Guest Contributor: Sherri Singer, Alamance Community College.

As you look out over your classroom this semester there will be a variety of learners from ages 16 to 64+ staring back at you. While it may seem like there is a vast difference in their learning preferences and backgrounds, the reality is they have a lot in common.

If we compare the schedule and habits of a traditional freshman with that of working adult students, planning our classes becomes easier. Each group needs structure; include a course calendar with firm deadlines and guidelines for assignments. Traditional freshmen often need to learn to take responsibility for their academic progress and meet deadlines. Adult learners who are often balancing work, family and school need these items to manage their time. Both groups study chunks of material in smaller blocks of time, often fitting them in around other activities. They will also be comfortable emailing you at all hours of the day or evening with questions. As instructors we can help students by designing our material into chunks that can be studied in thirty minute blocks of time. If we also provide our students with set windows of time when we will check our email and respond to questions we establish a study, question and response time pattern. Establishing that routine can ease student anxiety and help you manage your overflowing inbox.

Lastly, students of all ages search for relevancy. Why do they need your course? What will they learn? Will they use that information later in life? Is this course merely a hoop to jump through on the road to an academic degree? If we as instructors can relate to students and provide them with a connection to current events, business trends and workplace skills we automatically increase the value of the course. So as you look out over your classroom this semester look for the similarities between your students. The connections you make today will improve your classroom tomorrow.

This post was originally published at http://www.nisod.org/?q=classroom-practices-learners-all-ages

This content comes from a collaboration between Cengage Learning and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), a membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges. Recognizing the growing need for adjunct support, Cengage Learning and NISOD are partnering to co-host a series of webinars, podcasts, and blog posts covering professional development topics for adjunct faculty and administrators. To learn more about this partnership, visit http://www.nisod.org/cengage.