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Finding the ‘magic pill’ for adult learners

Fitting extracurriculars into an already busy schedule is difficult for most students, and especially for adult learners who often juggle their studies, families and full time jobs. To help reach out to this difficult group of students, OCSS created the position of a liaison to the adult learners on campus.

Joe Winters, who is an adult learner majoring in environmental science and geography and is somewhere between his sophomore and junior year, was chosen for the position.

Winters spent 13 years in the Air Force as a linguist and an intelligence analyst. Although he has long hair and a full beard now, his posture hints at his past service.

With a wife who also works for OCSS and two young children, Winters knows first hand that it can be difficult for adult learners to find the time to be engaged in anything outside of classes. Winters has a 14 year old son and an 18 year old daughter, both who are involved in their own extracurricular activities.

“We have to manage getting them to swim practice and back, school activities, PTA events,” Winters said. “There’s no shortage of activities for us that we have to schedule.”

Being a part of OCSS has helped Winters feel better connected to the university and he hopes that he can help others feel the same. The difficulty is working with people who have large time constraints.

Winters plans to bring back events from adult learner week such as another tie in with the commuter breakfasts and happy hour at Flat Tuesdays. He also thinks that alternatives such as a Facebook group or blog might help adult learners feel like they are involved in campus life, even if they’re too busy to participate in events. 

In addition to hosting events, Winters has networked with other student organizations to look into how to draw in adult learners.

“Sometimes I get the impression that the organizations are kind of directed at people right out of high school. Being part of an organization is a new experience for them, whereas people a little later in life might be part of other organizations not on campus,” he said.

Time is not the only issue in appealing to adult learners. The term covers a very broad group of people who may not all have the same concerns when it comes to involvement.

“It’s kind of hard to say here’s the magic pill for adult learners,” Winters said. “Some people have a big family, some people are 25 and are technically an adult learner but they have more time.”

Winters believes that having adult learners engaging with younger students is mutually beneficial.

“They’re bringing experience, they’re bringing a different perspective because they have more time under their belt,” he said. “By the same token, somebody my age who’s approaching 40 is learning from the millennials.”