Adult Learners ..Going back

Adult Learners


Below is a comparison of the learning characteristics of adult learners and youth learners. Of course, these are generalizations with exceptions occurring in each group of learners, but you may want to keep these differences in mind as you consider the learner population you expect in your online course. The design of your course would be influenced by your expected student population.

Adult Learners

Youth Learners

Problem-centered; seek educational solutions to where they are compared to where they want to be in life Subject-oriented; seek to successfully complete each course, regardless of how course relates to their own goals
Results-oriented; have specific results in mind for education – will drop out if education does not lead to those results because their participation is usually voluntary Future-oriented; youth education is often a mandatory or an expected activity in a youth’s life and designed for the youth’s future
Self-directed; typically not dependent on others for direction Often depend on adults for direction
Often skeptical about new information; prefer to try it out before accepting it Likely to accept new information without trying it out or seriously questioning it
Seek education that relates or applies directly to their perceived needs, that is timely and appropriate for their current lives Seek education that prepares them for an often unclear future; accept postponed application of what is being learned
Accept responsibility for their own learning if learning is perceived as timely and appropriate Depend on others to design their learning; reluctant to accept responsibility for their own learning

In summary, adult learners usually approach learning differently than younger learners:

  • they are more self-guided in their learning
  • they bring more, and expect to bring more, to a learning situation because of their wider experience – and

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