By Angeline Swela
Online learning offerings can provide a distinctive and impactful experience for adult learners. As an adult and lifelong learner, I’ve come to appreciate the transformative benefits of interactive participation, self-reflection, and community engagement in my personal and professional growth. With numerous online learning options available, it can be challenging to design engaging and meaningful learning experiences for adults learning online. However, with the right approach and tools, it is possible to provide learners with a high-quality online experience that meets their needs and supports their learning goals. When combined with the right instructional design framework, online learning can become a truly transformative experience for any learner, especially adults learning online.
One such framework is Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory. Transformative learning occurs when individuals critically reflect on their assumptions, values, and beliefs, leading to a shift in perception and a new understanding of self and the world around them. This process can occur gradually over time or through intentional reflection. Mezirow outlines ten phases contributing to transformative learning, including disorienting dilemma, critical reflection, and reintegration of new perspectives into one’s life:
It is important to note that the application of these phases varies according to context and cannot be generalized. However, we can design a truly transformative learning experience for adults learning online if we take into account the triggering events (or disorienting dilemmas), critical reflection, dialogue, and integration of new perspectives processes. Therefore, the four phases of experiences below can provide a framework for designing transformative learning activities for online learning:
See Transformative Learning: Four Activities that Set the Stage, for details on how you can tailor make this to your own course.
In the context of online learning, this type of experience can be facilitated through discussion forums, reflective journaling, scenario-based learning, case studies, chat and instant messaging, collaborative tools, and more. These tools allow learners to disorient their dilemmas, critically reflect on their preconceived beliefs, develop new perspectives, and adapt their new perspectives to their existing environments. A few examples of transformational learning strategies in online courses include using:
It’s crucial to provide learners with an environment that is safe, supportive, and conducive to a learning experience where personal experience, critical reflection, and integration are prioritized. A transformative learning framework, therefore, provides a valuable framework for unlocking the potential of adult learners for growth and development. With the right approach and tools, it is possible to create a truly transformative online learning experience for adults.
In conclusion, transformative learning frameworks provide a valuable framework for unlocking the potential of adult learners for growth and development. With the right approach and tools, it is possible to create a truly transformative online learning experience for adults.
At Construct Education, we offer instructional design services to create high-quality online learning experiences. Our team of instructional designers, developers, and consultants work together to design custom online programs tailored to our client’s needs and goals. We focus on designing engaging, meaningful, and impactful learning experiences that encourage reflection and new perspectives. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you create a transformative learning experience for your adult learners.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Henderson, J. (2012). Transformative Learning: Four Activities that Set the Stage. Faculty focus.
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All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever which they have been, are now, or will be affiliated.