How to Build the Best Adult Learner Experience for Online Training

Have you ever considered how strange it is we deliver on-demand training to adult learners in basically the same way as elementary students? Materials are prepared and delivered before an audience who sits back and absorbs the lesson.


However, adults and kiddos are biologically and experientially VERY different!

  • Adult brains are fully-developed by our mid-20s, giving us greater ability to predict outcomes, devise more comprehensive plans, and make better decisions.
  • Adults and children use different parts of their brains to complete tasks.
  • Adults have more life experience to pull from than kids.


So how should we approach adult learners? How should the adult learning experience factor into the equation?

use online training to enhance the adult learner experience!

In this blog, we’ll consider the ideas of Andragogy and how they can work with a dynamic digital learning approach that hinges on the adult learner experience.


The Theory of Andragogy

The study of adult learning goes back a long time. In fact, it’s origins are in the 1830s, but it was forwarded in the 1960s by Malcolm Knowles. Knowles intentionally differentiated it from pedagogy – or learning geared toward children.


Andragogy is a pretty broad term that encompasses the methods and principles used in adult learning. The basic premise is that adults have a wealth of experience and knowledge from years – if not decades – of working. Simply requiring adults to sit down, be quiet, and absorb information fails to appreciate how their experiences should also play into training. We’re missing out by not giving adult learners more opportunities to impact their training!


MeetingOne created a compelling infographic a while back that explores why trainers should flip Bloom’s Taxonomy when approaching the adult learner experience! It’s great content that helps to explain andragogy further.




Specifically, andragogy makes the following demands:

  1. Learning should correspond to learner needs and job relevance.
  2. Learning should pull from life and job experience.
  3. Learning should be self-directed (at least in part).
  4. Learning should be task-oriented.

Let’s consider each factor. (Click on the one that most interests you!)



Learner Needs and Job Relevance

Internal motives drive adults. Covering the mortgage, saving for retirement, setting aside funds for their kids’ college, all shape adults’ perspectives in a way that children can’t understand.


Adults want to know “what’s in it for me?” “How will this actually benefit my job?” Training must be able to address these needs.


Without communicating such value, adults won’t be as eager or willing to place their full attention to learning. When importance is transmitted successfully, adults learn faster and retain more information!


(Jump back up to the list – click here.)



Learning Should Pull from Life and Job Experience

As Karla Gutierrez writes, “[Adults] analyze, rationalize, synthesize, and develop new ideas or tweak old ones through the filter of their experiences.”


Building on this foundation of experience is critical for trainers. Gutierrez notes, “[Y]ou should tap into their well of experiences to help them make connections, perceive relevance, and derive inspiration.”


(Jump back up to the list – click here.)



Learning Should be Self-Directed

Adults have no choice but to direct the course of their life – another significant difference from their children. Adults are expected to earn money, shelter their families, and provide for a lifetime.

adult learner eager to engage self-directed material

It comes as no surprise that many adults want their learning experience to incorporate a degree of self-direction. Everything else in their life is self-directed!


(Jump back up to the list – click here.)



Learning Should be Task-Oriented

Adult learners enjoy better outcomes when they undertake active training. They need to get out there and “do it.” A task-oriented approach makes it easier for adults to relate learning material to their day-to-day work.


This approach is also found to boost the confidence of adult learners. If they can accomplish a task in training, they sure as heck can also manage in real life.


These factors place a premium on the adult learner experience.


(Jump back up to the list – click here.)


The Adult Learner Experience in Online Training

Online training has all the makings to be perfect for adult learners…or a bad rehashing of high school. On-demand content can often be static. If we’re taking an approach based on the theory of andragogy, online training needs to be dynamic and provide adult learners ample opportunity to engage.


That’s why we believe in Adobe’s Digital Learning approach. They put training teams in the best position to develop and deliver useful content.


Adobe’s Digital Learning Approach includes several tools for trainers to design, manage, deliver, and track their online training.

  • Adobe Captivate is an authoring tool ideal for creating robust eLearning materials.
  • Adobe Presenter is a presentation tool used to enhance slides and add interactive elements.
  • Adobe Captivate Prime is a leading enterprise LMS that puts training teams in the best position to add and manage learners, implement training courses, and track learner progress.
  • Adobe Connect is a virtual classroom solution that provides learners an immersive online experience.

Here, we’re going to explore three components of the Digital Learning solution that we believe serve the adult learner experience quite well: Adobe Captivate, Adobe Captivate Prime, and Adobe Connect.


(Adobe Presenter is an integral part of the Digital Learning Solution, but we will not be discussing it here.)


Adobe Captivate Prime LMSAdobe Captivate: Make Training Interactive

The days when PowerPoint slides served training needs are long gone. Interactions have proven critical for retaining information. So, we need the course materials trainers develop to be geared toward engagement.


That’s where Adobe Captivate steps in.  As a leading eLearning authoring tool, Captivate operates on the principle of engagement!


Captivate offers slides that trainers can use out of the box, or PPT conversion so interactions can be added. Both enhance presentations immediately. Captivate makes the inclusion of video (even videos that must be played across slides) easy. And it’s a cinch to introduce click-boxes and other interactive objects to courses. But those are just the basics.


Let’s consider two tools that greatly enhance the adult learner experience:

  • Multi-Module Branched Courses
  • Quiz Creation


Branching Courses

Adult learners love the opportunity to be faced with real choices during on-demand training. Branching courses allow adult learners to determine how they will approach topics in a larger course. If you were learning about AI, a branching course might allow you to explore Neural Networks and Layering, Natural Language Processing, OR Developments in Algorithms. You decide the order!


No matter which selection they make initially, an adult learner will have to review all of the topics before moving on to the assessment.

Captivate's branched courses enhance the adult learner experience

It’s a terrific concept that puts adult learners in a position for success. Branching courses are part of Adobe Captivate out of the box!


The real key is that Captivate does all the background coding work for you. Branching scenarios can be rather complicated. The Captivate platform only requires trainers to assign specific slides with certain content branches correctly. It’s quite easy.


As a learner works through a branching course, the completed section will be blacked out. They won’t see the quiz option until the other modules are finished, too! (See the above GIF.)


You can quickly create courses with branching scenarios. Your adult learners will appreciate the opportunity to learn on their terms.


Create Powerful Quizzes 

Quiz creation has always been a staple in the Captivate platform. Integrating quizzes within presentations improves the overall experience for learners. Quizzes both break up the monotony of slides, reinforce what was covered in a section, and test to see how well information is retained.


Passing quizzes can be very motivating to adult learners, as well. It affirms the work they’ve put into a course, and it gives them the confidence to continue their learning.


Captivate provides trainers the easy ability to build their own quizzes. The platform also comes with out-of-the-box quizzes you can quickly alter to fit your needs.


Creating quizzes is super easy if that’s the route you go. You are provided 9 types of questions you can ask (see them below). Captivate presents a window where you can type in the question and answer. The simple formatting makes it easy to construct matching questions and the like!

adobe captivate improves the adult learner experience

I’d never even heard of hotspot questions until I was introduced to Adobe Captivate!


Captivate is a tremendous solution for improving the adult learner experience in the online setting. Branching courses give adults the opportunity to explore learning for themselves. This accounts for their needs and interests.


Quizzes are much more than just a means to assess information retention! Captivate utilizes simple interfaces that put trainers in a position to create effective quizzes. The quizzes, in turn, both assess and motivate learners! In the end, the adult learner experience is enhanced!


Get Captivate as part of MeetingOne’s Digital Learning Experience Solution!


Adobe Captivate Prime LMSAdobe Captivate Prime: A Learner-Centric LMS

It feels like so many people want to say the LMS is a passing trend. We don’t believe that to be true! It all depends on the LMS – and LMSs need to be geared toward learners’ needs and pull on learners’ experience.


Captivate Prime achieves these ends!


Defining Learning Courses

Pulling on life experience depends on flexibility and opportunity. Too many LMSs are geared toward pushing learners through the same courses with the same goals. While it’s crucial employees reach certain goals, adult learners need to be able to define, in degree, what they learn.


Captivate Prime was built to give learners more control over their learning paths. While certain paths are assigned upon – say – getting hired, there are other courses that learners can find in searches.


Finding the right course is simple. Learners select “Courses” in the left pane or search courses by keywords. Filters can be applied, too. Course options will then appear.


searchable content for mobile learning

The best part about Captivate Prime is that course effectiveness is made available to learners for every course. (Course effectiveness is calculated by factoring learner and manager feedback with quiz scores.) When a learner finds a course they are interested in, they can enroll – and enrollment is immediate!

course effectiveness is critical to personalized learning

Learners’ searches and selections will then factor into future recommendations Captivate Prime offers. As a result, learners are presented with the personalized learning they so desire!


Social Learning

Captivate Prime offers powerful social learning tools that give learners an unprecedented opportunity to reshape conversations around courses and materials.


Each learner has their social feed. These feeds highlight activity on discussion boards the learner has commented on, as well as content from people they follow.

Captivate Prime discussion board - ideal for the adult learner experience

Posts that appear on the feed can be liked and commented on. The more a learner engages their feed, the more content they will see that is relevant to their skills and interests.


Imagine how this might play out. An engaged individual is learning about AI systems for their work, so they join a discussion board. Interesting articles might pop up from other participants. The materials they find inform their learning – and prompts them to seek out more information! It’s a positive feedback loop that helps create a learning culture. And, it puts learners in the driver seat to expand their learning. Their needs become a given component of their courses!



Gamification is nothing new, and it’s well known that gamification can benefit online learning.  Games that simulate tasks or situations are 90% more likely to translate into information retention.


The mistake many organizations make is to assume gamification requires the literal integration of games into coursework.  Gamification should extend to entire platforms.


LMS platforms such as Adobe Captivate Prime take gamification beyond courses.  Captivate Prime incorporates badges, leaderboards, personal scoring, and visually striking skill maps to engage learners at every stage of their learning. Many adult learners love the competitive nature of the leaderboards!

captivate prime badges and leader boards lms

These factors do translate:

  • 60% of learners are motivated by leaderboards (ibid).
  • Badges tend to improve learners’ attitudes.
  • Personal scoring can also encourage learners to pursue taking more courses.



Get Captivate Prime as part of MeetingOne’s Digital Learning Experience Solution!



Gamification can enhance the adult learner experience! That’s why we built a gamification worksheet that helps you plan and imagine how you would score course completion! You can also dream up your own badges!

gamification worksheet



Adobe Connect ProviderAdobe Connect: Virtual Classrooms for Engagement

No training program will serve adult learners if there isn’t a space for group and personal interactions. With business expanding and globalizing, the opportunities for face-to-face training are diminishing. That’s why live online training in virtual classrooms has gained so much traction.


We believe virtual classrooms are ideal for adult learners. They take the classroom feel of in-person training, and provide many more outlets for engagement. Chats, polls, Q&As, whiteboards – all option that give adult learners to be self-directed and task-oriented.


We’ll explore the Adobe Connect virtual classroom offering, here. Connect’s rich feature set drives engagement in ways no other platform can manage. And the customizable rooms can be used again-and-again by trainers thanks to its persistent functionality. In fact, Cindy Hugget found that more trainers use Adobe Connect for online training than any other platform!


“Self-Directed” Capability

Adult learners want to feel they can shape training. Adobe Connect makes this possible thanks to a diverse feature set. Like all platforms out there, webcams and microphones can be turned on for participation then paused or muted, respectively, during lectures.


Adobe Connect offers chats and polls standard, as well. Chats, of course, provide adult learners an outlet for their thoughts if verbal participation is on hold during a lecture. Polls put adult learners in an ideal position to make their opinion count.


Now, chats and polls are available in many platforms. What makes Adobe Connect unique is that the room layout can be customized to feature multiple chats or polls at the same time, without interrupting the presentation. That is, they can run concurrent to the slides and each other! Trainers love this functionality.

Concurrent Polls in a MOOC

Whiteboarding is another important tool to ensure adult learners feel they can self-direct. Connect’s whiteboards offer an array of tools: Text box, shapes, highlighter/marker, and a nearly unlimited range of colors that can be used. Putting a dynamic whiteboard like Connect’s in the hands of adult learners is a great way to drive organic interactions that pull on prior experience to create new outcomes. (We talk more about how whiteboarding plays into annotation below.)


Finally, we have to talk about Connect’s breakout room functionality. Breakout rooms provide an unmatched opportunity to get groups interacting and collaborating in virtual classrooms.


In Adobe Connect, up to 20 breakout rooms can be preformatted with chats, polls, webcams, screen shares, file shares, and more! So, groups with specific projects or goals can collaborate to achieve an end. This necessarily entails self-direction, and we’ve found teams love the chance to work together during online training.


Breakout rooms also play well into the next factor: Task-oriented engagement.


Task-Oriented Engagement

As you can image, breakout rooms are a great place to start for task work. We’ve seen groups use breakout rooms to work on editing documents, like the one above, share files, and devise presentations they’ll give when returning to the main room. All it takes is the versatile the Notes Pod.


Whiteboarding is perhaps the best option for task-oriented engagement. Adobe Connect’s whiteboard is built into the Screen Share pod. So, annotating screen shares is a snap. The share can be paused, and the annotating tools become available – all of which are the same as the normal whiteboard. While typically used for online meetings, we’ve seen trainers incorporate this practice into online sessions.


Connect takes annotation even further. The Share Pod allows files to be uploaded directly into the room from your computer, or pulled from Connect’s content hub in the admin interface, Connect Central. (Psst, an unlimited amount of content can be uploaded into the hub! It’s pretty remarkable.)

online training or educational webinar

Documents uploaded into the Share Pod can be annotated. Groups can work toward identifying issues in the text and places for improvement. Such activities can reinforce the desired company outcomes while still giving individuals more control over their training!


Get Connect as part of MeetingOne’s Digital Learning Experience Solution!


A Better Adult Learner Experience is Possible!

The adult learner experience shouldn’t be looked at as some daunting obstacle. Enhancing the experience can lead to improved learning outcomes. And it’s quite common to see successful learning courses translate to greater employee productivity.


All that is required to improve the adult learner experience is a different attitude – and the right technology! When we respect adults’ experience and background, we can better create content that fits their needs. Doing so can be achieved with the right tools.


There are many online training tools out there. Yet, only Adobe provides a complete Digital Learning solution. They have you covered from content creation to delivery! From learner management to tracking. Captivate, Captivate Prime, and Connect serve as a trifecta ideal for trainers across the globe! Better yet, they all integrate into each other. You can move from Captivate to Connect without losing a step.




Adobe Captivate Prime LMS

Learn more about the industry leader: Adobe Captivate Prime

Captivate Prime’s only been on the market a few years, yet it quickly ascended to the top of the enterprise LMS world!

  • G2 just ranked it a Top Leader in the Enterprise LMS Space.
  • The Brandon Hall Group named it the “Best Advance in Learning Management Technology
  • eLearning Industry ranked it the #1 Customer Training LMS Vendors
  • It received CODiE’s “Best Corporate / Workforce Learning Management Solution

Adobe Captivate Prime Best LMS Award