Andragogy In The Twenty-First Century

Andragogy In The Twenty-First Century
Summary: Learning as an adult is different from when one is young. Discover the concept of andragogy and learn more about the challenges of adult learning.

Challenges And Solutions For Successful Andragogy

Andragogy is described by its creator, Malcolm Knowles, as the art and science of helping adults learn. One of the biggest challenges of andragogy, or adult learning, is allocating time and resources. We will try and look at both of these challenges, drawing from Knowles's principles of andragogy.

The Challenge Of Time In Andragogy

Adults divide their time in order to accommodate different activities in their mostly burdened schedules. This means that it is difficult to allocate time for activities such as learning and leisure. What does this mean for learning? One of the features of andragogy is that it is mostly self-directed. One of the disadvantages of self-directed learning is that it can be easily pushed to the periphery depending on one's schedule. It is only during unallocated free time that adults can schedule a time to learn. That means learning is usually in direct competition with other activities such as leisure and family time. Andragogy, therefore, has to be a clear-cut, short, and succinct activity, with a clear purpose, and available on the go.

The Four Principles Of Learning

Firstly, we need to familiarize ourselves with andragogy principles. Malcolm Knowles (1968) applies the four principles of learning to adult learning practices. Secondly, for our purposes, we shall consider that our learner has limited time and may be averse to picking up something to add to their already burdened schedule.

  1. Adults learn better from their experiences, and their past knowledge should be taken into account
    Adults have got limited time. Their attention spans can also be limited because of other competing tasks. Tapping into their past experiences during learning sessions allows them to retain the material more easily.
  2. Adults favor a pragmatic approach and need to be able to apply learning to solve a specific problem
    Time being a limited resource, adult learners need to know why they are learning by engaging in objective-led training.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning that has the most relevance
    Adults will rank what to read in order of importance and schedule time for what they feel is necessary.
  4. Adults have the need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction
    Adults would rather spend their time with learning activities they were involved in from the onset. This draws from the need to understand how and why they are involved in the learning artifact since time is a constraint.

From the above exercise, we want to hypothesize that adults are likely to engage in learning activities that they deem necessary or beneficial to them, prioritizing time, it being a limited resource. One may need to research in depth in order to draw their own conclusions. Despite this, it is easy to draw parallels with Knowles' four principles of andragogy.

How Do We Counter The Challenge Of Time In Adult Learning?

Drawing from the previous points, we need to design learner journeys that account for the busy learner. Your delivery mechanism for example should reflect time considerations. "Is a full eLearning course necessary, or can a microlearning setup with bite-sized artifacts be adequate?" Such questions allow us to cater to the already time-constrained individual.

Suppose we are to further consider leisure and family time as a substitute for adult learning in terms of time spent. In that case, it is fair to consider making our learning artifacts as pleasurable and meaningful as we can. Gamification techniques, ease of use, and the use of an intuitive platform are some of the concepts that may be necessary for the creation of adult learning aids. Now let us look at our second constraint: resources.

The Challenge Of Limited Financial Resources In Andragogy

The other noticeable challenge in twenty-first-century andragogy training is limited resources. The average adult learner has limited financial resources depending on where they are based. This makes them picky as they will want to maximize what they purchase. In some regions, this is more evident in basic necessities; for instance, access to technology is hindered due to high internet connection rates.

How Do We Counter The Challenge Of Limited Resources In Adult Learning?

  1. Learning artifacts should be made affordable in order to attract and motivate learners.
  2. There should be no one-size-fits-all approach to the development of instructional materials; rather, a concerted effort should be made to study different subjects and price accordingly.
  3. Enabling system functional capabilities (e.g. offline mode) in a Learning Management System allows users to access information without the added financial pressure, use of different media, etc.
  4. Leveraging a top-down organizational learning schema will allow employees to engage in learning without being budget constrained.

Resource limitations are therefore a constraint in adult learning that hinder the development of andragogy. We can hypothesize that adults are picky and will only invest in or purchase learning artifacts that are most beneficial to them. Adult learning may be limited by resources. One may need to research in depth in order to draw their own conclusions. Despite this, it is easy to draw parallels with Knowles' four principles in andragogy as we have done in our previous section on time.


It is therefore prudent to develop your learning artifacts in a manner that allows your learners to maximize the benefits, as there is a likelihood that these two factors may affect the principles of andragogy. All in all, resources and time allocation are critical factors in andragogy. Factoring in these two constraints can only help in creating better adult learner experiences. What do you think? Are they relevant constraints? Share with us!