Improve Your Training by Understanding Adult Learners

Workplace demands have shifted in the past few years, and adult learners are at the forefront of those affected.  

Technology advances every day. As a result, employees are much more likely to undergo ongoing training throughout their employment. According to a report by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, there is an urgent need for employees to work on evolving their skillsets.

Who are Adult Learners?   

EAB (formerly The Educational Advisory Board) defines an adult learner as anyone over the age of 25 and notes that they make up almost half of the students enrolled in college. This is a demographic that is hungry to learn, so reaching them in the right way is more important than ever.   

How to Engage Adult Learners

When it comes to developing effective teaching and learning practices, understanding your learner is key. After you have their attention, you’ll want to be sure you have everything in place to keep it and get the best return on your training investments. The most effective methods usually involve coming up with training elements that complement the user’s characteristics.

Here are some strategies to keep in mind when constructing your training curriculum:

1. Real-World Experience

Adult learners are experienced; if you integrate real-life experiences into your training materials, chances are it’ll resonate better with your audience.   

2. Tangible Resources

It can be helpful to provide downloadable versions of your learning material. Not only can you not expect someone to remember everything in one sitting, but it takes away from any anxiety the learner may have. They can focus on engaging with the material in the present, knowing that there will be plenty of information to refer to later if anything remains unclear.

3. Accommodate Busy Schedules

Most of the time, adult learners balance their job and education with other responsibilities. If you want to make it simple for your users to engage with your content, include a bookmark that allows them to return to where they last left off. Not only does this save time, but it signals that you understand your employees have other things going on besides work.

4. Incorporate Goal-Oriented Content

It isn’t surprising that most adult learners are goal-oriented and results-driven people. It can be useful to make your learners understand how they will be using the material to further business goals and complete work tasks.

5. Thoughtful and Constructive Feedback

When used correctly, feedback can be one of your greatest tools. Creating an open channel of communication between you and your learners is necessary if you want to foster an environment that encourages growth and makes learners feel comfortable. Many adult learners report that they appreciate recognition and clarification upon completion of their tasks. It might seem like a simple thing, but the gesture goes a long way.


If you consider all your employees, you’ll probably find at least half, or more are in the “adult learner” category. Today’s digital world requires that people keep their skills fresh and productivity high, so it’s up to you to make sure your materials resonate with your staff.

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