World population ageing is unprecedented and pervasive which will affect all countries in the world. According to a United Nation report (2010): “By 2045, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history.” The number of the older adult learners in distance education programs is also expected to increase in tandem with the growth of ageing population throughout the world. As such distance education institutions and instructors should be vigilant to this new emerging group of learners. The objectives of this study were to identify factors related to older adult learners’ participation in the distance education degree programs and their characteristics. Data were collected by using interviews and questionnaires. Respondents for the study were older adult learners age 50 and over who enrolled in degree programs at the School of Distance Education (SDE), Universiti Sains Malaysia in Malaysia. Five older adult learners were interviewed and 72 out of 123 respondents completed the questionnaires. The findings indicated that older adult learners’ participation in the distance education degree programs is mainly due to career advancement and to seek knowledge. The older adult learners’ distinct characteristics are high motivation, eager to learn, health conscious, effective time management, good social skills, no financial difficulties and have strong family support.
Older adult learners, Distance Education, Participation, Characteristics