What Do Adult Learners Want?
I have had adult learners on my mind ever since coming to William Paterson. A few weeks ago, it got personal. My eldest daughter, age 26, relocated to Connecticut last fall from Florida where she had worked as a guest services specialist for Disney after graduation from college. In early April, she reached out to me about a desire to make a career transition. We’ve had engaging discussions over meals, on walks, in the car, frankly whenever the moment strikes, on what she’d like to do next in life. The financial services job she’s in will require going back to the office in Connecticut in June, something she doesn’t want to do for practical, and personal reasons, so she has been actively exploring how a background in health psychology, and a desire to be in a helping profession, might be part of a next step. Deep in the mix is consideration for going back to school. Grad school is one consideration, as is a certification that could open a door into health care such sonography (she had been on a physician’s assistant track in college).
As we’ve engaged this topic, me being careful to navigate the thin line between reflective counselor and dad, three themes from our discussion could have been lifted right from the adult learner scholarship:
Adults need meaningful, relevant information. Adult students are at a stage of maturity and experience where they need to know exactly what a program offers, how it is structured, and what will be necessary to complete it. They also need to know its full costs, and are savvy enough to know that there is much more to consider than just tuition. Furthermore, they want to see exactly how attending school can be possible while simultaneously working, and seek predictability of that interface over time.

Adults need to feel their experiences are respected. Every adult student has a story, and life experience post college (whether or not a degree was earned) that is worthy of respect and consideration. Circumstances may exist where prior life or work experience, as well as knowledge that may or may not have come from an academic course, can be applied to one’s degree.
Adults need to be able to see how their investment will have clear application. Adult learners are especially interested in knowing how what is learned can be applied to land a job, a promotion, or a reinvention. For students that may already be carrying debt from a prior degree, or a prior attempt at a degree, they don’t wish to make further investment without a clear payoff. They also know how to price shop, especially in circumstances where they are seeking a distance education experience.
William Paterson through WP Online has seen first-hand the demand that is out there for a convenient, affordable, and predictable pathway to a graduate degree or certificate. In November, we will be launching our undergraduate equivalent. The elements described above, and others, inform the initiative and we are excited for its potential to move us to a more diversified undergraduate student base to support the institution moving forward.
As for my daughter, we continue to talk. It is helping to make me a better Provost and, I hope, father.

Joshua Powers
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Academic News
WP Online Undergraduate Programs are priming to launch for Fall 2 (November 1, 2021). Building on our successful collaboration with Academic Partnerships to recruit new, online-only students to graduate programs in business, education, and nursing in Spring 2020, William Paterson University has expanded our reach to include select undergraduate options. Offered in seven-week terms, we will provide online asynchronous classes to serve working adults seeking flexible, online paths toward degree completion. These options are designed to attract new and distinct students to our University by targeting older, professionally focused adult learners who bring extensive life and professional experience but lack the credentials to advance in their chosen career paths without an undergraduate degree. With targeted support in prior learning assessment and community connections from our Adult Degree Completion Program in the School of Continuing and Professional Education, we are excited to be preparing to admit our first WP Online undergraduate learners this fall.
Back by popular demand, Academic Affairs Workshop Week. Following the launch of our first post-Commencement workshop week last May, we again will be offering an array of options for faculty, department chairs, advisors, and other interested staff during the week of May 17-21. Options include the Diversity and Justice Workshop (Monday and Tuesday), the Advising Series (Wednesday and Thursday morning), the Teaching and Learning Series (Wednesday and Thursday afternoon), and combined reflective sessions on the effects of and learning from the pandemic (Friday). Details are forthcoming and will be posted to the News and Events page of the Provost’s Office website. And, be watching for some nationally known presenters in the mix!
Facts & Figures
WP Online Undergrad by the numbers…
  • 8 new degree options planned for November 2021 launch: Communication Studies, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Health Studies, Liberal Studies, Management, Marketing, Psychology, and a newly approved major in Leadership and Professional Studies specifically designed for adult learners.

  • 118 different undergraduate courses, including major and University Core Requirement classes, slated for accelerated, seven-week online delivery in formats reviewed against national Quality Matters standards with input from instructional designers.

  • 8 different kick-off meetings held in March 2021 including more than 118 faculty, administrators, and staff members from 10 different University offices, 13 academic departments, and 4 colleges.

A few lighthearted and thought-provoking Commencement quotes…
The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.
Jon Stewart
If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. 
Bette Reese

My dear terrified graduates. You are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives. 
Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Provost’s Office is Meg, Lissette, Claudia T., Claudia C., Jonathan, Kara, Sandy, and Josh. You can reach us at 973.720.2122 • provost@wpunj.edu
We may be working remotely, but we are accessible to you! 
Office of the Provost | 973.720.2122 | provost@wpunj.edu