Trends in Adult Education – Part 1

I have been researching trends in adult education and have found that the work being done on virtual reality learning platforms and delivery of instruction are extremely interesting and opens up doors to rich learning experience never before available to distance learners.

The trend that I am most interest in is the use of 3D technology in learning environments.

When considering the impact of that trend I came across an article about “Dales Cone of Experience”, by Heidi Milia Anderson, Ph.D.,Assistant Dean for Education Innovation, University of Kentucky writes about the work done by Edgar Dale during the 1960’s.  She describes how his theory “reveals that “action-learning” techniques result in up to 90% retention”.

Dale developed a model of a cone that emphasized that the greatest learning impact is realized when the individual goes through the real experience of the learning activity.  The advent of virtual reality and use of 3D to allow the learner to immerse themselves into the learning experience aligns with Dale’s theory.  The depth and breadth of the retention of learning is displayed in the diagram below.


Why is this important?

With the advent of 3D experiential learning tools (Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR etc) movement towards use of the virtual reality environment as a mainstream channel for learning is upon us.

In the online article “When virtual reality meets education” (TechCrunch January 23, 2016) authors Elizabeth Reede and Larissa Bailiff explain:

google cardboard1
Google Cardboard

“Despite the fact that VR is still developing, real progress has been seen in the economic scaling of the technology. The cost to the consumer of VR hardware (headsets, in particular) has steadily declined, as noted in the head­-mounted displays (HMDs) commercially available today: Google Cardboard for $20 and Samsung Gear VR for $99 (at this writing, Oculus Rift, a desktop VR device, is available for pre­-order for $599).”

What does this mean to any learner? Affordability and accessibility.  Of course the educational content in the virtual space is still evolving and growing, however I think this single technological trend has huge implications for the future of adult education.

I know as an adult learner, for instance, learning how to use a new piece of software – I can sit in a classroom and watch an instructor demonstrate a particular feature of task that can be done with the software.  Until I sit down and use it, hands on, more often than not I will not retain the information from the classroom for any length of time.  I have to play with it.  I find that my learning is enhanced when I can experience the learning activity through multiple sensory channels.  If I write something down, and say it out loud at the same time — it helps with retention.  If I need to remember a name sometimes I will move my hands a certain way such as cross my fingers — then when I need to recall the name (and I cross my fingers again) it will come to me.  It is almost like I have sensory triggers that will work with me when I am trying to learn something new.

I like to listen to music when I am studying, and when I am doing art work  (I paint and draw).  I find in both cases the music will immerse me in the current moment and will provide a richer experience — and in the case of learning something, help me to recall something I have read, or heard.  I have also, as a learning strategy, tape recorded information and played it back while doing mundane activities.

How does my learning style fit with cutting edge technology?  I have not had an opportunity to use 3D Occulus, or Google cardboard VR goggles, however I think the ability to become immersed in the experience of something you are trying to learn particularly for distance learners is HUGE. provides a variety of links to virtual reality resources you can check out.

For every opportunity there are risks however, and one that bears mention is something called “cybersickness”.  As noted in the article “Feeling Woozy? It May be Cyber Sickness”  author Kate Murphy observes “Apple had to add extra accessibility settings to its mobile operating system to allow users to tone down the visual stimuli. And executives at Oculus V.R., makers of the much-anticipated virtual reality headset Oculus Rift (the company was purchased by Facebook last year for $2 billion), have said digital motion sickness is one of their biggest hurdles.

Here is a short video about the strategies being considered to deal with this very real problem.

It is indeed a brave new world we approach when it comes to adapting VR to mainstream adult education however I think the promise and potential is significant and I look forward to watching how this piece of technology revolutionizes both traditional classroom and distance education.

As part of my learning activity within PIDP 3100, I will be working with a learning partner who will also be looking at trends.  We will consider implications and the impact or “aha” moments we experienced working on this assignment.

In my next post I will take the trends we identified, one being virtual reality I explored above, and consider the implications they will have for me, in the role of instructor and how I would prepare  to adapt and or embrace these trends in adult education.

How would I use virtual reality as an educator?

References: accessed April 24, 2017 accessed April 24, 2017  accessed April 24, 2017 accessed April 24, 2017

Cone of learning image from:


Maslow – Hierarchy of Needs

Maslows-hierarchy-of-needs is associated with the Humanist Theory of Adult Learning.   As part of my course work in PIDP 3100 we are looking at a variety of theories and this one really resonates for me.  Some of my web surfing led me to a brief summary of Humanist theorists at

maslows-hierarchy-of-needsThe diagram at the left reflects the stages Maslow developed to describe the evolutionary path the adult learner travels.  Note, the foundation is based on physical and personal safety needs (food/clothing/shelter then safety).  It is after those needs are addressed that the engagement with community and “belongingness” becomes important to the individual.  I think this theory is very important because if an individual does not feel safe, is worried where the next meal is going to come from, and does not have a safe place to sleep, refresh and prepare for the next day they will be very distracted by these basis needs not being met — it will eclipse any opportunity presented in a learning environment and result in lower performance and potentially no engagement by the students — child or adult.  My first reflective assignment for PIDP 3100 focuses on the humanist learning theories – an area of great interest for me.  On future blog entries I will be writing a little more about the work of Carl Rogers – another noted Humanist.

Thoughts on self-directed learning


What a concept……do it yourself learning!  Not really – we do it everyday when we face a new experience or activity.  That said, for adult learners there are a few considerations that will enhance a situation where they are in a self directed learning environment.  It isn’t just the channel where information flows – demonstrated by my home grown diagram above, rather it is the structure, which can be self managed that will enhance the learning outcomes.  I was looking at an article from the University of Waterloo  about the Self directed learning four step process.

They touch on a template for activity that includes:

  • Being ready to learn.
  • Setting learning goals.
  • Engaging in the learning process.
  • Evaluating learning.

The author observes that successful outcomes are supported by both the student and the instructor subscribing to specific responsibilities.

In another article about Self Directed learning by K. Cercone, the following observation is made:

“According to Lieb (1991), since adults tend to be autonomous and self
directed, they need to be free to direct themselves. To enable this to occur, instructors should actively involve the participants in the learning process and be facilitators for this process. The instructor should only serve as a guide. However, the instructor needs to provide the appropriate framework to allow this growth to occur.”
Cercone observes that the educational environment needs to be designed to meet the needs of the adult learner.  The article explores adult learning theories along with the development of on-line courses and the importance of incorporating a a social element in the on-line learning experience.  I see the blog assignment in 3100 as aligning with the social side of the educational experience.  One of our assignments is to work with a partner and develop a blog post specific to trends in adult education — this bring an offline and an online connection as part of the learning experience.  The article linked above is an interesting, relevant read.
Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design, AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159.

The beauty of continuous enrollment

Spring has sprung — albeit it very much delayed in the BC Lower Mainland!  tulips Deb I am enrolled in another PIDP course — 3100 Foundations of Adult Education.  Thanks to the continuous enrollment model used at Vancouver Community College, I have the flexibility of starting this course any time, as well as straying from a traditional “take this one, then this one, then this one….”.  Not to diminish or discount an orderly approach to education, as an individual preference — the ability to take a course that fits in with the program but also can stand alone on its own is a stellar feature of my experience with the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

Today, I bring the image of the spring tulips to my page for a few reasons:

  1. The tulips have areas of transparency — in these spots the petals allow the light to shine through and you can see the individual details and texture of the petal.  You can understand and appreciate the complexity and structure of the petal.  I compare this to a learning situation where some things are readily apparent, the detail of the subject is clear and easy to understand — in fact you may already have a deep understanding of that particular element or component of a broader subject.
  2. The tulips have areas where they overlap.  These are areas where the light does not pass through as easily and the details are obscured between the 1st and 2nd petal layers.  This represents the rest of the learning situation i.e. the stuff you really don’t know, or at least do not have a rich understanding — in the same way you would have the understanding and knowledge from the single petal described above.

What does this mean for me right now?  As a life-long learner, I know there are things I truly know, things I think I know, and things I don’t have a clue about.  The things I don’t have a clue about falls in the category of “you don’t know what you don’t know”.  Being somewhat longer in the tooth, with lots of life experience it is important for me to always respect the element of “not knowing” and be safe and comfortable in that space.  To open oneself up to learning you need to allow a certain amount of vulnerability into the space — and be comfortable being “uncomfortable” with not “knowing”.  As I continue to work on the PIDP program I consistently find nuggets of information that reinforce my beliefs or direct my attention to new ways of thinking.  I am keenly interested in how people learn, what empowers people to break through learning plateaus (those “aha” moments), and building confidence in adults to move forward in their lives.  The old saying “what do you want to be when you grow up” I think stays with a person forever — after all aren’t we all just children inside bigger bodies? — we just learned strategies to communicate and present ourselves in the adult world 🙂

So, I am still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and having fun along the way.  Part of the adventure is to never stop learning and to be open to new ideas and concepts — just when you think you have things figured out, something else comes along to make you think some more, re-evaluate your beliefs and maybe reconsider what you previously held to be as “true”.  As I say to my friends — “if you come from a place of curiosity, you can never go wrong”.  That approach gets judgements out of the way and positions your mind to open up to new concepts and approaches in any situation.

I encourage any new students starting out with PIDP 3100 to embrace the blog journey and have fun with it!