaping the interactions among all
class members (Haythornthwaite & Bregman, 2004).
Successful course designs for adult online learning will
deploy tools and activities that facilitate and encourage
interaction (Billington, 1996; Hill, 2001). To this end, a
class social network site built on a platform such as Ning,
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ELGG, or Social Media Classroom, can provide a virtual
community space where participants can meet and take
part in various formal and informal interactions centered
on shared learning objectives. This type of social space
can be a positive component of an online course (Palloff
& Pratt, 2003), and can encourage the development of the
object-centered social structures (Engstrom, 2005) that
arise naturally around the content, activities, and learning
objectives that constitute the commonalities shared by
course participants. Along with providing personal profile
pages that afford the establishment of emotional and
cognitive presence in the online environment (Dalsgaard,
2008; Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Rovai, Ponton, &
Baker, 2008), an SNS will commonly include useful communication tools such as chat rooms, discussion boards,
support for blogging, and private messaging capabilities,
all of which empower extensive interaction.
A varied set of presentation tools can support dense
interaction, and allow participants to establish what
Haythomthwaite and Bregman (2004) referred to as
visibility in the online learning environment. From the
available means of communication, participants must
choose the mediums through which they will present
themselves to others in the community. More options
mean more opportunities for all participants. According
to Haythomthwaite & Bregman (2004), it is "important
when supporting collaborative activity to provide multiple
means of communication so that individuals and subgroups
within the full set of participants can use means that suit
their needs and preferences" (p. 137). Adult learners have
fully-developed personas, and are facile and diverse in
their use of self-expression to negotiate social interactions
(Knowles, 1980; Merriam et al., 2007). They will readily
make use of alternative modes of individual expression
including choice in the design of personal pages or spaces,
the ability to produce and display digital photographs and
art forms, the capability to play and share music, and so
forth. Instructors must also go beyond text to make use
of all available tools and delivery modalities as appropriate to content and context. Meeting the requirement for
providing a diverse set of tools for expression, communication, and content delivery will help ensure a successful
experience for adult online learners.
Informal learning happens naturally in numerous
and varied places in the lives of adults as they engage
in a wide variety of activities to satisfy needs or provide
solutions in everyday life (Merriam et al., 2007). Adults
are capable of independently choosing and constructing
their own learning experiences in whole or part, and often
prefer to do so (Knowles et al., 2005; Zemke & Zemke,
1984). They are self-motivated to engage in the learning
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process to the extent that the learning will help them
perform tasks or deal with problems that they confront in
their life situations (Knowles et al., 2005). Therefore, instructional designs for digitally-mediated learning should
exploit the adult propensity for self-directed informal
learning. This can be accomplished by offering dynamic
learning environments where students may go beyond
content presented by the instructor to explore, interact
with, comment on, modify, and apply the set content and
additional content they discover or create through the
learning process (Reynard, 2007).
Dynamic learning environments can be constructed
from suites of social software tools by instructors
working within the Personal Learning Environment
(PLE) paradigm. In general, PLEs are digitally-mediated
front-ends, or what may be thought of as dash-boards or
homepages, that serve as organizers and access points
through which students interact with an online information cloud that offers nearly infinite resources for knowledge-building and training of all sorts. Workable PLEs
can be built upon individual participant profile pages on a
class social network site, or around blogs/web pages such
as those offered by Word Press or Blogger. Another possibility is the use of the online portfolio concept, as with
Digication, online educational software that combines
elements of e-Portfolios and learning networks.
An important characteristic of mature learners is the
wealth of life experience that they bring to the learning
process (Knowles, 1980; Knowles et al., 2005; Merriam et
al., 2007). While this experience is the richest resource for
their learning, it is also a source of mental habits, biases,
and presuppositions that tend to make it difficult for adults
to open up to new ideas, fresh perceptions, and alternative
ways of thinking (Knowles et al.). Mature learners may
be resistant to the use of new technologies. They may also
simply lack experience, skill, or access. Even younger
students, those generalized as the net generation, should
not be presumed to be fluent in the tools and techniques
needed to take advantage of social software…