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Adult Learning in Online Environments: Three Strategies to Achieve Optimal Instructional Design
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Use of Mobile Devices and Social Media Platforms

Mobile devices have the potential to innovate learning among adult college learners because of their prevalence, mobility, computing ability, and connectivity (Hsu & Ching, 2012). There are numerous instructional uses for mobile devices, such as microblogging. Microblogging combines aspects of the Web 2.0 application of blogging with the Twitter social platform. With microblogging, adult college learners actively participate in a conversation to:
  • develop self-reflective practices,
  • record and share thoughts,
  • communicate thinking,
  • give feedback,
  • exchange ideas, and
  • share resources.

With this in mind, the instructional strategy of microblogging affords instructors with the opportunity to address each adult learning principle (Knowles, 1984; Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2015). For example, adult learners are likely to view use of a Web 2.0 application as a practical way to engage in respectful dialogue with their peers beyond the classroom to meet a specific instructional goal. Moreover, as adult learners compose microblog messages, they may draw from their own knowledge base, which fosters a sense of relevancy.

Hsu and Ching (2012) explored the use of microblogging among adult college learners enrolled in an online graduate instructional message design course. Microblog messages were exchanged on the Twitter platform, and each message, or tweet, was limited to 140 characters. In order to track tweets, participants included a hashtag followed by a designated keyword for the course. After analyzing 361 tweets, Hsu and Ching developed the following six coding categories: assignment-relevant original tweets, assignment-relevant replies, other course-relevant tweets, social tweets derived from assignment, social tweets not derived from coursework, and resource sharing tweets after course ended. Based upon these findings, Hsu and Ching (2012) reported that microblogging promoted learning in authentic contexts, reinforced formal learning with informal learning, and enhanced social learning. Moreover, participants perceived microblogging positively and indicated that this approach to learning inspired their own work.


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