In Adult Learning, Do Courses Equal Education?

Adult Learning

In a smart article on his blog, eLearning expert Jay Cross writes, “Some people erroneously equate courses and learning. You need to learn something, you better take a course. In point of fact, very little adult learning occurs in courses.”

He makes an excellent point, one that is often lost in old-school, brick-and-mortar universities. There, many students strive to accumulate just enough course credits to earn a Bachelor’s degree. At the end of the road, they graduate and get to hang a diploma on the wall – but what have they really learned?

The fact is learning comes from experience. To learn, a student has to experiment, ask questions, and solve problems.

Many adult learners and non-traditional students have already intuited this simple fact. Online students at institutions like Ashford University are often working adults with jobs and families. They are living proof that learning happens outside the four walls of the classroom. Real learning involves trying new things, seeing the world beyond your hometown, or talking with people with whom you have little in common.

To empower this kind of distance learning and exploration, students need tools. One such tool is Ashford Mobile, an app for smartphones which enables adult learners to stay connected to their instructor and to each other, even as they go about their busy lives. Ashford University students can roam the world, make new discoveries, and report their findings to their fellow online students, all from the palm of their hands.

Cross continues, “At least half of the organizations we talk with are hamstrung by their slavish belief that courses = learning.” We could extend Cross’ argument to say that college credits do not provide a reliable measure of how much a student has achieved.

Simply earning a degree does not equal an education. It’s what the student can do with that degree that really matters. In other words, we should measure learning by the extent to which the student has grown. It’s an education only if it changes the student.

Written by: Michael Mussman
Michael is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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