Emotional Challenges of the Adult Online Learner


A little about me…

I am a Registered Rehabilitation Professional and Certified Career Development Practitioner. My work in the employment field involves helping people who live with barriers to employment that include physical limitations, cognitive and intellectual challenges, learning disabilities and chronic health conditions. Many individuals are forced to change careers or jobs due to injury or illness. Others have never been in the labour market. It is my role to coach the individual through their barriers and support their career goal setting by using the following methods:

  1. Facilitation of workshops
  2. Conducting career assessments
  3. Providing training
  4. Employment counseling,

Technology Trends in Job Search and Career Development

Technology has changed the employment field. Now education from short-term industry standard certificates to college programs is offered through distance education. Today it is essential to be competent with computers, Internet and Social Media; no more is there an option to remain computer and Internet illiterate.

Adult job seekers who are not computer savvy find themselves at a disadvantage and faced with a learning curve that might be compared to acquiring a new language. Once able to run their professional lives, these individuals are now dependent on new and often foreign processes for communicating and interacting.

Emotional Predictors of Online Learning Success

In the article  Effective Communication –Improving Communication Skills in Your Work and Personal Relationships it describes the importance of good communication in both our professional and personal life. The article goes on to describe how much we rely on non-verbal communication when interacting with others. It is important for a learner to be self-aware of the emotional challenges that might come up for them when they decide to do an online course or training program (Help Guide. Org, 2016). Missing in the online classroom is the ability to effectively communicate the way we adults are used to. Most of the effective non-verbal communication we rely on when interacting with others is not available .

Learners must be aware that in a text-based classroom the other students and instructors will not have access to the non-verbal cues that convey emotions like frustration, confusion, shyness, loneliness, anger, or disagreement. Emotional self-awareness is required by students to identify their emotions and the stressors.

Emotional self-management is required to mitigate the impact of stressors. In the virtual classroom the rules around social interactions are different. An understanding of how to be a student and fully engaged in the learning is vital. (Shackelford& Maxwell, 2012). Low self-esteem and lack of confidence may encourage a learner to hold back on their contributions to required components of the class like the message board, course discussion posts, and instructor led discussions. This can impact the learner’s marks, further isolate and block valuable learning (Gruenbaum, 2010).

Adults may return to the classroom at a time in their life where their self-esteem, self-concept and sense self-worth may be at its lowest. Developing meaningful, supportive relationships with other students increases course involvement, content engagement and connection with the others. Interacting in the text-based environment of the online classroom does not rely on the same social skills and can be difficult. The role of the educator is recognize the link between emotions and student success. Educators who promote classroom inclusion in the on-line class through collaborative learning methods help ensure that support systems develop (Shackelford& Maxwell, 2012).

My Role in Supporting Success

After researching this topic I have learned that immediate intervention to support computer skill development and Internet use is essential in the employment field. The trend to move to online learning has a significant impact on many of my clients. Lack of computer skills and access to technology is a very real barrier to educational upgrading. It is not enough to provide public access to computers for job search. Many clients require much more intervention. Daily access to computers to learn the basics, Internet and social media training is necessary to bridge to online learning. Providing access to basic classroom computer training and incorporating the use of technology in life skills and employability skills workshops is critical. People will catch up but they need the resources. .

An Appreciation for Online Learning!

 During my research I came across  a Ted Talk. This talk has changed my perspective of on-line learning. No longer do I see online learning as a barrier to education. In fact, what Coursera is doing for people in developing nations is absolutely inspiring. In addition, the research data that is being collected by Coursera will further the development of online learning to improve education for students.


Corporate Training and Technology

Another area of learning impacted by technology is the corporate world. Training employees in workplace has moved to technology and this is not with an impact on the emotional status of workers. Please read: Adult Education: The Emotional Challenges of Online Learning


Web Conference A Delightful Learning Experience!

The Trends and Roles web conference was a first for me. Group work is not. I really enjoyed meeting my partner and I found we had much in common which made our meeting rich with content. Early in the discussion we discovered that our professional and political ideologies are much the same. We are both people centered and we agree on how challenging the online education system can be for some individuals. Conversation was dynamic and we were able to jump from topic to topic and easily share our stories, opinions and perspectives. It was a fun and inspiring interaction and I hope to meet with Laurie one day in person.

One of my challenges around this assignment  was the fact that I have never blogged. I vocalized my concerns. Although she had completed her blog, Laurie was understanding. That was  very important to me. I appreciated her support!


 The rapid move to on-line training and societies reliance on social media has created a significant barrier to education and employment for adults with few computer skills. The negative impact on motivation and emotions is real for many during the already stressful period of unemployment. If a learner is struggling with technology it can further negatively impact their confidence, impact their feelings of connectedness self-esteem and self-efficacy.  Recognizing the emotional impact of online learning and providing appropriate support opens doors to learning that many people would not have had access to before technology.


Effective Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships/effective-communication.htm

Gruenbaum, Elizabeth A.(2010) Predictors of Success for Adult Online Learners: A Review of the Literature. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1722023

Koller, D. (2012) What we’re learning from online education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education

Shackelford, J.L., Maxwell, M. (2012). Sense of Community in Graduate Online Education: Contribution of Learner to Learner Interaction, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 2012-Oct. (n.d.), 10. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1001714


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