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Non-traditional students now make up a significant percentage of learners at the nation’s colleges, technical schools and universities. In fact, only 29 percent of students in higher education meet the definition of traditional students attending a four-year college or university immediately after high school.

Defining Non-Traditional Students

Institutions create their own definitions for non-traditional students, but these students do share several key criteria. Any one of these criteria can identify a student as non-traditional, and all can cause students to have specific and different educational needs.

  1. Age. Non-traditional students are typically entering or re-entering higher education at 21 years of age or older.
  2. Part-time student status. These students are more likely to attend classes part-time due to other responsibilities.
  3. Full-time work. Non-traditional students are more likely to maintain a full-time job while attending classes.
  4. Dependents. Family responsibilities, including children or aging parents, can be a defining characteristic of non-traditional students.
  5. High school graduation status. Students may be more likely to have a high-school equivalency certificate rather than a high school diploma.

Supporting Non-Traditional Students

According to author Jovita M. Ross-Gordon,

A key characteristic distinguishing reentry adults from other college students is the high likelihood that they are juggling other life roles while attending school, including those of worker, spouse or partner, parent, caregiver, and community member. These roles may be assets, both through the social supports they provide and through the rich life experiences that may help adult learners make meaning of theoretical constructs that may be purely abstract to younger learners. Yet more often, these multiple roles present challenges in students’ allocation of time for both academic study and participation in campus-based organizations and activities.

In order to meet the needs of these students, institutions need to offer flexible and manageable learning solutions.  Innovative learning options are ideal for the non-traditional student population. Smart online solutions, like YuJa, are essential to implement these innovative learning process and support non-traditional learners. Unlike traditional students, non-traditional students may struggle to attend on-campus classes, discussion or study groups, or other activities.

How YuJa Helps Non-Traditional Students

  • Lecture capture facilitates hybrid and flipped learning, supporting learners who may not have been in the classroom in a number of years. With these models, students have additional instructor support available in class.
  • Online access to instructors through online office hours can be more practical and flexible for students with additional responsibilities.
  • Students unable to attend classes can watch lecture captures at home or via a mobile device to catch up with missed class time.
  • Self-paced and competency based learning can make use of lecture captures, online discussions and other resources to allow and encourage learners to proceed through their educations without traditional schedules.
  • Online access to real-time discussions allows students to engage with and get to know one another, even if time on campus is limited.

“Definitions and Data.” Institution of Educational Sciences. Web. Accessed on 19 October 2015.
Casselman, Ben. “Number of the Week-Non-Traditional Students Are Majority on College Campuses.” Wall Street Journal. Web. Accessed on 19 October 2015.
Ross-Gordon, Jovita M. “Research on Adult Learners: Supporting the Needs of a Student Population that Is No Longer Non-Traditional.” Peer Review. Web. Accessed on 19 October 2015.