The Rise of the Adult Learner

Adult Learner
July 23, 2016

A Human Learner is a complex being dependent on a variety of correlating social and intellectual variables. When it comes to e-learning, this process becomes even more complex, leading to a need to develop a categorization of differences between online and traditional learners. The e-learning industry as a whole has developed an indication of these differences through trial & error and following trends & cultural clusters, best exemplified by the popularity of the short video format (1-4 minutes) and its widespread use in implementing training. However, there is not a lot of focus on the science or psychology behind these choices and why different age groups make them.


To look into this matter, lets first list the patterns of behavior displayed by different generations regarding the fundamental variables of learning. This gives us an idea as to how to effectively design our courses and align our syllabus based on who our audience is.


To learn why this is so, we need to have rudimentary understanding of how aging effects learning, regardless of other socio-economic variables. The first major variable is time value of learning, or how effective training is perceived to be by different age groups based on the time they think they have left in this world.  Other opponents of adult learning have cited various explanations such as illness, genetic longevity, atmosphere, ethnic differences, and discrete habits as effecting the aptitude and thus altering the need for learning.

However, this is not true as the primary abilities of intelligence in the form of numeric facility, word fluency, verbal meaning, inductive reasoning, and spatial orientation might deteriorate with age but the secondary abilities of fluid and crystallized intelligence don’t decline till very late in a person’s life. The result is that the adult learner might be a little slow, but often is as competent as a young learner due to the wealth of experience he/she puts into the equation.

Socio-economic factors such as delayed retirements, job hopping my millennials, increased life expectancies, globalisation, rise of the internet and the speed of technological change itself has made sure that an adult learner will be the norm going forward, a deviation from hundreds of years of history. With all the focus on digital mediums in social life and all the traditional school systems going nowhere for the younger generations, this adult learner will most likely be an adult e-learner. Consequently, it would make good business sense for educators, teachers and businesses to focus on this adult e-learner as much as they would on young learners.

Additionally, it would be much better if educators were to take a proactive approach and understand the nuances between different generations when it comes to learning before coming up with training and educational materials. Otherwise, educators and e-Learning professionals who choose to ignore learner differences run the typical risk of mediocrity in their teaching, participation levels, LMS designs and course authoring tools.



Here at Udutu, we take great pride in helping educators , trainers and corporations understand different learner types and implement cost effective, undisruptive and engagement based learning solutions that actually make a difference. Contact us to help us help you make this transition.

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