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Adult learners in online higher education: The complexity of students’ transitional experience of becoming a distance learner

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Online learning is a rapidly growing aspect of higher education. However, while this learning mode offers the flexibility and convenience required by non- traditional adult students who face competing social demands and obligations, various barriers still exist that threaten their academic success (Dziuban et al., 2006). Although a large body of research has focused on challenges for adult learners in online education, there is still a lack of in-depth understanding of the conceptual variations in the experiences and perceptions of adults as they embark on online education. This paper aims to emphasize the complexity of experience of an adult student population in an online learning environment through a review of previous empirical research. The paper will stress the importance of looking at adult learners’ transitions to online learning environments in more depth, with a particular focus on their divergent perceptions of learning processes.