Five benefits of adult learning

In 2015 the online learning business was reportedly worth US$187bn and this is estimated to grow to US$244bn in 2022.  The OECD in 2011 reported more than 40% of adults participate in adult learning and individuals are likely to receive 988 hours of instruction in non-formal education during their lifetime.  With these statistics it seems that adults want to continue to learn.  So what are some of the main benefits for learners and how we can as instructors or designers provide the best outcomes.

1. Increases self confidence

When we know something and we can talk about it with sureness we can speak intelligently and eloquently on a subject.  This makes us feel good as it supports our need to be respected and valued.  The ability to achieve also positively impacts on confidence, when enrolling in a course you are setting yourself a goal to complete the course and find new knowledge.  There is a great sense of self-satisfaction which comes from successfully completing that goal.

As trainers we have an opportunity to help learners achieve this goal.   Designing quality courses, improving and developing our own delivery skills, providing quality feedback and by supporting our learners through the process will ensure their success.

2. Create opportunities to find new friends. Many long-term friendships can be traced back to the classroom.

When you commence a course it is generally fairly easy to make friends in this environment.  This is because you all share at least two commonalities, you have an interest in a common subject and you are committed to personal development.  Add to this that most of us feel uncomfortable in a new environment and this can lead to bonds being made rapidly as you seek to find security in numbers in a group setting.

As trainers we can encourage this opportunity by including fun group activities which break down barriers between people and create an environment where learners work together.  This may be as simple as an ice breaker or more involved technical discussions or activities about the subject matter.  Providing an environment where learners feel safe to share their ideas will increase the opportunity for bonds to form between learners.

3. Provides contact with other people or communities

Even in an online learning environment there are opportunities for learners to join communities of likeminded people.  Humans are social beings and mostly require interactions with others to lead a healthy balanced life.  Learning environments give rise to a large number of communities for learners, these could be as a university alumnus, in an online community, as a member of a specialised subject group and this list goes on.

Instructors can enable learners joining communities either by creating their own groups on LinkedIn or Facebook or providing learners with information about relevant communities so they have a place to communicate, share resources and continue discussions on the subject matter.

4. Create new work opportunities

There is no doubt that learning new skills can and will open up new work opportunities and for many learners that is the main motivation for beginning an adult learning program.   At the beginning of the course the learner has little or no skill in the course subject, as the instructor works through the content the learner is given new tools and new understanding.  It is with these new skills that a learner can seek different work opportunities.

There are an abundance of pathways for learners to obtain skills, as instructors or course designers it is our job to make sure the course outcomes are clearly outlined for the student prior to signing up for the course.  What will they learn, how will the learn it, how long will it take and what sort of work opportunities will it present.

5. Creates improvements at work

If no change is made by the learner after a course, the time and money on training has been wasted.

Increased self-confidence along with enhanced skills or capabilities will certainly improve a learner’s chance of obtaining new opportunities in their current work.  Just being the person to apply for learning opportunities can be enough to get noticed within the organisation.  Leaders generally push themselves and strive for constant improvements. When they see others in the organisation following the same path they immediately become visible to decision makers.

Whatever the program instructors should ensure the content and design will lead to easily implemented changes for the learner when they get back to work.  This can be as simple as asking the learner to set some goals at the start of the course, asking them to revisit the goals at the end of the course and then listing at least one thing they will do when they get back to the office.  If it is appropriate and with the learner’s consent you may even send them a follow up email a few weeks after the course to remind them of what goals they had set themselves.  Whatever you teach has got to be actionable.

Being a learner has great social and health benefits, being an instructor gives you an opportunity to deliver and enhance those benefits.  Our goal is to understand the benefits and make sure they are part of the program.  Education changes people’s lives.

Lisa Price  – Director On Board Training
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