Adult learning is a complex subject that in recent years has become more of a necessity than a personal pursuit. There are three factors present in the American society today that necessitate the need for adult learning. These factors are: Dramatic changes in demographics, the global economy, and technology. (5) Demographics are concerned with growth and development of adult learners and emerging groups of learners with special needs. There are more adults in our society than ever before and the population will continue to age and increase in the number of older adults. This fact along with the growing cultural and ethnic diversity existing in America today, although, provides many benefits for the society by mixing talents from many lands, but it also, requires a certain amount of familiarization and education to minimize the risks involved by diversification.
The second factor influencing the need for adult learning is the global economy. The birth of global interdependent economy has led to changing work practices, which require different kinds of preparation and training. The emphasis has been shifted to improved product and service quality, having more educated workers with more responsibility and stronger team work. This has resulted in control of education shifting more to business. More and more companies opt to provide work place literacy programs, training and development packages, and encouraging their employees to learn how to learn, to keep up with a constantly changing global service based economy. Ethnic make up and increased number of women in the work force are also contributing factors for adult learning. (5)
The third factor that should be considered is the explosion in the information technology sector. With the development and advancement of computers within the last decade or two, an environment has been created in which the settings for a formal training session, has been outdated. The society is experiencing an increase in mental ability which is growing drastically with the availability of horizontal networks and the advancement of telecommunications. Information is rapidly distributed and easily available and accessible. This causes for efficient use of information. This allows the learner to have better access with those who teach information access skills, it helps the development of higher levels of thinking skills while at the same time, it creates a comfortable environment for the educators. Although consideration must be given to the ethical implication of the information access creates. (1) The three factors above have become intertwined forces. Demographics, the global economy, and technology have come together in adult education in the blurring of the field’s content and delivery mechanisms, dividing up the setting for adult education into formal, non-formal and informal activities. Blurring is also occurring in higher education sector where older students are now making up for about 50 percent of the college attendees, and finally, a blurring of content and delivery is found in such popular slogans as “workplace literacy” and “critical thinking.” which focuses on development of skills needed to be productive and informed members of a highly technical society. There are three types of opportunities in which learning occurs for adult: Formal institutional setting, non-formal setting and informal setting. For most adult, learning in adulthood brings to mind a classroom setting. Yet when we ask these same adult about what they have learned informally over the last year, they typically respond with descriptions of learning activities outside these formal settings. However, the use of technology has increase the delivery of learning programs, expanding our picture of learning in an informal setting. Informal learning occurs most often in ones natural setting in which we learn things from our...
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