If you’re a working adult considering going back to school, you’re in good company. Adult learners are quickly becoming the “new traditional” students—and with good reason.

woman working in office with computer behind her

Technology has made it easier than ever for adult students to go back to college, and there’s no shortage of online colleges and online universities to choose from. But what should you look for?

Eric Riedel, chief academic officer of Walden University, recently detailed the three most important things online colleges and universities can do to support the success of adult learners. Below we discuss these key elements, highlighting what adult learners should look for when choosing an online college or online university.

  1. Program relevance

    Adult learners going back to school typically have a specific goal in mind, such as career advancement or the opportunity to enter a new field. As such, they need to be certain the program they select is relevant to their needs.

    Many online colleges and online universities cater to these needs by offering prior learning assessments, project-based learning, internships, and learning opportunities in the field. Some online colleges and online universities even offer college credit for work experience, which enables adult learners to move through programs faster.

    Be sure to exercise due diligence when researching your program of interest at online colleges and universities. Explore the programs and curriculum. Research the faculty. Read about what graduates have done with their education. It’s the best way to determine if an online college or university program is right for you—and relevant to your needs.

  2. Faculty engagement

    A significant factor in adult student success is faculty engagement. Unlike younger students, adult learners have less time available to develop relationships with classmates. As such, instructors often become their main point of communication when going back to school.

    Faculty responsiveness and feedback is especially important for adult learners at online colleges and online universities. Equally important is mutual recognition between adult students and faculty that both are professionals who bring skills and experience to the classroom.

    Don’t be shy about reaching out and asking in-depth questions about faculty proficiency in teaching adult students.

  3. Support services

    Even the best online college or online university can be bewildering to adult learners who haven’t been in a classroom environment for some time. That’s why it’s essential that the school you select offers a variety of user-friendly, easy-to-navigate support services for adult students.

    Some of these services may be provided by designated staff members who can help you navigate the steps necessary to register for classes or apply for financial aid. Other services may include tutoring, self-guided tutorials, phone help lines, webinars, and writing assistance.

    When investigating online colleges and online universities, be sure your top picks offer a variety of support services that specifically cater to your needs.

Ready to go back to school at a leading online university? Fully accredited and prepared with everything adult learners need to succeed, Walden University offers a wide variety of online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs.