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Support Strategies

The balance of academic study and other life commitments can be a challenge for non- traditional and first-generation learners.

To successfully attract and retain more of these students, college educators must be willing    to think more inclusively about their programs, offer better support and encourage student success for a more broadly defined adult audience.

Creating and making resources available to these learners that reinforce positive study habits, scheduling and a healthy work-school-life balance can be tremendously helpful.

Here are some important strategies to consider when creating and structuring learning opportunities for non-traditional and first-generation students:

Involve them in program planning and implementation: Ask non-traditional and first-generation learners to help with orientation for new learners like them. Also, appointing them to serve on advisory boards and solicit their suggestions for learning activities.

Reflect students’ life experience in lessons and activities: Draw on learners’ personal experiences, developmental stages, and problems as a foundation for learning new things. This approach makes the classroom more authentic because adults learn to use skills in relevant, real-life situations.

Respect learners’ culture, knowledge, and experiences: It’s important to develop an understanding of a learners’ experiences and communities. The challenge of personalizing instruction to meet individual needs is that the process can overlook issues of gender, race, and class—issues that represent realities that many first-generation and non-traditional learners face in their day-to-day lives.

Create small groups and incorporate them into learning activities: The advantages of using small groups include opportunities for peer support, and creating a cooperative, inclusive and participatory environment that’s less hierarchical and ordered as traditional approaches.

If non-traditional and first-generation students embrace good study habits and tools to better leverage learning early on, it will be a benefit to them for the rest of their professional lives.

Watch our webinar on how to develop a student success strategy for higher ed

Take a look at how the University of Wisconsin-Extension offers non-traditional students the flexibility they need to succeed:

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