Instructional Design Approaches For Adult Learners
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4 Instructional Design Theories To Consider When Designing eLearning Courses For Adult Learners

As an Instructional Designer, your job is to ensure that you create learning experiences that drive performance and motivate your adult learners to learn. While that's a fact, I'm sure you'll agree with me that it can also be challenging to meet the adults' needs. This is because most of them are always busy and stressed out. They can't afford to waste their time doing things that don't add value to their lives. All they want is a learning experience that focuses on helping them achieve their goals and become better adults.

So, in order to develop courses that meet the adult learners' requirements, there's a need for you to understand the Instructional Design approach. That's because it'll help you choose the right technology to deliver the training. Apart from that, it'll also help you plan better strategies that meet today's digital-age style. Let's explore 4 Instructional Design approaches that can help you develop courses that merit your adult learners' requirements.

No doubt, the Instructional Design approach you choose when designing an online course has a lot of impact on the success of your training. Not selecting the right one can ruin your design program. That's why you must take your time and choose the best approach to deliver training that matters. Here are 4 Instructional Design approaches that you might find useful for your next design.

1. Adult Learning Theory

The first essential theory that you can utilize for your training is the adult learning theory. The adult learning theory, also known as andragogy, was first introduced in 1968 by Malcolm Knowles. This learning approach focuses on how adults acquire knowledge and how it is different from the children's way of learning. It also emphasizes the fact that personal and situational characteristics are the key aspect of an adult learning experience. Although adult learners have high intellectual abilities, their sensory-motor abilities are low and diminish with time.

So, for Instructional Designers to deliver useful training, they need to strike a balance between the adult learners' strengths and weaknesses. One way to do this is to enable adult learners to choose training activities that suit their needs.

2. Problem-Based Learning Approach

This is also one of the most effective Instructional Design approaches that can help develop adult learning courses that matter. Since adult learners are only interested in training that helps them solve practical problems, you can utilize this approach. It suggests that learners should acquire knowledge through their reflection and real-life challenges.

Here are 3 principles that Instructional Designers must follow to improve the learning experience:

  • Utilize assessment to measure your adult learners' level of understanding of your concepts.
  • Problems motivate learners and keep them engaged.
  • Problems provoke learners to develop vital skills by solving a real-life task.

3. Cognitive Flexibility Theory

Cognitive flexibility theory is a learning approach that emphasizes the fact that adult learners need to absorb, organize, and manipulate the information they learn.

So, in order for the Instructional Designers to provide adult learners with the opportunity to absorb information, they need to follow the principles of cognitive flexibility theory. Here's a list of them:

  • Knowledge is rooted in context. To enable your adult learners to improve their retention ability, you need to understand that knowledge is context-dependent.
  • Knowledge must be in its purest form, not diluted. By utilizing your Instructional Design materials, you need to ensure that they're not oversimplifying the topic both in terms of structure and content.
  • Knowledge is constructed. To ensure that your adult learners are actively involved in the learning process, you must utilize a constructive approach to deliver your training.
  • Knowledge is interconnected. In order for you to help your adult learners improve the way they grasp knowledge, you must ensure that the knowledge sources get interconnected to each other. That means that you need to consider your learners' previous knowledge and connect it with the new information.

4. Collaborative Learning Approach

Collaborative learning is also an Instructional Design approach that can help deliver a better learning experience for adults. This approach requires that Instructional Designers focus on 5 key elements, including collaborative skills, personal accountability, group discussion, direct interaction, and interdependence. By doing so, they can enable adult learners to acquire more knowledge and skills through their peers.

There are several other Instructional Design approaches to consider, including action learning, multimedia integration, and choosing graphics and layouts. However, the above-listed strategies will enable you to know adult learners and their needs. They'll help you develop courses that improve your adult learners' retention ability and provide a better learning experience.

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