In Brief

  • Educating adult learners entails selecting the proper tools to train them with and integrating them into the learning process.

  • Integrated training is achieved by including employees throughout the process, from development though validation and feedback.

Adult learners do not want to be taught.

They want to play a part and need to perceive training as something that will improve them as individuals. "Adult learners like to be in control of their training or at least play a role in it" (Dalto, 2015). They not only seek training in areas that are relevant to them, but find further motivation to learn and feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they are involved in identifying training needs.

A wide range of training modalities can be used, including in-person classroom sessions, virtual live sessions and self-paced e-learning. Many organizations embrace e-learning tools because of their ease of deployment, lower costs and increased learner convenience. "E-learning can be defined as the use of computer network technology, primarily over an intranet or through the Internet, to deliver information and instruction to individuals (in our case, employees)" (Welsh, Wanberg, Brown, et al., 2003).

Simulation-based training has been a staple in industries such as aviation and nuclear energy (Jha, Duncan & Bates, 2001). Virtual-reality (VR)-based systems are also becoming more common. "VR has been recognized as having relevance for training in a wide range of industries including construction, medical and space exploration" (Squelch, 2001).

While all these systems are successful in some ways, the literature does not definitively indicate which training modality is best. That said, Burke and colleagues identify one factor that has a direct and positive impact on knowledge retention: engaging the employee in the training (Burke, Sarpy, Smith-Crowe, et al., 2006). "Our findings indicate that the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, three times more effective than the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skill acquisition" (Burke, et al., 2006). Educating adult learners entails selecting the proper tools and integrating employees themselves into the learning process.

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