VIRTUAL ON-LINE LEARNING; THE EVOLUTION AND GROW OF SENIOR CITIZENS
This papers aims to show the results of the use of virtual courses to senior citizens (on-line learning), the difficulties that have appeared and how we tried to solve them year after year in the Senior Citizens’ University of the Universitat Jaume I (students around 55 and 65). We consider that the virtual teaching is now consolidated with enough quality as a viable approach for senior citizens that do not have possibilities to attend real classes, or that want to use computer mediated learning (a e-inclusion characteristic)
Senior learners tend to prefer face-to-face learning, as usually among their motivations to learn are not only the interest on the topic, but also the personal relations and sociabilization. The design of on-line learning environments and courses to senior learners should take care of their context, needs, skills and interests. Already existing studies take care of these conditions for a successful educational activity, but in this paper we focus on leaner evolution, the change produced in their skills and competences, not only on related on the course content, but other related of the learning process.
At the end of the courses qualitative research has been done; focus groups to senior in 7 courses, during 5 academic years. We consider that the use of ICT for senior citizens’ learning could be very beneficial as stated before, but it is also very risky, with significant rate of drop-outs but on the other side, students that found this learning experience very pleasurable and enjoyable. This both groups helped us to know firstly to know which were the aspects to correct, provide more support and improve and secondly, to understand better the learner experience and impact.
Especially remarkable has been noted in teaching-learning process; it has increased in complexity enormously over the years, allowing senior learners to acquire competences difficult to reach in real classrooms; therefore we recommend its implementation by other educational institutions focused on seniors.
We show in the paper how the senior learners acquired competences not only related to the content of the subject (that usually was related to history and society areas) but new ways of communication, collaboration, learning and sharing using the ICT. Their feedback (using qualitative research) and also the teachers’ experience has showed the impact the participation in this kind of education had in their technological attitudes and competences. This kind of teaching, when designed based on senior learners needs and requirements, implementing instructional, constructivism, and connectivism pedagogies, showed that made them to learn the course content, but also learn to share, learn to do and learn to learn in the information age society.
The results of this research are framed in the “European home learning service for seniors association” (http://ehlssa.odl.org/) KA2 Erasmus + Strategic partnership project.