Online Learners

Today, one out of every three students in the United States is taking at least one online course. Because of the increased access to higher education and the increased availability of blended and online learning, the profile of the typical student is shifting [1]. Teaching and learning online is different from teaching and learning strictly in the classroom—not only because of the inherent reduction of in-person instruction, office hours, and peer interaction, but also due to the older age, work history, and life experience of the students. However, the resources available for instruction online have hardly changed from the traditional classroom’s pen-and-paper approach. Soomo's webtexts provide a real solution for online learning by recognizing that teaching and learning at distance is substantially different, and in effect incorporating many of the best practices to reach this unique and growing population. Here are a few characteristics of online learners that affect the instructional design of webtexts.


Adult Learners

The typical student in an online course is 34 years old [2], roughly double that of the typical freshman walking onto a traditional campus. This has an impact on the assumptions we make about what the student knows and suggests a different tone for presentation of content. 


Night Owls

81% of online students are employed when they enroll and more than half are parents who work full-time jobs. This means coursework is often done at night, after a full work day. The online student wants concise explanations. [3].


Proactive

Many of the 5.8 million students enrolling in online learning programs do so in order to further their career. This means, for example, that people enrolled in education courses are often working full time in a school system. Many enrolled in information technology courses are already working in IT and often have been for years. These students differ radically from an undergraduate who isn't sure what to major in or why. They expect their education to be applicable and efficient. [4] 


Web Aware

Today's students learning online are, in general, people who use the web in their daily lives (as are 18-year-old freshmen). They expect content appearing in their browser to scroll smoothly, be well designed, and easy to read. "Digitized" pages of a print text seem antiquated. Online learners are confident learners, good communicators and collaborators, self-directed and motivated, and competent in using the relevant technologies. [5] 

Our approach to creating content, the core features of our learning environment, and the data-driven analytics provide radically different resources for instructors, which makes a dramatic difference for online learning. 


[1] Instructional Technology Council resources: Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011
[2] Classes and Careers: Student Demographics Infographic
[3] Classes and Careers: Student Demographics Infographic
[4]  Classes and Careers: Student Demographics Infographic
[5]  The Online Learner: Characteristics and Pedagogical Implications