A Sneak Peek into the Lives of the Floridian Adult Learner

Our current higher education delivery model is designed for the traditional learner – the student who enrolls in college straight out of high school, and dedicates four years of their life to the college experience. However, this is not the case for almost ¾ of our country’s population who fall into the category of a non-traditional learner, also referred to as an adult learner. In the state of Florida, there are 2.2 million adult learners who started pursuing their degree, yet despite being in good academic standing, were unable to see it to completion in the midst of balancing school, work, family, and other commitments.

A degree for these learners is a lot more than a certificate of completion, but rather a symbol of perseverance and accomplishment.

The University of West Florida (UWF) has teamed up with 12 other institutions across the state of Florida to address the needs of this population by designing an innovative educational model that provides a set of services to help adult learners achieve their goal of completing a higher level degree. This will in turn better equip them with the skills necessary for high-wage, high-skill workforce needs and boost the economy for the state. In order to ensure that the program meets the adult learner’s needs, UWF partnered with BIF to understand their experiences and obstacles, and bring the user voice to the center of the conversation.

This past month, we spent time in Florida talking with adult learners to hear about their lives, their experiences attending school and the challenges that got in the way. We discovered that although there were distinct patterns that exist across their experiences, the education experience for an adult learner is not one that can be solved by creating a “one size fits all model.” Their experiences, circumstances, values, and motivations are unique, and need to be understood in order to help them achieve their goals and better their lives. A degree for these learners is a lot more than a certificate of completion, but rather a symbol of perseverance and accomplishment. This video gives a sneak peek into some of their stories and the complexities that make completing a degree no simple task.

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