Adult learners bring a diverse range of backgrounds, challenges and expectations to an eLearning course. They’re often busy professionals with a wealth of life experience. And if you respect that as a tutor, you’ve taken a vital first step towards setting up a productive working relationship with your learners.
Happily, respect is a two-way street. If you make it easy for your adult learners to respect you in return, you create a positive learning environment in which everyone wins. Both parties can move in tandem towards a shared goal: successful course completion.
What happens when adult learners feel ignored rather than respected?
Without a foundation of respect between you and your adult learners, it’s harder for them to achieve – and easier for them to fail. Common issues faced from learners who feel ignored or disrespected include:
- Negative learner feedback
- Low completion rates as dissatisfied learners simply drop out
- Ongoing unpleasant emails (which can lead to formal complaints)
- More work for you, as you chase up incomplete tasks that demotivated learners haven’t submitted
But when respect is mutual, the eLearning experience has much more positive outcomes – for both the learner and the tutor.
5 Ways to Use Respect to Create Positive Relationships with Adult Learners
It’s not difficult to base your working relationships with learners on respect. But it does require a strategic approach, and an awareness that this demographic cannot be treated like naughty children.
Here are 5 ways to put in place a respectful online dynamic that will create better outcomes for everyone involved:
1. Offer outstanding “customer service”
As learners increasingly become perceived as our “customers”, we need to shape our own version of customer service. Yes, we want satisfied “customers,” but educational standards must still be maintained.
The key is to make sure the hard decisions you make are very obviously fair and transparent.
For example, if you made a mistake with a grade or feedback, immediately admit that you were wrong, apologize, and re-assess the work.
But don’t apologize for giving a fair grade – even if the learner is not happy with it. However, you can and should include constructive and detailed feedback, which provides evidence and justification for my decision.
This way, the “customer” understands that the learning process is rigorous, but fair and transparent.
2. Don’t be shy about your credentials
If you have letters after your name, make sure they’re included in your email signature. Be specific about your credentials and experience in your LMS profile.
Make it easy for students to respect your professional standing and expertise. You haven’t been called in off the street at random to teach this course. You’re there because you know what you’re doing, and you’re the best person to help them learn.
Make sure they know that.
3. Make expectations clear
Many adult learners arrive in your course pre-stressed. They often barely have time to study. And established professionals can be nervous about having their skills evaluated in a new arena. For learners like these, there’s a lot to worry about.
Acknowledge their anxiety, and demystify the eLearning process by making core aspects of the course as clear as possible.
You can do that by:
- Explaining time frames for communication, and for returning graded work
- Making deadlines and important dates highly visible
- Ensuring all assessment information is self-explanatory
- Setting up an FAQ page that answers learner questions on demand.
This approach reassures adult learners, and makes them feel more in control of their own learning process.
4. Be approachable
Many adult learners find it incredibly difficult to ask for help when they need it. Adult learners may range from corporate managers to tradespeople who run their own businesses. These are can-do, results-oriented people, who are used to figuring things out on their own.
Even so, they often need help. But they’re too proud or embarrassed to admit it.
Make sure your learners know they can come to you with any course-related queries. It’s a good idea to point out to adult learners that asking questions is normal, and make it clear that you’re there to help them. There’s no shame in asking for help: it’s a natural part of the learning process.
5. Keep your promises
If you’ve promised a class that their graded reports will be returned on Monday, make sure that happens. If new course materials are set to be released by a certain date, keep to that deadline.
When you become known for keeping your promises, learners begin to relax, and trust that you’re as good as your word. This helps to set up a safe, professional environment in which everyone shows each other the respect they deserve.
As you can see, there are many ways to set up productive working relationships with your adult learners. When these relationships are based on the bedrock of respect, it becomes much easier to work together to achieve your shared goal of successful course completions.
How do you set up respectful working relationships with your learners?