Adults want their education to be relevant to their specific needs. What they are learning must be applicable to their job, values or other responsibilities. Once they see the relevancy in their learning, adults want to create goals for their education. They will desire to see the path that leads them from the beginning to the end of a course, or even a whole curriculum. Each step of this path must make its value evident to the adult learn – why its important, how it will help them on their job, or how it will help improve their life. Finally, adults already have many life experiences and have acquired knowledge from a variety of sources outside of a formal educational environment. So they want to understand how they can connect this prior knowledge, what they already know, with what they will be learning.
Here are the steps to take to select the best value in an adult education class depending on what your specific needs are:
1. Determine whether the location of the class is convenient for you. This includes taking into consideration the time class begins and the time it ends. Typically, continuing education classes will be held in the evening due to adults working during the day.
Ask these questions: How will I get to class (driving, public transportation)? Will I leave for class directly after work, or do I need to make a stop at home? How far is the location of the class from my home and my job? Will I have to allow extra time before or after class because of traffic? Is there parking near the class (college campuses usually have limited parking for commuters) or will I need to walk a distance?
2. Determine whether the class and the institution offering the class allow for flexibility that you need. Often these requests will be handled by the individual instructor, but if a diploma or certification is being offered at the completion of the class, the institutions offering the class may have certain guidelines you must follow.
Ask these questions: How many days am I allowed to miss? Does the instructor offer a make-up class for those who might miss? Am I allowed to leave class early or arrive late?
3. Identify the prerequisites for the class. This simply means understanding what you need to know before enrolling. If you do not have the basic background for the subject matter being taught, a great class can end up being a frustrating experience. The prerequisites are normally listed along with the class description and will indicate other classes that should be taken first or skills you should already have before enrolling.
4. Identify all of your required materials and determine their costs. Most classes will require a textbook. The prices of textbooks are rising all the time and are often not affordable for many students. Depending on the subject matter of your class, your books can cost upwards of $100 each, particularly in technology, accounting and nursing. You may also need materials other than books such as access to a personal computer, special types of calculators or other equipment, certain types of paper or portfolios.
5. Determine your instructor’s availability to respond to questions and meet with you. Find out the instructor’s office hours, phone number and email address. Most of the time the instructor will give this information in the first class, but you should be able to easily find this information if you are considering enrolling in a class. You can test the responsiveness of your instructor by contacting him prior to the first day of the class.
6. Review the course description and outline. This is the most important step. You want to make sure that the class you are investing your time and money in is what you really need or want. The course outline is your map of the class. It should describe the objectives of the class (what you will know once the course is over) and the topics you will cover (how you will reach the objectives).
You may attend an adult education course for many reasons: it is required by your job, it is an initiative you are taking to further your career, to increase your general knowledge of a topic, to network with your peers, or to even just get away for a few hours a week. Whatever your reason, you need to make sure you are getting what you need from the course. If you review the course outline and find that only one topic is relevant to your needs then this is probably not the class for you. Search for another course that perhaps focuses specifically on that topic. In some cases, this course may be required for the particular curriculum you have chosen. If you feel you have enough experience with the topics of the required class, you can often discuss with your instructor about „testing out“ of the course.
7. Determine what you get for completing the adult education course or curriculum. You want to see the value of having taken the class or classes. At the end of a class you may receive a certificate of completion, diploma or even a professional certification. If you are attending a college or university, you will most times end with a degree, graduate certificate or continuing education credits.
Try to understand what these completion „rewards“ mean to you, your career and your life. It could mean a new designation you can place on your resume or a diploma to display proudly on your wall, but it should be something to make you happy and appreciate the hard work you have put into the class.
Being an adult learner is exciting, but can also have serious negative effects on a person. Self-esteem can be lowered if performance in the class is not as expected, frustration can occur if there is lack of convenience, and boredom is evident if the class does not seem practical. So be sure to thoroughly review all of the information you can about a class you may be interested in enrolling and be certain you feel you will get what you need out of it.