Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction



Arefeh Mohammadi https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1310-9975

Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Adult Learning (2019)

doi 10.1177/1045159519854547


Copyright © 2019 Arefeh Mohammadi, Kevin Grosskopf, and John Killingsworth. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


The U.S. workforce is increasingly comprised of older adults, women, and minorities who lack basic skills and are unable to acquire these skills through traditional educational and training programs. New approaches are needed to provide effective training to the adult learner and flexible support for nontraditional students who must balance work-life demands with limited educational opportunities. Contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) is a form of experiential learning that blends both basic skills and occupational training together in environments that allow students to relate subject matter to real-world situations. Virtual CTL environments can be created to better engage students, provide immediate performance feedback, reduce training time, and improve accessibility. To determine the effectiveness of CTL, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Tooling U curriculum and learning management system (LMS) was studied. This intervention consisted of online modules with basic skills remediation blended with interactive labs and virtual reality exercises. A nonrandom population of 342 participants was chosen for study, including 75 exposed to the CTL intervention (experimental group) and 267 not exposed to the CTL intervention (control group). Learning outcomes such as test scores, completed credit hours, course completions, and earned credentials, were compared between CTL and non-CTL groups and between demographic subsets within the CTL group. Underrepresented groups, including older adults, women, and minorities, were 2 to 3 times greater in the CTL group compared with the non- CTL group. Overall, students exposed to CTL achieved higher rates of credentialing (55%) when compared with students not exposed to contextualized instruction (20%).