The New World of Adult Education

When I began my adult education, a person could say I was 18 and a college student. I didn’t necessarily feel like an adult at the time, even though I experimented and pretended to be an adult. After graduating from Stanford, I landed in Iowa selling hog feed and living in little towns along the way. I attended North Iowa Community College and had to drop the class or risk failing—It was incredibly hard and I was in the class with these motivated adults who were going to be curve busters! I took community education classes–the first was photography in Belmond, Iowa taught by the local optometrist. I had tens of business classes offered by Cargill ranging from Professional Selling Skills to How to Present Shoat 40 MCM Hog Feed to Farmers.

I took so many classes I ended up being an instructor at Cargill, and later taught classes first on how to use marketing materials and eventually at my own business on how to use computer applications. I did everything from designing the class, creating instruction manuals, teaching the class and following up with satisfaction surveys.

And the big change that happened in those years was the move from the classroom to online and web training.

When I was little, my dad smoked cigars, and we would have matchbooks laying about the house. Many times inside those matchbooks would be advertisements for mail order “Learn to Draw” classes. I was too young to actually try one of these classes, but it looked like you sent your name, address and money, and some far-away place would send a packet of information to you that had a booklet and some exercises in it that you would work on and send back periodically. They would provide feedback, and mail something back to you. This was a back and forth, snail mail process. It took weeks, months, years to complete.

Today, there’s probably a YouTube video that will show you how to do almost anything.

No longer do schools have a lock on their student body. Young adults have a multitude of delivery choices like so many things. You may want a pizza, but you can buy a box and make one, make one from scratch, buy an uncooked pre-made version, order from a Dominos Delivers or order from a restaurant that delivers through Bite Squad. So goes education: Classroom, Web, lectures via Skype, pre-recorded videos, voice conference calls… the list is endless. Virtual classrooms exist where you log on to a forum that has homework, homework submission portals, feedback mechanisms, chat rooms. Some of the Loft online courses were like this. Some classes never met face to face, but connected by conference call, direct messages or a portal that was all virtual.

Others are more cogent on the effectiveness of the various methods of learning and/or content delivery. What I can speak to is that this is a perfect example of how important it is to embrace the change, learn the new technology, and understand the changing needs of the clients.

There’s a luxury about attending a class on a campus with like-minded cohorts. But the fact of the matter is we are all strapped for time and cash, so alternative methods of learning are critical to growing.

And there is a mystery and magic to having instructors and classmates whose personalities shine through by way of words versus looks.

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