eLearning Concepts

6 Key Adult Learning Principles & Leveraging Them In eLearning

5 min read | Oct 2, 2020
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They have been in existence for decades and served the purpose time and time again for many companies worldwide. So, if you have plans to launch an online course soon or improve signups on the one you have already launched, consider checking them out. But before that, let’s take a look at some numbers.

The estimated worth of the global eLearning market five years back was $107 billion, and in the next five years, it’s going to surpass a whopping figure of $325 billion.

Rings a bell?

If not, here is another fact.

For every dollar spent on eLearning, the average ROI for companies is $30.

Okay, last one!

The eLearning market has grown over 900% since the beginning of the 21st century. In the next ten years, it’s expected to grow ten times fold.

If you are planning to explore the eLearning industry, this is the right time to make a move. And if you have already entered the market, make the most of the various opportunities by designing courses according to your target audience’s needs. The more time you spend on doing it the right way, the easier it will become for you to boost sales drive profits later.

Taking into consideration top adult learning principles will help you get the desired results efficiently. But first, you must understand the adult learning theory and its origin to make things convenient and smooth.

Sounds interesting?

Let’s dive in!

What Is The Adult Learning Theory?

In 1968, when eLearning wasn’t even a thing, Malcolm Knowles developed adult learning theory, commonly known as andragogy.

It talks about how adult people learn anything and how it’s different from children. Adult learning theory aims to showcase adult learning’s distinctiveness and identify unique learning styles that perfectly fit their criteria.

Many modifications have been made to it over the years, but the five fundamental principles at its core remain unchanged. As a creator, you can apply these adult learning principles to your course and make it a massive hit within a short period.

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Adult Learning Vs. Child Learning

You need to understand that adult learning is different from child learning. Children learn anything without questioning much because they are told to do so by their parents or teachers.

On the other hand, adults have their own past experiences, goals, and future career progress expectations that they bring into the equation every time someone asks them to learn a new concept.

Children follow directions as they have limited life experiences compared to adults who tend to doubt things unless they make sense.

While creating a course for adults (compared to children), you must keep in mind that they have preconceived notions about the subject matter, learning style, and education. If an eLearning course isn’t on the same wavelength, they immediately lose interest and begin looking for alternatives.

Now that you have understood how adult learning is different from child learning, let’s move on to adult learning principles.

What Are Adult Learning Principles?

Malcolm Shepherd Knowles was a well-known American educator and used the term andragogy for the first time to explain adult learning. In the 1980s, he came up with six unique adult learning principles that redefined how educators approached adult education.

Understand these adult learning principles to create highly successful digital courses time and time again.

Adults Are Self Motivated & Directed

The first on the list of adult learning principles given by Malcolm Knowles talks about the self-directed and internally motivated nature of adults. According to him, adults have a strong sense of self-belief, laws, and values. Unless the eLearning course you create doesn’t sync with their inner-purpose and self-motivation, they won’t engage with it.

Your course should be good enough to make them believe in its benefits and how it can help them achieve their goals. If it can’t, they are most likely to be reluctant to continue with it.

Adults Thrive On Life Experiences & Learn By Doing

You can give a book to a child and make him follow what’s written in it. Since children haven’t gone through much in life, they’ll obey as you command. It’s not the case with adults. They have had several life experiences and find those eLearning courses interesting that incorporate them into the curriculum.

If you want their attention, make them participate regularly, and offer training modules that can somehow improve their everyday experience. It’s one of the most fundamental approaches, yet missed by many course creators. Don’t make the same mistake.


Adult Learning Should Be Goal Oriented & Purpose Driven

Kids learn because that’s what they are supposed to do or at least told to do by parents or teachers. Adults learn because they believe it can take them close to their goals, be it starting a new business, getting a promotion, or learning a new skill.

Unlike kids, it’s a choice made by them, and not a duty to please elders.

If your course content helps them fulfill their goal, they’d be highly motivated right from the beginning to participate in different projects and finish them on time. If not, they’ll walk out of it sooner or later.

Adult Learning Thrives On Practical Application

There is no denying the fact that theories are essential. Kids may even find them exciting and boast about learning different theories here and there. But when it comes to adult learning, you need to have a different approach.

Adults have a practical nature. Any course filled with all theories and no practical applications may sound tedious to them.

You must create a perfect balance between the theoretical concepts and practical applications to keep them engaged throughout the course. Come up with content that helps them figure out how to apply classroom learnings to real-life problems in the easiest possible manner. If executed correctly, this adult learning principle can change the way your course performs.

Adult Learning Should Be Relevant

Before adult learners visit your online course landing page, chances are they have gone through dozens of other courses already. And the only reason they stuck to your course is that they found some relevance between its content and their goals.

As long as it seems relevant to the problems they are facing and helps them become a better version of themselves, they’ll happily participate in all the activities whenever possible.

So, identify their problems and design your course curriculum in such a way that it offers relevant solutions to fix them permanently.

Respect Holds A Lot of Value In Adult Learning

Unlike kids, you cannot force adults to learn anything unless they want. And the best way to make them interested in learning is by building collaborative relationships from day one. Instead of treating them like students, give respect the way you’d give to your peers.

You can start by valuing their feedback about the course, acknowledging their contributions, appreciating them whenever they perform well, and taking suggestions about how you can improve.

As they feel respected, you’ll see them walking the extra mile to give it their best shot and finish all the modules on time.

These six adult learning principles hold the utmost value to digital course creators, so make sure you leverage them in your eLearning content plan and make it a huge success.

If you would like to know more about incorporating these adult learning principles into your course and several eLearning solutions Academy of Mine offers, be sure to message us via our Contact Page or email us at [email protected].

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