Baby boomers as adult learners of computer applications in higher education: A case study
Baby Boomers are attending college in record numbers and for a variety of reasons. There are currently 76 million Boomers in the United States and in 2006, Baby Boomers range from 42 to 60 years old. Boomer students are faced with a campus environment that embraces computer technology both inside and outside the classroom and using this technology is fundamental to being a college student in the 21st century. Computer literacy is important for an optimum college experience but it also has both economic and social ramifications. The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze the computer experiences of higher education Baby Boomer students.
A constructivist paradigm and a qualitative case study methodology were used. The population was Baby Boomer students in higher education. Data were generated from an online survey and 24 in-depth interviews.
The study includes the dimensions of adult learning, the values of progressive and humanistic adult education philosophy, and andragogy and generational learning theory along with 14 roadblocks to computer literacy. The interview data include descriptions of first computer experiences, experiences using computers as higher education students, and computer learning experiences, preferences, and resources.
The study shows the prevalence of computer use by the Baby Boomer higher education students across the curriculum. The majority of the Boomers rated themselves as competent computer users while others rated themselves as incompetent. The data indicate there is a need for computer learning assistance for Boomers in higher education and that, often times, computer knowledge is taken for granted by university professors. Among other things, the study indicates the importance of relevancy, immediacy, co-learning, and hands-on computer learning. The study also points out the numerous computer learning resources used by the Baby Boomers. The rising number of on-line course offerings further increases the importance of computer literacy in higher education.
This study has implications about how higher education institutions and computer application instructors might best facilitate computer applications learning for Baby Boomers in order to attract, retain, and assist them. Recommendations for the institution, the computer applications educator, and further research are included.
0516: Continuing education
0710: Educational software