Opsimaths: Demographics and Psychographics
A psychographic profile of opsimaths (nontraditional students) has been provided in this research. Adult learners are faced with increasing competition from their younger counterparts and are eager to acquire digital skills. These nontraditional students value flexible and career-geared programs in order to balance their busy schedules and get employed quickly. More details on the reasons for enrollment, values, pain points, and habits of these opsimaths is provided below.
Reasons for Enrollment
- Increasing Competition: Workers who are older are faced with growing competition from their younger colleagues who are usually more educated in the latest technology. This makes older workers feel the need to update or improve their education.
- They are especially interested in learning about digital technology in order to keep up with the latest developments and trends in their fields. Without this approach, they might experience career stagnation or get overlooked when opportunities for promotion are available; younger workers might be selected instead.
- Job Loss: When older people exhaust all avenues to find a new job after being laid off by their employers, they may resort to acquiring further education to back up the practical experience gathered in their chosen fields. This can significantly improve their chances of landing another job.
- Job Dissatisfaction: A lot of workers who are not happy at their workplace are beginning to realize that further education could enable them to change careers and improve their employment situation.
- Easy Access to Education: As online education grows, it has become easier for people of all ages to get enrolled in certificate or degree programs. Also, more of these online programs have gained accreditation, thereby making the qualifications obtained acceptable in the workplace.
- Career Change: This applies to certain groups, such as veterans and stay-at-home mothers, who are planning on changing careers and gaining mainstream employment. By earning another qualification, these people become more employable.
- Financial Necessity: In a later stage of life, many people are forced by financial necessity to search for new employment or jobs that pay better wages.
What they Value or Care About
- Nontraditional students value flexibility. They prefer institutions that have flexible course schedules and offer online options. Flexible programs enable them to balance their family lives or jobs with their academics.
- Adult learners also prefer programs that are career-geared. Since they have bills to settle, they are more interested in getting employed quickly. Therefore, institutions that offer workforce-related programs like cosmetology, nursing, truck driving, or welding, are more likely to attract them.
- Opsimaths also value transparency and clarity when it comes to course materials. Since financial concerns play a vital role in their "decisions about textbooks more than 50% of the time," they are interested in understanding these costs in more detail.
- According to a study by National Association of College Stores, first-generation students usually "spend 17% more per textbook than non-first-generation students." By understanding all their cost options, they might make better spending choices and feel more welcome in an institution.
Worries or Pain Points
- Adapting as a First-Generation Student: There are many nontraditional students who are first-generation students. For such students, the application process is usually challenging, since they do not have any family member to guide them.
- Balancing Financial Obligations: Such students also have to figure out how to balance their financial obligations such as paying for tuition, books, fees, rent, groceries, and utility bills. Since they usually have bills to pay besides their academics, balancing their previous bills with their academic financial obligations can be a challenge.
- Learning How to Use Modern Technology: For nontraditional students who wait a decade or more to attend college, learning how to use modern technology can be a major challenge. College classes sometimes have an online component or require their students to do online research for projects and papers. Nontraditional students who do not understand computer technology or do not have access to computers may experience difficulties at this stage.
- Finding Time to Work and Study: A lot of non-traditional students have full-time jobs; therefore, they have to attend their classes part-time or at night. In such cases, it can be difficult to balance their work commitments with finding time to attend classes, do homework, and study.
- Balancing Family Commitments: Many nontraditional students usually have families to take care of. Those who have children or other dependents may not have sufficient time to spend in class; they may also not have enough money to pay for tuition. It is even worse for single parents as it becomes more challenging footing bills without a spouse to assist.
- Building Self-Confidence to be Successful: For many nontraditional students, attending college is usually a life-long dream which they worked very hard to achieve. Unfortunately, it is quite "common for non-traditional students to lack the kind of support system that many traditional students have." Eventually, they are faced with the challenge of building confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Behaviors, Attitudes, and Habits
- Nontraditional students usually have big dreams and are very optimistic. "89% of nontraditional students say they consider college “moderately” or “very” valuable". Another 78% of nontraditional students report feeling positive about their current situation. Generally, they are more optimistic about their future than traditional students.
- Compared to traditional students, later learners participate more in class and are less afraid of peer criticism. These opsimaths "have a high level of intrinsic motivation and interest." They are often very willing to sit in the front row.
- Only 29% of nontraditional students feel like they belong in a campus. Also, only 20% of these late learners say they feel socially connected. This implies that most of these opsimaths do not feel connected to their study environments.
- Opsimaths are usually stressed out. "76% of nontraditional students report feeling imbalanced," while more than half of them report feeling stressed.
- Late learners spend less time on campus compared to traditional students. Usually, they spend about 16 hours a week on campus. For those who fall into the category of an "at-risk student", they spend even less time on campus, usually 10 hours a week.
- Nontraditional students also have better coping skills than their traditional counterparts. Opsimaths are more likely to use problem-solving skills whenever they feel overwhelmed, unlike traditional students who tend to react emotionally when things get tough.