How to motivate adult learners

Archy Learning

Student motivation within high school age students is quite easy to nurture, but how do you encourage students that are adults?

These days, adults are expected to learn and adapt to changing work demands all the time, but they’re busy, preoccupied, and often lacking the motivation with the other responsibilities they often have to contend with.

Eight Tips for Motivating Adults to Learn

As a teacher, learner motivation can be a tricky thing to cultivate, especially when your students are adults who are seemingly stuck in their ways, and in some cases even closed-minded. While it can be challenging to create genuine interest in the learning process for some adult students it is far from impossible, it’s all about having the right tips.

1. Make learning as relevant as possible

Adults lead busy lives, so when there’s barely enough time to hit the gym or spend time with family after a long workday, it’s no wonder that learning is low on the list of priorities for most adults.

Most adults are of the belief that their days of studying are behind them, so the key to making adult education appealing is to have the course material be as relevant and specific to the student’s career and personal growth aspirations as possible.

If the knowledge and skills they seek to improve are clearly linked to their career goals, the motivation to learn from training is just about guaranteed.

2. Use Humour

Humour works great for even the most demotivated learners on your course. When your students know you are funny, they are more inclined to listen in on your material carefully.

Learning something new doesn’t have to be a stuffy experience, so be sure to keep the training material light.

3. Make courses as accessible as possible

As the Millennial and Gen Z population starts to dominate the workforce, working adults are spending an increasing amount of time online and on their phones. In fact, the average person spends more than three hours on their phone every day on work-related tasks, so why would you not create a learning environment for mobile?

So, be smart and make learning opportunities available on the online platforms that you know learners are already frequenting, like social media and mobile phones. By finding a Learning Management System with iOS and Android compatibility, learners will be able to learn on the tools they feel most comfortable with.

4. Chunk your content

Student engagement increases dramatically when you offer a learning structure that consists of bite-sized chunks of information (like short videos or infographics) that can be easily consumed. This is called microlearning, and it means that employees can learn a quick new skill or understand a new piece of information towards their overall learning objectives while eating lunch, travelling to their next client, or catching the train to work.

5. Appeal to different learning preferences

When it comes to motivating adults to learn, individual preferences is something that just can’t be ignored, as some students feel that they learn better through visual materials, like graphics and presentations, while others find that real-life workshops or videos keep them engaged for longer.

Furthermore, some teachers and students might prefer live, scheduled problem-solving activities, while others are motivated by the freedom to learn in their own time and at their own pace.

6. Make it visually-compelling

A huge pitfall for a lot of adult learning courses is a lack of visually-compelling material, did you know that 83% of learning occurs visually?

So, to keep your online learning courses predominantly text-based is setting yourself up for a loss when it comes to student achievement.

7. Offer feedback on both sides

Feedback is what helps adults to measure their learning progress and to refocus on the areas that need extra attention. Even better when feedback comes from different perspectives, like self-assessment, peer-assessment, and feedback from a mentor or leader.

But this tip only works when feedback is constructive, practical, and tailored to the individual learner. Feedback should emphasise ways for a learner to leverage their strengths and improve their development areas, rather than focusing on mistakes or weaknesses.

Likewise, it is motivating for students to know that their opinion contributes to the overall quality of the course, so be sure to notify students upfront that you’ll ask for feedback at the end of the course.

8. Reward learning with fun and games

Gamification is all about making learning fun for adults by recognising small wins within student work, fostering competition, and introducing curiosity into the learning experience. Badges, points, leaderboards, certificates, and level-progression in an eLearning course could be the trick you need for motivating adults to learn.

Final Thoughts

Learning a new skill later in life shouldn’t have to be a joyless grind, so be sure to put some thought into what your online classes will look like.


A little more effort injected into the delivery of information online can see a great yield in course results for adult learners.

Archy Learning

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