Teaching the Next Generation Learner
As a University of Phoenix instructor who teaches classes both online and at a local campus, I have seen many adults transition into University students—a role that is both time consuming and strenuous. Many of my students have confided in me that previous attempts to earn a degree from what could be called a traditional brick-and-mortar college or university were unsuccessful. As learners returning later in life, my students have explained that the added level of responsibilities they now face has made their college experience much more meaningful than it was when they were teenagers entering college directly out of high school. I have seen University of Phoenix students learn to successfully multitask, find a sense of empowerment and encouragement, and come to a realization that they fully intend to meet their academic goals at the University.
I have seen my students acquire or master the skill of multitasking while attending University of Phoenix. Students who have full time jobs, families with children and other outside responsibilities learn to find the time to meet their needs through rigorous scheduling. When individuals initially start their educational career at University of Phoenix they seem overwhelmed and insecure. When starting any degree program, fear is natural; but the fear subsides in time when students feel empowered by successfully completing assignments, courses, and ultimately, graduating. Students become empowered when they learn to find a balance with all of their responsibilities. As students progress, they learn to maximize their time at work and at home to fit in schoolwork and class. Some students have told me that they study for their classes when their children are studying too. They become models of hard work and show their children they are dedicated to achieving their goal of becoming a graduate. And when students are overwhelmed, their families encourage them to never quit. Perhaps the most interesting surprise is when students find encouragement from peers in their class. Many students create lifelong bonds with other students because they understand what it’s truly like to raise a family, work full time and go to a school with high standards.
The allure of attending University of Phoenix is the flexibility of taking classes online or at a physical campus; however, most of my students are incredibly intimidated at first because the University is a globally known educational institution. Often, I’ve heard students say that the University’s program requirements are comparable to those of other educational institutions they previously attended. Then there is the learning curve of adjusting to a different type of learning model that requires working with learning teams on group projects and presentations, as well as attending class for weeks at a time, not months. This model of education comes with some common struggles such as transportation, computer access, time, and/or how to pay for tuition. Although students initially struggle, they ultimately find a way to overcome any barriers and find a way to succeed. If they do not have a car they ride the local public transportation or ask a family member or a classmate to assist them. Students who don’t have computer access often go to the local library and work on their assignments around a schedule that takes their learning team members into account.
What I have taken away from being an instructor at University of Phoenix is that struggles are not end points. The perspective that I teach is to continue to break barriers of personal challenges and stereotypes of what it means to be a “traditional” student. My students understand that they are a part of a new tradition and their mode of operation turns to passion---passion to succeed and to learn. I live for those moments as an instructor.
In future articles of this Teaching the Next Generation Learner series, we will explore:
- How does society view those going back to school (with work, families and other responsibilities)?
- How do the students view going back to school?
- How do those who have graduated feel about their University of Phoenix experience?