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Becoming an Adult Learning Focused Institution: Why and How

Becoming an Adult Learning Focused Institution: Why and How

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Becoming an Adult Learning Focused Institution: Why and How

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  1. Becoming an Adult Learning Focused Institution: Why and How Susan Kelly PhD FAPS Acting Vice President Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL) Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Enrollment Management Conference February 2, 2006

  2. Today’s Presentation • Adult Learning & Economic Development • Adult Learner Characteristics • CAEL’s Adult Learner Focused Institution (ALFI) initiative and Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) • The ALFI Toolkit • Recommendations

  3. The Need for Lifelong Learning in the U.S. Skills gap • 42% of occupational categories with projected new job growth in the next decade will require a college degree or other post secondary award, compared to 29% in 2000. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2001). Employment Outlook 2000-2010: Occupational Employment Projections to 2010. Online at, • 85% of jobs are classified as “skilled” or require education beyond high school. Source: National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (2000). Before It’s Too Late. Online at,

  4. The Need for Lifelong Learning • At the same time, a slowing in the growth of educational attainment. • A 2003 Aspen Institute Study estimates that there was a 19 percent increase in the share of workers with post-high school education over the last 20 years. That will drop to 4 percent in the next 20 years. Source: The Aspen Institute (2003) Grow Faster Together Or Grow Slowly Apart: How Will America Work in the 21st Century? Online at,

  5. Education Has a Clear and Compelling Impact on Salary Levels and Job Stability Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2004). Education and Training Pays. Online at,

  6. How Oklahoma Measures Up • Only 3.4% of working adults (aged 25 to 49) in OK were enrolled postsecondary education as of 2004 –a decline from 4.4% in 1994 • Top States in U.S. enrolled 5.4% of population in postsecondary ed. • OK’s investment in postsecondary ed. is below U.S. average • OK ranks low in offering affordable higher education (state’s investment in need-based financial aid is very low coupled with lack of low-priced college opportunities) Source: National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2004). Measuring Up: State Report Card. Online at,

  7. How Oklahoma Measures Up • OK awards fewer undergraduate credentials at all levels than U.S. average • OK is a net importer of residents with associate degrees and a net exporter of residents with bachelor’s degrees or higher • OK has large net in-migration of less educated residents (high school diploma or less)

  8. The Adult Learner

  9. Who is the ‘Adult Learner’ ? • Generally, 25 years or older • Working FT; with kids; with other identities/roles • 45% of U.S. undergrads are over 25 years old • 75% have at least one ‘non-traditional’ attribute • Increasing numbers of younger students (18-24) have the characteristics of adult learners—working, family responsibilities, etc.

  10. Barriers for Adult Learners • Situational • Dispositional • Institutional

  11. Main Factors in Decision to Enroll for Adult Learners • Convenient time and place for classes • Flexible pacing for completing program • Ability to transfer credits • Reputation of institution • Requirement for current or future job • Credit for learning gained from life/work experiences • Availability of online courses • Availability of financial assistance • Tuition Assistance for employer • Availability of child care

  12. CAEL’s Mission • To advance lifelong learning in partnership with educational institutions, employers, labor organizations, government, and communities • To remove barriers and expand lifelong learning opportunities for adults, regardless of age

  13. CAEL Connects: CAEL’s Lifelong Learning Work Colleges and Universities Adult Learners Employers and Unions Government and Community CAEL’s Workforce Development Work CAEL’s Public Policy Work

  14. ALFI (Adult Learning Focused Institution) Project Origins • CAEL’s 1999 Benchmarking Study of six high-performing, adult-serving colleges and universities • Best Practices in Adult Learning, a CAEL book released in 1999 • Study findings distilled into eight Principles of Effectiveness

  15. The ALFI Principles • Outreach: The institution conducts outreach to adult learners by overcoming barriers of time, place, and tradition in order to create lifelong access to educational opportunities • Life & Career Planning: The institution addresses adult learners’ life and career goals before or at the onset of enrollment in order to assess and align its capacities to help learners reach their goals • Financing: The institution promotes choice using an array of payment options for adult learners in order to expand equity and financial flexibility • Assessment of Learning Outcomes: The institution defines and assesses the knowledge, skills and competencies acquired by adult learners both from the curriculum and from life/work experience in order to assign credit and confer degrees with rigor

  16. The ALFI Principles (cont.) • Teaching-Learning Process: The institution’s faculty uses multiple methods of instruction (including experiential and problem-based methods) for adult learners in order to connect curricular concepts to useful knowledge and skills • Student Support Systems: The institution assists adult learners using comprehensive academic and student support systems in order to enhance students’ capacities to become self-directed, lifelong learners • Technology: The institution uses information technology to provide relevant and timely information and to enhance the learning experience • Strategic Partnerships: The institution engages in strategic relationships, partnerships, and collaborations with employers and other organizations in order to develop and improve educational opportunities for adult learners

  17. An Example of One ALFI Principle in Action #4: Assessment of Learning Outcomes • Multiple techniques used • Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) for course credit is one

  18. PLA Helps With Retention and Success • PLA & Performance: • 2001 Simpson College study: 75% retention for those with PLA vs. 38% for those without PLA • Portfolio PLA students tend to show higher cumulative GPAs (Studies in 1992 @ University of Maryland University College, and in 2003 among 1600 students in 4 Illinois public colleges)

  19. PLA is Important to Adult Learners • 2000 College Board study of 1500 adults rated ‘credit for prior learning policy’ as more important than ‘small class size’ or ‘availability of financial aid’

  20. The ALFI Assessment Tools • Adult Learner Inventory (Noel-Levitz & CAEL) adult student survey based on ALFI • Institutional Self-Assessment Survey (CAEL) is for adult degree program administrators • Both tools piloted in 2002-2003 and released in 2004 • To date, nearly 50 institutions have used the ALFI Toolkit; 29 community colleges currently participating in new pilot of tools created specifically for them

  21. Institutional Self-Assessment Survey • Available both in institutional and unit-level versions to accommodate free-standing colleges, or colleges/divisions within universities, with adult missions • Completed by an institutional team across the broad range of functions: marketing, admission, financing, instruction, to name a few

  22. Adult Learner Inventory • Web based • 40 items rating importance and satisfaction • 10 customized items for institution • Demographic items with 2 open items

  23. ALI Scores Importance scores • How important is it for your program to meet this expectation? Satisfaction scores • How satisfied are you that your program is meeting this expectation? Performance gap scores • The discrepancy between the expectation (importance score) and the reality (satisfaction score).

  24. ALI Scores • Scores are entered into CAEL’s national ALI database • Institutions can compare their scores to others • All data is confidential and used only by the institution

  25. How Institutions have used the Tools: • Facilitated rich discussion & debate • Targeted areas that need attention • Focused attention on adult learner needs and issues • Helped with accreditation, market niche reporting, planning, & evaluation • Significant correlation between colleges doing well on ALFI assessments and retention of adult students

  26. CAEL’s Recommendations: Policy Level—State & Federal • Redesign Student Aid to Support Adult and Lifelong Learners • Make Education Tax Credits More Accessible to Working Adults • Promote and Support Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) • Develop a New State-Federal Partnership in Higher Education for Working Adults

  27. CAEL’s Recommendations: Policy Level—State & Federal • Encourage a Change in Reimbursement Formulas for Public Institutions • Encourage Colleges to Develop Better Transfer & Articulation Processes • Highlight Needs of Adult Learners Through State-by-State Comparisons

  28. CAEL’s Recommendations for Institutional Change • Use an Array of Payment Options for Adult Learners • e.g. Deferred balances/payments for tuition reimbursement students • Provide More Flexible Delivery of Student Support • e.g. Educational Advising, Career Planning • Focus on Making the Teaching-Learning Process Relevant to Working Adults

  29. CAEL’s Recommendations for Institutional Change (cont.) • Measure Institutional Responsiveness to Adults • e.g. CAEL’s Adult Learning Focused Institution (ALFI) Self Assessment and Adult Student Inventory • Develop Strategic Partnerships Between Higher Education and Business • e.g. Work with business to establish learning goals and make resources available to employees

  30. CAEL’s Recommendations for Institutional Change (cont.) • Assess the knowledge, skills & competencies of adult learners and assign credit • e.g. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) for learning from life/work experiences • Help adult learners overcome barriers in time, place, and tradition • e.g. accelerated programs, worksite programs

  31. CAEL’s Recommendations for Institutional Change (cont.) • Make use of technology to provide relevant and timely learning experiences • e.g. Online courses and degree programs

  32. For More Information… Susan Kelly PhD FAPS Acting Vice President Higher Education and Business Partnerships CAEL 55 E. Monroe St., Suite 1930 Chicago, IL 60603 (312) 499-2684