• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Online Writing, Adult Learners and Employability

The Skills that Keep on Giving

Adult Learning

Adult learners make up the majority of my online writing classes, whether active military, veterans or just gappers. The students come into the class with an assortment of writing skills: academic writing, business communications, and writing for specific purposes, for instance, what they need in the military. Sometimes they are in their first year and sometimes in their last. All of these factors play a role in their attitude and approach to a foundational writing research course. What is clear is that their common goal is employability regardless of how many additional degrees they plan to earn.

My goal is to gather their array of writing experiences and skills and funnel them into the study of academic writing and research while still conveying the idea that critical thinking, research, giving credit to sources, etc., are also the foundation for employment.

"Writing well is one of those skills that can help you rise above in your career, no matter what you do. When done well, strong writing almost falls into the background as your information is seamlessly delivered to your audience."

When you dive right into the workplace before getting a degree, you might discover the need to improve your writing. In fact, it might be one reason you decided to seek out a degree after a sizeable gap period from when you last when to school. If you started the degree, while juggling family and your current job, you might have been scared to death of the writing requirement.

Having an understanding of academic writing can enhance a university’s student’s grades, but it can also have added benefits towards jobs and careers. . . . [For instance], Academic writing allows one to see the perspectives of different people and form an opinion on it according to the information available. . . . Clarity in writing demonstrates judgment and problem-solving skills, it also demonstrates that one can explain a complex situation in simpler terms.  All of these skills are said to be of great importance in the future of employment.”

Many of my students in their introductions at the start of the class voice the stress they have about taking my academic writing and research class. Their careers are often hanging in the balance in relation to their school performance. They often mention their writing isn’t very good (though usually the actual post contradicts this), and they even write that they are not sure they will get through the course. Several write that this course was the last of their degree, and although they realize taking it earlier might have helped them with the other courses, their fear kept them away. However, one thing is clear from these posts and that is their passion for learning and motivation to get the skills needed to earn the degree and increase their employability.

Besides the writing assignments, the students also hone their communication skills through the interaction in the forums. They follow up on the posts of other students with substantial comments, quotes from sources, example images or videos. They show that they relate with other posts or counter the contents of them. In other forums, they post different steps of their writing process for feedback and also give feedback to others so that not only do they have to implement the writing process but they have to be able to teach it themselves. The latter role jumping is an opportunity for empowerment.

Communication skills gleaned from an online international learning environment can help you in the increasingly global school and workplace. The pandemic has opened up opportunities for cross-cultural virtual communication, and it is especially important to ask yourself, are you “learning in a way that will allow you to become the person you want to become.” Don’t shortchange your future. Educational and professional development are the things in life that keep on giving.

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