How Technology Enables Online Learning

Adult education is an incredibly broad field, encompassing pretty much any and all adult learning opportunity outside of the conventional college system. Like other educational systems, adult education institutions are striving to stay current in the face of technological advancement. One way they have chosen to do this is via online learning.

Adult education online can take many forms: GED or literacy training, career training, professional development, or personal enrichment. Regardless of which type of adult education you need, most online education programs incorporate some or all of the following elements, either through separate services or unified in one platform (such as Blackboard, Ed2Go, or Moodle):

Email

Chances are you already have an email account of some kind. There are myriad free email services available, and most are so simple that someone with only basic computer skills can successfully utilize them. When you enroll in an adult education online program, you will use your email account to register with the content delivery platform.

Email will probably be the main form of communication between you and the school/instructor. Registration confirmation, important documents, schedules, and notices about class events will all come via e-mail. Some of this information will probably be available on the course homepage, resource page, or forum page. The instructor and other students may communicate with you directly via email or through a native messaging service incorporated into the content-delivery platform.

Content-Delivery Platform

Every virtual class needs a virtual classroom. The online content-delivery system is that classroom. Content-delivery systems are places for instructors to make learning materials available. Usually, there will be a home page that students see when they sign in to the course. This page will include notices about upcoming class sessions (if the course features live sessions) and links to required readings and evaluations. Students access the files and complete assignments on their own schedules, then return them to the instructor. Feedback on these assignments could come through the content-delivery platform or via email. The platform may also feature video or another kind of live presentation feature (such as a live PowerPoint-style slide show) to allow students to observe instructor lessons in real-time or pre-recorded lessons at any time that is convenient for them.

Forum

Forums are important places of electronic interaction on the Internet, and in an educational setting, they can be great places for students to share ideas and grow. Instructors can use forums in a variety of ways. A question or comment on a recent lesson could be posted, with the students invited (or required) to weigh in with their responses. Students can also start their own conversations online to discuss material in more detail or ask questions to the instructor or other students.

Live Chat

Most platforms contain a live chat feature of some kind. Instructors may offer (or require) live chat sessions to allow the students to all be in the same virtual place at the same to discuss course material. It offers a faster-paced alternative to forum responses and allows the instructor to exercise a greater degree of control over the discussion.

These are just a few of the most common elements of online adult education resources. The technology that makes virtual learning possible is always changing and no two online adult education courses are the same.

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