Mature Learners and “Technopohobia”

I don’t know about you but when I went back to university I was quickly thrown into having to learn how to use a bunch of new technology. First there was the university’s information portal called PAWS where my course resources and other important information was stored. The learning curve for me was steep since all I’d ever done before at home was send or receive an email one in a while. There was a definite anxiety. Maybe even a little technophobia.  I felt I wasn’t able to keep up with my younger colleagues. I had to log in and post info to the college’s learning management information system called BlackBoard and use new tools like Elluminate and others. It made my brain hurt. But I guess I’m not alone.

Sean Cordes is an instructional systems coordinator with Western Illinois University. Here’s what he had to say about mature learners and technology in an edition of Educause Quarterly in 2009 :

“Adult learners can require specialized support, both on campus and at a distance. In the campus environment,they sometimes lack the technology skills and motivation required to perform a task, or lack understanding of computing policies. Of course, students of any age may need support, and adults of all ages can and do learn to use technology effectively While age is not a factor, practical experience, confidence, and motivation to use technology are. Formal computer training, practical experience, and the confidence gained from extensive use over time are critical to effectively performing academic tasks. Many younger students who have grown up digitally have this experience. Most adult learners do not, and so often lack the practical knowledge, feelings of competence, and desire to use technology younger learners possess. Many adult students take distance courses. Because online learning often lacks direct contact with faculty and staff on campus, supporting these students can be challenging. In-house systems provide a controlled environment — at the very least we know what systems are in place and can engage students directly. In the world of the online adult learner, this is rarely the case.”

Retrieved from:

Now here’s a video I did for CBC back in 1994 when the internet was in its infancy. It’s interesting to see how people thought technology would change their lives. What do you think? Were they right?


About M. Behrend

As a kid growing up in the sixties I had an overactive imagination. As an adult I realized that sometimes the truth can be more amazing than fiction. Everybody has at least one good story to tell.

4 responses to “Mature Learners and “Technopohobia””

  1. Sheila says :

    Interesting questions, Mark. I’m struggling at times to keep up with all the smart-phones, online working tools (hello, Trello?) social media etc. for my volunteer work. It’s amazing how much computers and networking are used now in so many different ways, including those course websites at the university. Love your old “high-tech” video!

  2. Richard Schwier says :

    Now that’s fun! Who was that kid starring in the video? 🙂 Interesting to see that many of the ideas are similar today — and my favourite was “Oh God, Don’t ask me questions so early in the morning!” Some things never change! One thing to keep in mind throughout the development of this blog is to demonstrate some of the positive features and skills that seniors bring to the learning environment. There are a lot of deficit issues (I can list them, if I can remember them), but there are some wonderful opportunities that arise with this audience too!

    Great start!

    • mbehrend says :

      Thanks for your comments Rick. I’m hoping to post some short interviews with mature students about their experiences with learning and technology and some of the amazing stories and life experience they bring to the classroom.

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