Adult learning principles and eLearning

Adult learning principles and eLearning

Considering Adult Learning Principles when developing an e-learning storyboard will lead to adult learners more motivated and engaged to complete the module.

Malcolm Knowles, an American practitioner and theorist of adult education, popularised the theory of andragogy. Knowles defined Andragogy as ‘the art and science of helping adults learn.’

According to the theory of andragogy, adults learn better by collaborating and solving problems, rather than passively absorbing information.

Knowles developed 5 characteristics of adult learners:

  1. Adults like to feel in control of their e-learning.
    E-Learning developers are able to create branching scenarios and ‘pick-your-path’ if they plan well. In this way the learner is able to take control of the decision making process. This is a reflection of their own sense of self – as children we are guided, but as adults we make our own decisions.
  2. Adults like to build on their knowledge and experience in order to control their own direction.
    Adults like to draw on their knowledge and experience and apply it to their current learning. To take advantage of this elearning should include a narrative which includes elements of societal service. Problem solving activities should also be created.
  3. Adults are more ready to learn when the learning has relevance to their daily lives.
    The learning must be relevant to the present and contain real life tasks and problems. The learning should ‘explain’ either explicitly or through narrative why and how the learning is relevant.
  4. Instead of storing their learning for a future experience, adults like to apply their learning immediately.
    Providing knowledge is not as favoured as providing real life problems and solutions. The learning should clearly define every day problems and situations and how they can be solved.
  5. Adults learn better when internally motivated.
    External motivators such as a pay rise will motivate adults to learn. However internal have a much greater effect. Internal factors include:
    • self esteem
    • job satisfaction
    • quality of life
    • growth and development.

If the learning characteristics of adults are considered when building e-learning experiences, the knowledge and skills will be retained to a much greater extent and applied more thoroughly to the workplace.