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Andragogy and e-learning - Part I

Malcolm Knowles' e-learning theory

We decided to dedicate this and our next article to the topic of older people's learning - how it is different from that of younger students and how it should be presented to be interesting and effective enough.

Approximate reading time: 2m 40s

As a basis we will use the theory of the famous American educator Malcolm Knowles, according to whom andragogy has 5 distinctive features and 4 principles. Although Knowles' views were first presented in the 1980s, each of his statements can be used today to help e-learning professionals. 


With age, one changes the way one perceives oneself and replaces the view of a dependent person with that of an independent human being.

Create eLearning that offers a minimum amount of instruction and a maximum amount of opportunity for independent work.

Unlike younger learners who need to be guided during the learning process, more mature people usually do better if they can work independently. To this end, you can emphasize self-study activities or group projects that require minimal tutor intervention. And if you're an eLearning specialist, you can incorporate additional interactive elements such as simulations or games. This way, your learners can explore the issues on their own and judge for themselves which information is most important and worth remembering. To accomplish this, however, you'll need a support tool - an online learning platform - that you can use for quick problem solving, assessment, communication, etc.


As a person matures, they gain experience, which becomes an ever-growing learning resource.

Choose learning models and theories that are appropriate for people with different life and work experiences.

If you are going to train older, or more mature, people, you need to bear in mind that they will differ significantly from each other - they will come from different professional and social backgrounds, and have different skills and qualifications. For example, one trainee may find new training easily and quickly, while another may be unfamiliar with how to use the internet.

Therefore, to make your e-learning relevant to all members of your audience, you need to apply different learning models and theories. Research people beforehand, determine their level of knowledge and if there are any technological limitations. By implementing this, you will be able to create training that is interesting for everyone.

Training readiness

In older adults, training readiness addresses his or her changing social roles.

Use social networks and online collaboration tools.

As people age, they begin to prefer to participate in trainings that offer something they will be able to use in practice. Social networks are the "latest craze" - they are trendy, well-liked, useful, and applicable. Therefore, it is advisable to encourage your trainees to use some of them, and for professional purposes, the most suitable is the LinkedIn website. In this way, they will not only be able to increase their network of acquaintances, but also start working together with those who share the same interests.

Perception of learning

In the process of maturing, people begin to look at time differently and replace the delayed application of knowledge with the desire for its immediate realization and, depending on the way they perceive learning, begin to put at its center not the topic but the problem. 

Focus on how e-learning will solve some of the problems people encounter on a daily basis.

Adult learners, typically, not only want to know why they need to participate in a training, but also whether the knowledge they will gain will be usable by them in the future. Therefore, in your training, it is advisable to emphasize how it will help them solve problems by providing real-life examples and scenarios.

Motivation for learning

For older learners, motivation comes from internal rather than external factors.

Motivate your trainees.

Unlike younger learners who don't always want to know the reason why they need to complete a task, adults always prefer to know why they are involved in the process. Otherwise, they will question the relevance of all e-learning. Therefore, you, as their educator, need to clearly present to them the real need for acquiring the new knowledge. For example, if you ask an adult to participate in a group task, you should clearly state that this task will help them improve their teamwork skills, communication skills, which will be to their benefit even after the course is over.

These were the characteristic features of andragogy and the suggestions for their application in e-course design. In the next part of the article we will introduce you to the 4 main principles of Knowles' theory and what about the possibilities of their modern application. Coming soon!

Source: http://elearningindustry.com/9-tips-apply-adult-learning-theory-to-elearning.