Skip to content

Do Your eLearning Courses Follow Adult Learning Principle? A Checklist

The day we humans stop learning, it would be the end of life, there would be neither more creativity nor knowledge. Thus, learning is a continuous process in life that distinguishes us from every other living being. However, the science of learning is not the same for all of us. While “pedagogy” is the science and art of teaching children, there is a separate science of teaching adults called “andragogy”.

So, while introducing e-learning in your workplace, it is necessary to base them on a good understanding of adult learning principles. As the training manager of a global company, you would already know what adult learning principles are. Let me now give a checklist that would assist you in ensuring your learner-centric e-learning courses follow adult learning principles.

1. Does Your Course Address the Learning Needs?

Principle: Adult learners need to know WHY they should learn something.

Adults get interested in a course when they know the reason and benefits of taking the course. So, make sure your course develops a ‘need to know’ among the learners before they undertake it. This can be achieved by telling your learners what they will be able to do after completing the course, by setting well-defined learning objectives.

For example, if the course is for the sales reps on communication skills, at the beginning of the course you can tell the leaners- at the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Identify different types of communication
  • Decide when each method of communication is most suitable
  • Rightly use non-verbal communication skills
  • Recognize irate customers

You can also build curiosity among learners by giving them ice-breaker questions. For example:

‘Do You Know’ Questions

Thus, this good practice of presenting the objective will give the learner an outline preview of what they will learn and how the learning will be conducted.

2. Is the Course Self-Directing?

Principle: Adults want to learn in their own way and at their own speed. They have a very sharp need to be SELF-DIRECTING.

Adults have a deep need to be self-directing. So, check whether your course permits learners to learn in their own way and at their own pace, i.e. supervise, motivate and adjust their own learning. Let your course have strategies that help learners see themselves as being self-directed learners.

Allowing your learners to navigate freely through the course, giving them the freedom to skip content they already know, quit an activity not relevant to them are examples of such strategies. In an eLearning course for the sales team in your organization, the navigation option can be made free for sales managers who can directly start with the advanced level modules on sales rather than going through the basic ones.

3. Does it Acknowledge the Prior Knowledge and Experience of Learners?

Principle: Adults have a lot of knowledge, experience, beliefs and values about a great many things. They build new learning on top of their already EXISTING KNOWLEDGE.

Why do you think children are successful learners? This is because they do not have previous knowledge about anything and their mind, according to the theory of “tabula rasa” is a “blank slate”. Hence, the way they learn is very different from adults, who have a greater volume and different quality of experience than children.

Adults build their new learning over their already existing knowledge, beliefs, years of experience in the industry and values. Thus, acknowledge their prior knowledge and expertise in the industry with “Do you know?” questions and scenarios based on the topics they already know and help them build the new knowledge over it.

For example, in a drug related course on insomnia, let us assume the learners know what insomnia is and its causes. At the beginning of the course you can ask them questions such as:

  • Define insomnia
  • Explain the causes and types and insomnia

Once learners answer these questions tell them, since they know the answer to these questions, they will learn about the different treatment options for Insomnia. This can help build interest and enthusiasm among learners to learn more about the subject.

4. Is the Course Performance-Oriented and Problem-Centered?

Principle: Adults will be interested to learn if they believe that the new learning will HELP them in their daily lives, PERFORM their jobs better or SOLVE a problem.

Adults become ready to learn when the learning program looks relevant to their life and offers them an opportunity to perform more effectively and satisfyingly. Additionally, adult learners are better oriented toward problem-centered learning than content.

Rather than learning a random concept, they look for solutions to problems, tasks, and situations they regularly face at the workplace. So, make sure your course is going to bridging the existing skill gap and help learners perform more effectively by providing them performance-oriented and problem-centered courses.

For example, at the beginning of the course you can state a problem that hinders the performance level of the employees quite frequently at the workplace and then tell them that by the end of the course, they will be able to come up with a remedy or solution for that particular challenge.

Similarly, make sure the course addresses your employees’ problems at the workplace. State those problems and tell them the e-learning course will help in resolving those. The below given image is an example to problem-centered course.

Problems faced at work

5. Can it Boost the Extrinsic and Intrinsic Factors of Motivation?

Principle: Adults are motivated by external REWARDS such as increase in ages, promotions, etc. They will also learn if they think that it will increase their self-esteem, influence and growth.

Adults look for both extrinsic and intrinsic triggers to indulge in learning. They learn if they feel the eLearning course will offer them extrinsic factors such as better working condition or rewards in the form of an increase in wage and promotion.

Adults also learn if they think the course will increase their influence, self-esteem, and growth. What more to say, everyone feels better if you treat them with respect and acknowledge their work.

E-learning is the best choice to boost these factors of motivation among learners. It lets you tap into the child in every learner by inserting gamified assessments in the course. Games and their scores motivate learners like nothing else.

  • You can fuel a learner’s intrinsic motivation and boost the competitive spirit by adding gamified elements such as scores and points.
  • As an extrinsic factor, you can use leaderboards at the end of an assessment to boost enthusiasm among the learners. Certification courses and their scores are also great motivators.

Thanks to Malcolm Knowles, who brought the art and science of how adults learn to life by developing the core learning principles for adult learning. They have helped us understand what adult learners want. Thus, when you create a learner-centric eLearning, address each of the above questions to check if your adult learning principles are well in place.

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