Higher education can provide both measurable and intangible returns, such as a greater lifetime income, increased personal fulfillment, societal benefits, and more. However, it can be easy for adult students to lose sight of these outcomes while in a higher education program due to the financial costs, decreased time spent with friends and family, and the stress of balancing coursework with one’s other responsibilities. For institutions to retain their adult learners, it’s important that they incorporate support strategies throughout the student journey that keep these students engaged and remind them about the future payoffs of their commitments and sacrifices.
Adult learners have many reasons for pursuing higher education (see The Four Types of Adult Learners to learn more about their different types of behaviors, motivations, and needs), and it’s important for colleges and universities to understand these reasons in order to provide the right support.
Below are five major factors that can affect adult students’ engagement and persistence throughout a program. While some may seem obvious, pay close attention — these unique factors can have direct service implications on actions institutions should take to support and engage their students.
COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS
EFFECTIVE PROGRAM DESIGN AND DELIVERY
THE BOUNCE-BACK EFFECT
SUPPORT QUALITY AND AVAILABILITY
Adult learners are different from traditional students. By putting plans, resources, and strategies in place to meet their specific needs, institutions have a much better chance of encouraging them to finish, even in the face of potential challenges and setbacks. To learn more about who these learners are and their specific needs, see our infographic, The Four Kinds of Adult Learners.
To get more insight on the needs, motivations, and expectations of different generations of adult learners, check out this article. To learn more about other commonly asked online learning questions, check out our resources page for additional suggestions and information.