Things to Consider

Three students reading nutrition guidelines and considering their approach to the problem posed to them

“FNH480_May2015_007” by Duncan McHugh/LFS Learning Centre, All Rights Reserved

What are Adult Learning Principles?

The Adult Learning Theory (Malcom Knowles, 1980) works off the basic assumption that adults are intrinsically different than children in how they learn. They differ by these unique characteristics:

1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their learning

2. Past experience and mistakes form the base from which learning takes place

3. Adults are most interested in learning concepts that have direct relevance to their lives

4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content oriented.

Why do I need to consider them when I'm creating media?

Your media will only make a real difference if adults can learn well from it by connecting to the media type and content presentation, otherwise you risk wasting your time. The following principles are ways to incoporate the Adult Learning Theory into eLearning:

1. Highlight the relevance of the learning to learner's real lives

2. Encourage learning by doing instead of simply memorization

3. Connect learning to the diverse past experiences of learners

4. Allow adults learners to be self-directed in their approach to learning. Avoid being too prescriptive.

Concept map of adult learning principles centered on "Teaching the Adult Learner"

"Adult Learning Principles Concept Map", by Karalee Boschung, CC BY 4.0


For more information, check out these resources:

The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – Infographic

9 Tips to Apply Adult Learning Theory to eLearning

17 Tips to Motivate Adult Learners

The following video is by Derek Muller, the founder and director of Veritasium science videos. He shares the technique he has found to make videos most effective for education.

Also keep in mind that people usually stop watching a video at 6-8 minutes, so keep films (and media in general) short and snappy.

For more  resources about designing effective media, see the following links:

Cathy Moore's Blog - Let's save the world from boring training!

Tom Kuhlman's Blog - The Rapid E-Learning Blog

eLearning Network - eLearning tips from the pros