Skip to content

3 Ways to Incorporate Adult Learning Principles in E-learning Courses

As a training and learning professional, what do you think of adult learning? Do you know the name Malcolm Knowles, the man who brought the term “andragogy”, to life which means the art and science of how adults learn? He developed a set of core learning principles for adult learning, which serve as a foundation for designing and developing our e-learning courses; they help us understand clearly what an adult learner needs.

Our primary goal is to create a learning environment which follows all the principles of adult learning proposed by Knowles. Before getting into how to incorporate adult learning principles in e-learning, we will look at the principles of adult learning.

The principles of adult learning state that adults:

  • Are self-directed
  • Want the learning to be relevant and task-oriented
  • Are goal-oriented
  • Bring prior knowledge and experience to the learning activity
  • Learn when they are motivated

Now we will see three ideas for incorporating these principles to e-learning, to make learning better and to bring a behavioral change in the learner.

1. Adults Learners are Self-directed:

Adults prefer to be self-directed as they wish to control their learning, learn at their own pace, and set their priorities accordingly. For example, consider you are in a mirror maze, stuck up in some place for an hour, getting dehydrated, and trying to exit from it. At this spot of time, your only thought is of exiting that place. So, you will think logically and try to come out of that maze without anybody’s help. Applying the same here, every adult has a deep need to be self-directed.

Generally, people learn more and better when they learn alone and they will be more attuned toward the learning outcomes. To design e-learning accordingly:

  • Allow learners to take the trainings based on their preferences
  • Provide them job-aids and other training material after the course
  • Provide them courses which have learning strategies that help them get involved in the content such as problem-solving scenarios, guided approach, gamification, simulations, etc.
  • Involve the learner while you develop the learning material; consider their inputs

2. Adults Want the Learning to be Relevant and Task-Oriented:

In our school days, we learned topics which were boring and not our interest areas; we learned them to complete our academic life. Adults on the other hand, learn only what is useful in their professional or daily lives. They need training that is relevant to their roles and responsibilities. For example, a safety course is a must for all employees, whereas a course for servicing a product is a must for service technicians; if you assign that training to a support guy, will he wish to take it? Obviously NO! So, your training should relate to the subject and the learner.

To design e-learning accordingly:

  • Focus on the training material the learner needs to know and leave additional material
  • Design learning activities that are task-based and emphasize problem-solving
  • Present learning objectives clearly to learners
  • Connect the learning with the real-world examples that are useful to their roles

 3. Adult Learners Bring Knowledge and Experience to the Learning Activity:

As adult learners are more mature, they typically have a wide range of knowledge and experience. For example, where you are trying to say something that is correct, but not in accordance with the other person’s views, they may not receive it the right way. It is the mindset of every adult and his experiences that tell him what is right or wrong.

To design e-learning accordingly:

  • Focus on the connectivity of your training material with their previous experiences
  • Do remember that every employee has a different mindset, so be receptive to all
  • Provide them the opportunity to give feedback on their training

These are some ways you can incorporate adult learning principles in e-learning courses, to enhance learning and bring a behavioral change in learners.

Have other interesting tips? Please share with us in the Comments section below.

Happy Reading!!

eLearning Trends 2023 – The View from the Trenches