Leveraging Expertise in Distance Learning to Enhance Education for Ireland's Post- Experience Learners

Fowler, Ellen (2011) Leveraging Expertise in Distance Learning to Enhance Education for Ireland's Post- Experience Learners. [Conference Proceedings]


Lifelong learning is a touchstone of an economy based on knowledge work and innovation - the kind of economy Ireland aspires to be. Learning options for adult and post-experience students are in increasing demand: mature student entries to higher education increased by 18% between 2005 and 2006 (the last years for which the Higher Education Authority has published this information), and interest in flexible/distance learning options has seen a striking increase. Adult and post-experience learners are faced with a host of challenges not encountered by traditional students, including scheduling, skills development, isolation, and work/study/life balance. Distance learning and e-learning resolve some difficulties but add others, such as creating active engagement with teachers and fellow-learners - the sort of engagement that leads to deep and integrated learning. The Enterprise Research Centre (ERC), located in the University of Limerick (UL), conducts applied research with some of the best companies in the world. ULearning, a branch of the ERC, currently provides research-based education to over 900 individuals employed in a wide range of industries and professions, including engineering, pharmaceutical, health care, government, manufacturing and service. UL's Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is dedicated to advancing teaching and learning activities by collaboratively engaging in evidence-based research and enabling key teaching innovations. The ERC and CTL are currently collaborating on a NAIRTL-funded project aimed at articulating and disseminating ULearning's expertise in providing distance learning. At present there is a gap in knowledge, as well as in practice, regarding how to design and deliver e-learning and distance education that leverages the experience of adult learners and develops complex, higher-order thinking skills in students. This presentation will summarise the findings of the project to date and provide recommendations to institutions interested in using technology-assisted learning to communicate complex, non-linear content and/or build learning communities/networks among geographically dispersed post-experience learners.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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