Seems like such a normal idea doesn’t it? The fact that adult learners are not children or teenagers.

So why when we plan product or services for them do we revert back to the old “students will be students” and get all teary-eyed over the way students were back when we were students? Wake up people, adult learners are just like you and me – the only difference is they are studying as well (which makes them a bit more like me than you perhaps as I am currently an adult student).

The eLearning Coach published a post on characteristics of Adult learners to keep in mind:

  • Autonomy. Adults typically prefer a sense of control and self-direction. They like options and choice in their learning environment.
  • Goal-oriented. They prefer to partake in learning activities that help them reach their goals.
  • Practical. Adults need personal relevance in learning activities.
  • Competence and mastery. Adults like to gain competence in workplace skills as it boosts confidence and improves self-esteem.
  • Learning by experience. Many adults prefer to learn by doing rather than listening to lectures.
  • Wealth of Knowledge. Adults have accumulate a unique store of knowledge and experiences which they bring to the learning situation.
  • Inquisitive. Adults want to know the purpose of training and the motivation underlying an organization’s training initiative.
  • Emotional Barriers. Adults may fear a subject, have anxiety about a subject or feel anger about forced changes in job responsibilities or policies.
  • Results-oriented. Adults are results-oriented.
  • Outside responsibilities. Carving out time for learning affects adult learners.
  • Potential physical limitations. Depending on their age and physical condition, adult learners may acquire psychomotor skills more slowly than younger students.
  • Big Picture. Adults require the big picture view of what they’re learning. .
  • Responsible for Self. Adult learners often take responsibility for their own success or failure at learning.
  • Need for Community. Many  prefer a learning community with whom they can interact and discuss questions and issues.