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Register now for the 2023 CAEL Conference in Baltimore, MD!

Designing a new framework for adult learner success

CAEL is partnering with the Hewlett Foundation, EQOS, and Northeastern University to design a new framework that helps postsecondary education providers impact more adult learners. 

Enrollment declines, industry disruption, economic inequity; more than ever, education providers are tasked with providing sustainable practices that help adult learners succeed. 

In this five-phase process, the framework project team is convening representatives from ten existing best-practice programs to uncover the methods, resources, and supports that most significantly impact adult learner success. Findings will be used in conjunction with other research to design and develop a new structure for promoting best practices for supporting adult learners. This emerging framework will inform our initiatives, including the Principles for Effective Serving Adult Learners, going forward and help education providers as they consider adult learner strategies for their programs. Although CAEL has periodically adjusted the Principles, which were primarily designed to help institutions support adult learners through diverse but traditional postsecondary education pathways, it is undertaking this comprehensive review in response to the massive disruption and acceleration in change created by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the institutional imperative to ensure support of adult learners includes career transitions, regardless of whether students pursue a degree or another credential.

The Project's Key Phases

  • Phase 1: Program Selection, informed by a comprehensive literature review and landscape analysis of best practices and emerging methodologies.

  • Phase 2: Quantitative study and focus groups among the ten selected programs.

  • Phase 3: Convening of the ten selected programs and the partnership to review findings and design the framework.

  • Phase 4: Activities at the 2021 CAEL Annual Conference, where we unveiled our draft framework.

  • Phase 5: Public debut of the new framework and associated monograph in 2022.

Ten Top Performing Program Participants

The study convenes 10 top-performing programs in the adult learning space to analyze, inform, and amplify comprehensive models for adult learner success. These participants include higher education institutions as well as nontraditional education and training providers that use short-term learning experiences to prioritize adult degree completion and/or work-relevant training: Bay Path University, Capella University, Code Fellows, College Unbound, Columbus State Community College, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Mississippi State University, Monroe County Community Schools Adult Education, SUNY Empire State College, and Wichita State University. 

The study includes a questionnaire, focus groups, networking events, and the opportunity to directly inform this framework and associated publications as a thought leader in adult learner postsecondary education. For their participation, each participant receives stipend support of $2,500. 

Participants Have:

  • Majority adult learner populations and marketing programs specialized to them

  • An attempt to collect learning outcomes and post-completion job placement/earnings data

  • An equity-driven commitment to dismantling socioeconomic and racial injustice

The 2021 application deadline has now passed.


Have questions? Let's talk.

For more information or with any questions, please contact Barry Nickerson, project manager and CAEL director of initiatives.

Email Barry at framework@cael.org