Academic Decision Making Among Adult Learners: Personal and Institutional Factors

  • Joan Fleet The University of Western Ontario
  • Donna Moore The University of Western Ontario
  • Susan Rodger The University of Western Ontario


This study, designed with considerable input from adult learners, focuses on influences that affect academic decision making. Using questionnaires and selected interviews, information was gathered on institutional and personal influences on academic decision making for current and future courses, along with demographic information. Three quarters of the respondents were under 39 years of age and were looking to their university education to provide knowledge and skills needed for future job opportunities. Within-group analysis revealed a stronger influence on academic decision making from the institution rather than from personal influences, despite a fairly strong positive correlation of the two sets of variables. This pattern was consistent across groups, with no differences being attributed to part- or full-time status or to year in program. Open-ended questions on the questionnaire, as well as follow-up individual interviews, allowed for the input of suggestions to improve the experiences of adult learners in post-secondary institutions. Additional preliminary course information and increased accessibility to courses and services were common themes. In general, the university experience had been very positive; however, some students expressed satisfaction at being invited to contribute suggestions that, if implemented, could improve the experience of future adult learners.