sion on Technology and Adult Learning, 2001). Because this chapter is concerned with the use of technology to support and enhance the learning activities of older adults, the terms learning or e-learning will refer to learning in a technology-based context.
The potential impact of e-learning is large, given the importance of education and the current resources allocated to education in our society. The United States currently spends more than $700 billion annually in the education and knowledge arena—the education industry is the second largest, behind healthcare (Close et al., 2000). The education market for kinder-garten through grade 12 is considered the largest (59.6 percent), followed by the postsecondary sector (36.3 percent). Although the corporate training market (16.1 percent) is currently third in importance, it is projected that technology-based learning will penetrate the business world at a faster rate than any other educational sector. The corporate spending figure does not include the $40 billion plus spent by the government on training. The smallest and newest arrival in the education industry is the lifelong learner. The lifelong learning market (3.9 percent) is projected to develop into a prominent segment within the technology-based learning marketplace as the Internet occupies a larger presence in citizens′ daily lives (Close et al., 2000). Of particular concern in this chapter is this lifelong learning segment.
A major purpose of this chapter is to consider current knowledge and research in the area of cognitive aging as it applies to learning in a technology-based context. I begin, therefore, by discussing cognitive processes and skills that have been studied in cognitive aging research. I briefly review traditional views of learning, problem solving, and decision making and distinguish between well-structured versus ill-structured learning tasks. I discuss research on expertise and examine differences between experts and novices in how they learn and solve problems. The similarities between the novice′s approach to learning and the approach of many older adult learners and of the typical Internet user searching for information are considered. The various segments of the e-learning industry are briefly described, and their potential role in addressing the learning needs of older adults is discussed. I then consider conceptions of learning evolving within the e-learning context and the potential benefits and challenges of the technology-based environment for the older adult. The role and challenge of the electronic technology context for learning and information seeking are briefly considered.
At the heart of complex, long-term learning activities is the ability to acquire and retain relevant information and to solve problems. Acquisi-