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:


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.