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Tools For Adult Learners

Updated on December 13, 2015

For adults returning to the classroom, innovations in tools used in class and even the way classes are instructed can be intimidating. The following items will help you succeed in your back to school adventure.

A Laptop Computer

Although some instructors still use a blackboard, whiteboard or overheads, just as many use slide decks, portable document files (PDFs) and text documents to share notes before, during and after classes. Therefore, the most important tool in the kit for the adult learner is a laptop, notebook or netbook.

With the rising cost of college tuition, it is understandable that you would like to save money wherever you can. It’s also understandable if you feel that a desktop computer will cover all of your computing needs. However, you will find that a laptop is much more practical because you can use it anywhere.

You don’t have to purchase a brand new computer with the latest bells and whistles. You need a machine that will allow you to perform word processing tasks, read and send emails, and stay in constant with classmates and instructors through social media.

If you are taking online classes you can also open multiple windows and take notes as you listen to web-based lectures.

Should you consider buying a tablet?

On one hand, tables like the Ipad, Ipad Mini or the Amazon Kindle are practical tools for sharing notes, distributing emails, and reading ebooks. On the other hand, tablets have limited input options you would probably need to purchase a stylus or a Bluetooth keyboard to efficiently enter notes and draft reports.

Consider adding a tablet to your toolkit if you already own one or were considering purchasing one for other purposes.

Consider using a voice recorder

For some taking copious notes while attempting to listen to all of a professor’s comments can be difficult. A voice recorder may be valuable part of the adult learner toolkit. You can also use the voice recorder on your smartphone or tablet to record lecture notes.

USB Flash Drives

A lot of people rely on Cloud storage to store copies of work or create backups. Clouds are fine but if you are in an area without WiFi you will have no access to your documents. The portable USB drive remains popular for this reason. You can easily transfer documents to another person or machine without internet access. The only downside is that USB flash drives tend to disappear into the deep recesses of your bookbag or laptop cases. Computer labs across the country have boxes of them in lost and found. And even if you manage to keep them, it’s hard to predict how long they will function properly. Consider purchasing them in packs of 4 or 6 and use them for short term storage.

Legal Pads

For jotting down questions and notes (especially notes that will be transferred to your computer), nothing beats a legal pad. Also if you prefer to use a paper system organize notes you can purchase legal pads with three holes punched on the left side.

Post-it Notes

I’ve found post-it notes make the best placeholders for textbooks because you can actually remind yourself what to were reading and why it’s important to you without having to go through the entire text again.


Although a number of classes use PDFs and electronic textbooks, books are still being used and highlighters remain an easy way to call out text in books, printouts of PDFs or slide decks.

Ergonomic Pens and Pencils

For the adult returning to college, declining dexterity can impact the rate at with notes are taken or the length of time you can take notes. Consider purchasing a set of ergonomically designed pens and pencils.

A Lunchbag

It doesn't matter if you are taking day classes or night classes,you will still need to break for lunch or dinner. Consider bringing your lunch with you and you can avoid fast-food restaurants and vending machines.

A Good Bookbag or Laptop Bag with Wheels

I think we all have romantic visions of crossing campus with a great backpack hanging casually over one shoulder or a messenger bag hanging across our bodies. Reality hits and you realize that a 15 inch laptop, books and a lunchbag would be quite heavy. Thankfully, bookbags and computer cases now come with wheels which make walking from class to class to breeze.


For adult learners, figuring out what you need and what you need to do is an ongoing process. Hopefully the items listed in this toolkit will help.

Please add any suggestions for tools adults to the comments section.


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    • wendi_w profile image

      wendi_w 5 years ago from Midwest

      Nice guide as a returning student it is difficult to assess the needs of the student today in the multimedia classroom. Many of us returning after 10 or 20 years are very overwhelmed by the choices. In addition, having been in school for a year now I would agree with your suggestions.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

      A very handy guide especially for the older ones planning to return to school With the advent of modern technology, they might be confused on how to utilize those gadgets as they get to the classroom again. Very informative article. Voted up, useful and shared.

    • Monica Kay 215 profile image

      Monica Kay 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you for stopping by starchet.

    • starchet profile image

      Chetan Jariwala 5 years ago from San Jose

      nice list of resources... very handy


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