It has become increasingly common for more mature people to return to education. This is often to further their current careers, change to a different career, fulfil their potential or to increase their knowledge in a particular area of interest. Whilst many people return to studying full time as a mature student, others continue to work full-time and raise families whilst studying on a part time course.
However, regardless of the motivations behind studying, the type of course that is chosen or whether the course is full time or part time, one of the areas of difficulty that mature students often discover on returning to studying is coping with technology.
It is often the case with a mature student that the last time that they were in education class work, homework, assignments, coursework and examinations would all have been completed using a pen and paper. Similarly, the methods of teaching used are likely to have been the teacher standing in front of the classroom speaking and students taking notes from the information that is written on the blackboard.
The modern day classroom is very much a different scenario and the expectations of the students and the methods which they are expected to use in their learning are significantly different in this technological day and age. Rather than a blackboard, there is likely to be an interactive whiteboard. In some instances, there may not even be an expectation to attend a classroom as tutorials are often given via webcam or other technological means.
Much of the learning may also involve researching topics on the internet and there is likely to be an expectation that coursework and assignments are submitted electronically to the tutor and marked and returned from the tutor in a similar fashion. Even examinations now often involve the use of a computer.
This can pose difficulties for many mature students, especially if they have little experience of using technology in their day to day life or in the workplace. In some cases, it may even put a student off beginning a course or prevent them from completing it.
However, there are steps that can be taken to help a mature student to access all the technology appropriately and ensure that they are able to meet the requirements of the course to their full potential.
Firstly, the student needs to be aware of where their limitations lie and take their own measure to counteract these difficulties. This may be to ask for help from family members and friends in learning how to use particular aspects of technology such as the internet and email. Alternatively, it is a good idea for them to enrol on a basic computer course before they begin their main course to ensure that they have at least the basics skills required to complete the work.
Secondly, a good tutor will explain thoroughly how to use the different technologies that are required to complete tasks such as research or submitting an assignment. It is important as a student to ask if you do not understand and a good tutor will always help you and ensure that you feel confident in what is expected of you. If you feel embarrassed to ask for additional instructions in front of the other students, then ask to speak to the tutor at the end of the session.
Finally, practise makes perfect. Practising how to use different media, techniques and resources will enable the student to complete each task more confidently each time they do it. If you are inexperienced at sending emails with attachments, then practise sending them to a friend. If your word processing skills are limited, then practise typing for twenty minutes each evening. You will soon find that your typing speed increases and that you can type much more confidently without repeatedly looking at the keyboard. In the case of submitting assignments electronically, it may be possible for you to send a ‘dummy’ assignment to your tutor and they will be able to let you know if they have received it successfully. If not, they will be able to advise you on where you went wrong.
In conclusion, being behind with technology should not prevent somebody from becoming a mature student and meeting their full potential. If appropriate measures are taken, support is given and the mature student has the willingness to learn, then there is no reason at all why a mature student cannot access technology to the full and to achieve their dreams.