Preliminary investigation revealed that many studies conducted on adult learning focused primarily on the experience of learning in a physical classroom. There was limited research that concentrated on how adults learned in a virtual classroom.
This study provides an in-depth qualitative analysis of the online experience of adult learners enrolled in an online post graduate degree program. The research creates the groundwork for determining the level of cognitive engagement, student motivations and perceptions. It also observes the andragogic methodologies utilized within the online learning environment.
The methodological framework used to conduct and analyze the online learning experience of adult learners included: web-based questionnaires, an online forum discussion and document analysis.
The study collated data relating to several factors that included the participants' feelings towards the use of technology in their classrooms and the professor's perspective of the online learning experience. This involved, at the most basic level, teaching and assigning work to students; more substantially, the instruments gave insight into strategies proving to be most effective online.
This study augments the discourse surrounding adult education and the integration and dissemination of technology, by identifying the levels of cognitive engagement among students enrolled in online learning courses.
The results indicated that 81% of students received scores above 70% despite a majority of these adult learners reporting that they were not completely engaged on a cognitive level. Additionally, the study found that active learning strategies enhanced learning and fostered selfefficacy and intrinsic motivation, necessary for critical thinking and deep learning.