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Learning How to Learn

School On Top of Everything Else

Going back to school is not an easy thing for those who left school a long time ago but find it necessary to return. Returning adult students, whether on campus or taking courses or a degree online, are in school because they are either embarking upon a new career or they want to improve what they already have. Most of these people are carrying a lot of responsibilities, including a job, family, and financial challenges that makes going back to school a stretch. Because of all these factors, the needs of a nontraditional student are very different from the tradition student who enters college right out of high school.

Needs of a Nontraditional Student

There are a number of things that set adult learners, or nontraditional students, apart from traditional students. These differences are created by the need to be flexible with schedules as well as to have age- and development-appropriate instruction. The chance to integrate life experience with academic learning is almost a requirement for them. Adult learner needs are distinguished from traditional learners by their strong view that education is an investment in their future and has great value. They have many commitments and responsibilities outside of the classroom that make demands on their time making juggling their roles of student, worker and family member difficult. Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of being a nontraditional learner is the fact that they have a genuine need of help in the area of developing self-confidence as they set about acquiring studying skills. The way an adult student learns how to learn is greatly influenced by these factors.

Catching Up with the Rest

A person who has been out of the classroom for several years, with little experience in technology and perhaps having only a General Education Development (GED) degree, is understandably nervous when it comes to re-entry in the educational sphere. Usually they come from the lower socioeconomic arena and have not had the opportunity to avail themselves of foundational learning experiences that are important to the success of an adult learner. A concern that fundamental skills, such as math and writing, are inadequate is yet another worry and these students often end up taking remedial courses to keep up.

Develop a Learning Plan and Take Advantage of the Benefits

Learning is a deliberate action that requires focus and effort as well as continual introspection and reflection. Unlike grade school, adult education is more than memorizing, recalling or even understanding information. Nontraditional students should develop a learning plan as well as know how to apply what they learn to new areas. They must care about learning, learn how to integrate the knowledge they gain with other areas of life, and understand how the knowledge will be applied to impact their life and the lives of others.

The nontraditional learner has to determine to take advantage of every help and opportunity that comes his way to be able to learn. Resources such as technology, library visits, study groups, and free tutoring that is often offered at both traditional and online schools, are there for the enhancement of the nontraditional student's learning experience. In order to learn how to learn, this student must figure out what works best for him and then go after it with all his might.

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