Application of Adult Learning Theory in Distance Learning

Application of Adult Learning Theory in Distance Learning

Mary Rose Grant (Saint Louis University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-619-3.ch002
OnDemand PDF Download:


Adult learning theory suggests that adults need to perceive the relevance and purpose of learning in order to learn most effectively. Grounded in the notion that adults frame their own learning objectives, are self-directed and active participants in their learning, require constructive feedback and want opportunities to practice new skills, online and virtual learning environments are well suited for adult learners and are directly based on adult learning principles. Virtual environments provide opportunities for adults to construct learning based on what they already know and apply what they are learning in the instructional setting. An online instructor is an adult learning expert. Using adult and constructivist learning theories and current knowledge about web-based andragogy, this chapter will focus on the characteristics and learning preferences of adult-learners in virtual learning environments and recommend instructional design and teaching strategies to encourage behaviors that influence student engagement, retention and learning.
Chapter Preview


Adult learning and constructivist learning theories, as applied to web-based learning, provide the framework for benchmarking best practices in online learning (Burge, 1988; Diaz and Bontenbal, 2001; Grant & Thornton, 2007). Moore and Kearsley (1996) wrote that the more one understands andragogy and the assumptions of adult learning, the better one will understand the nature of distance learning and hence, the advantage of learning technologies. Consequently, various adult learning theories and philosophies have influenced the development of best practices on virtual teaching: Knowles’ (1980) assumptions of adult learners, Dewey’s (1938) thoughts on experience and education, Candy’s (1989; 1991) work on constructivist thought and self-directed learning, Jarvis’ (l987) social context in adult learning, Friere’s (1986) “cycle of action and reflection”, described as “praxis”, and Roger’s (1967) acceptance and respect for the learner. These theories are integral to the development of effective virtual learning environment for adults. New knowledge about generational learning styles is expanding what we know about adult and generative learning, bringing necessary and added dimensions to virtual teaching and learning environments.

As online course designers and developers recognize the application of these and other theories, they can construct learning objects and virtual environments that are comprehensive and specific to adult learning. The line between teaching and facilitating is blurred when the student becomes the focus of the learning space. Meeting the adult-learner where they are in their learning process is key to effective teaching and the point where learning begins. The place where facilitation and connectivity meet is the online, virtual learning community. Adult learning theories that inform best practices of online teaching, course design, delivery and management expand the connectivity and interconnectivity of virtual learning environments.

This chapter will describe adult learning theories and their implications for distance learning. Principles of adult learning will be examined for application in design, delivery and management of web-based instruction. The focus will be on learning how to create relevant and meaningful learning environments to engage and retain online adult learners. Recommendations for adaptability in different virtual learning environments are proposed.

The first section provides a theoretical background of adult learning to describe web-based andragogy. The second section reviews current research on adult online learning and summarizes characteristics of online adult learners and learning preferences. The third section describes online instructional processes which cut across generational lines. The final section discusses the implications for practice and future development of instruction in alternate virtual environments. This chapter provides insights into teaching adults online that can be used by corporate trainers and facilitators to plan and implement successful virtual training and development programs which satisfy and address the needs of a multigenerational and diverse workforce.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Lea Kuznik
Virtual worlds for adults (e.g. Second Life), youth (e.g. Habbo) and children (e.g. Whyville) have a great potential for learning and teaching... Sample PDF
Using Virtual Worlds for Learning
Chapter 2
Mary Rose Grant
Adult learning theory suggests that adults need to perceive the relevance and purpose of learning in order to learn most effectively. Grounded in... Sample PDF
Application of Adult Learning Theory in Distance Learning
Chapter 3
Christopher Keesey
The decision to use a virtual world for training and development is a potentially treacherous one. Legal issues, adoption barriers, a pedagogical... Sample PDF
Engagement, Immersion, and Learning Cultures : Project Planning and Decision Making for Virtual World Training Programs
Chapter 4
Pavel Zemliansky
Traditional instructional models in web design and web communication have, until recently, leaned towards seeing websites primarily as vehicles for... Sample PDF
Workplace Use of Web 2.0 Communication Tools and its Implications for Training of Future Communication Professionals
Chapter 5
Miguel A. Garcia-Ruiz, Arthur Edwards, Raul Aquino-Santos, Samir El-Seoud, Miguel Vargas Martin
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in most world economies suffer from a series of intense economic pressures from local, regional and... Sample PDF
Desktop Virtual Reality Applications for Training Personnel of Small Businesses
Chapter 6
Hamed F. Manesh, Dirk Schaefer
Since the advent of globalization, the manufacturing industry has been subject to continuous pressure of competition. Products have to be developed... Sample PDF
Virtual Learning Environments for Manufacturing
Chapter 7
Ken Hudson
Virtual worlds hold enormous promise for corporate education and training. From distributed collaboration that facilitates participation at a... Sample PDF
Applied Training in Virtual Environments
Chapter 8
Mary Rose Grant
This chapter describes an online competency-based model for teaching adult learners in virtual environments. This model, informed by prior studies... Sample PDF
Train the Trainer: A Competency-Based Model for Teaching in Virtual Environments
Chapter 9
Sean D. Williams, Deborah M. Switzer
This chapter introduces an assessment rubric for virtual world learning environments (VWLEs) built from proven principles of user experience design... Sample PDF
Assessing 3D Virtual World Learning Environments with the CIMPLe System: A Multidisciplinary Evaluation Rubric
Chapter 10
Dirk Remley
The proliferation of virtual environments and their use in business and industry begs the question of where in higher education and corporate... Sample PDF
Developing Digital Literacies in Second Life: Bringing Second Life to Business Writing Pedagogy and Corporate Training
Chapter 11
Paul R. Messinger, Xin Ge, Glenn E. Mayhew, Run Niu, Eleni Stroulia
Virtual worlds, where many people can interact simultaneously within the same three-dimensional environment, are productive enabling environments... Sample PDF
Facilitating a Hierarchy of Engagement: Corporate Education in Virtual Worlds
Chapter 12
William Ritke-Jones
This chapter outlines the need for team members to transform distorted assumptions about team members who are in some way different from them. In... Sample PDF
Using Role-Playing and Coaching in Virtual Worlds to Promote Team Transformation
Chapter 13
Amelia W. Cheney, Richard E. Riedl, Robert L. Sanders, John H. Tashner
Employees gathered around the water cooler – the image is now a corporate cliché. This type of informal networking allows members of an organization... Sample PDF
The New Company Water Cooler: Use of 3D Virtual Immersive Worlds to Promote Networking and Professional Learning in Organizations
Chapter 14
Martha C. Yopp, Allen Kitchel
Collaboration within virtual environments is an increasingly important aspect of organizational and workplace activities. “Virtual teams” are... Sample PDF
Team Dynamics in Virtual Spaces : Challenges for Workforce Training, Human Resource Development, and Adult Development
Chapter 15
K. A. Barrett, W. Lewis Johnson
The Alelo language and culture game-based training has been successfully applied in the K-16 education, government, and military sectors. With... Sample PDF
Virtual Environments and Serious Games : Teaching Cross-cultural Communication Skills
Chapter 16
Natalie T. Wood, Michael R. Solomon, Greg W. Marshall, Sarah Lincoln
Eighty million members of the Millennial Generation are knocking at the door of Corporate America. Can traditional “chalk and talk” corporate... Sample PDF
Corporate Training Goes Virtual: A Hybrid Approach to Experiential Learning
Chapter 17
Julie Davis, Letitia Harding, Deanna Mascle
Online or e-learning is increasingly becoming an integral part of education and training programs both in the academic world and in industry. This... Sample PDF
Digital Connections and Learning Styles
Chapter 18
Mikail Feituri, Federica Funghi
Distance learning through information and communication technologies has consistently had a notable impact and influence on the academic and... Sample PDF
Intelligent Agents in Education
Chapter 19
Anna Peachey, Daniel Livingstone, Sarah Walshe
In 2005 the Centre for Professional Learning and Development at the Open University (OU) established a pioneering collaboration with Reuters (which... Sample PDF
Blueprint for a Mashup: Corporate Education in Moodle, Sloodle and Second Life
About the Contributors