How to Apply Adult Learning Theory in eLearning?

Malcolm Knowles’ theory of Adult Learning, also known as Andragogy, addresses the specific requirements of educating adults. Even though Knowles developed large parts of his assumptions in the 1980s, they bear great importance and relevance still today. Naturally, corporate learning is all about adult learning. Hence, andragogy is something that every L&D professional should be familiar with. As the corporate training landscape is undergoing a massive wave of digitalisation, it’s important to revisit the principles of delivering great learning to adults. Hence, in this article, we’ll look at some of the principles of adult learning theory you should consider in your eLearning.

Adult learners seek relevance and immediate value-add

To deliver effective learning to an adult audience, you need to establish relevance. Why does the current topic matter to them? Why is it being trained? How do the learners benefit immediately from learning the subject, both personally and professionally?

Therefore, it is important to put a lot of effort into communicating the relevance and value-add in all eLearning activities. Furthermore, by providing personalised eLearning, the learners get access to more relevant content and experiences.

Adult learning is self-directed and internally motivated

Adult learners are naturally much more self-directed than their younger counterparts. They expect to be involved in the goal setting of their own learning and they are ready to take on responsibility. This means that rather than providing highly structured trainer-led activities, you should be give the learners more freedom. Every employee should take part in their personal goal setting. You should also allow the learners freedom to direct their own learning and progress as best fits them. This is a part of a good eLearning strategy and delivery.

Furthermore, adults are also motivated internally rather than externally. This means that their learning is more pragmatic. As long as the subject at hand provides value-add and benefits them, they are willing to put in the required effort. Hence, it is important to communicate the value-add, as mentioned before. You should also consider nurturing the internal motivation with tools such as gamification and social learning.

Adult learning builds on existing experiences and expands through new ones

Naturally, adults in the workplace – your employees – have considerable amounts of experience in life as well as their profession. When delivering learning, you should focus on connecting the new subjects to their existing experience and knowledge. These experience are the filters through which they analyse the new and re-evaluate the old. Modern learning analytics tools together with past learning data help tremendously in understanding the past experiences of the learners. Once you understand them, you can build further learning content on them.

Also, experiences play an important part in learning the new. Adults prefer to learn through experiences – “by doing”. The perfect setting is where they can engage in learning activities on the job, and hence apply them immediately. Mobile learning is a perfect tool for this, as it enables just that. The employees can learn on-demand without long pauses in their jobs. As learners consume new knowledge on-demand, they can also apply it immediately.They thus gain the practical experiences and confidence in the newly learnt. Learning simulations and augmented reality provide great ways of bringing the learning to the job. Also, mobile learning works great when reinforcing already learned skills – as performance support.

Overall, these are the key take-aways you should build into your eLearning strategy to deliver great learning for your adult audience. Naturally, there’s a lot more to adult learning theories, but this provides a good starting point. The ability to learn and experience seamlessly on the job should become the focus.

Are you facilitating on-the-job learning like you should? We can help you deliver next generation learning experiences through mobile learning, social learning and interactive content. Just contact us here