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Focus on Adult Learning Principles For a Successful E-learning Course!


Adults need to know how the course is relevant to them. They are inclined to learn only when they think the time and efforts they invest in learning is worth the outcome. E-learning courses that state initially what’s in it for the learner, best address the adult learning principle of communicating the course relevance.

Imagine your sales rep is asked to take a course on how to recognize a buyer persona; he should be educated on the course relevance in the introductory slides itself. When he figures out it will be relevant to him since he can easily identify his buyer persona once he steps into the field for selling, he won’t mind taking it.


Adults, unlike kids, enjoy the learning course only if it is self-directing. They enjoy the freedom to explore and learn more than anything else and anything imposed on them is an unwelcome guest. Hence, compelling them to go through the modules they already are familiar with, leads to frustration. Once frustration creeps in, learning backfires. Thus, while designing your e-learning courses, you need to ensure you provide free navigation to your learners so that they learn what’s new to them instead of getting frustrated with what they already know.

For example, if the course is meant for your senior sales reps, you can free the navigation so that they can skip the basics of selling and directly access the advanced techniques of agile selling, which is more relevant to them.


Would you prefer a training program if you realize it’s no good to you? Of course, not! Unless training offers a solution to your existing problem, you prefer to keep it at bay.

For example, the core responsibility of your manufacturing workforce is to manufacture products that abide by Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). If you want to train them, you need to convey how this training is going to fetch solutions to their current problems.When they know that training teaches them the precautions to be taken while handling equipment or imparts knowledge on which Personal Protective Equipment to be worn while at work, they connect to it since they realize training provides a solution to their work problems.


Adults always look for some sort of motivation to indulge in learning. When they know their participation and performance in the course would fetch them appreciation, they don’t mind taking it. They need a drive, either intrinsic motivation such as the need for self-esteem and power or extrinsic motivation such as hike in wages, promotions, etc. to learn. Such rewards trigger their motivation levels and help them do well in the course.

Bridge skill gaps

If you go by adult learning principles, you will realize adults tend to focus on learning, when learning fills an existing skill gap and helps them perform better.

Assume you want to train your end-users on ERP but they are quite apprehensive about taking the course. You can communicate the importance of the ERP and how it would ease their job tasks. When your employees understand the course would enhance their performance at work by providing them performance support, they will take it readily.

Teaching adults is not an easy task. But it can be simplified, provided adult learning principles are well in place. Equal measures of all ingredients such as course relevance, freedom of navigation, and the motivation to learn lead to the success of an e-learning course recipe.

Do you think any ingredient is left out? Please feel free to add it!

The eLearning Champion’s Guide to Master Design, Delivery, and Evaluation