Applying Adult Learning Theory into Online Teaching Practices

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Besides changes in technology and student expectations in colleges, the demographics have increasingly changed from serving traditional students to serving non-traditional students. This demographic shift has implications for higher education nationwide. It is essential to begin designing lessons within online programs to engage adult learners in an active learning experience.


Dr. Dana Wilkie, Assistant Provost at Post University provides direct supervision and support of Instructional Design, the Course Materials Coordinator, and the Digital Resource Specialist. She leads the effort to drive and enhance the Electronic Course Materials (ECMs) initiative. She coordinates course (re)development with Instructional Design and the Deans. Prior to her role at Post University, Dr. Wilkie served as the Interim Dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Associate Dean of Adjunct Faculty at Westchester Community College. She collaborated with faculty to develop effective online and blended courses. She implemented quality assurance measures for course development through Open SUNY (OSCQR) peer-based course review. Prior to her role at Westchester Community College, Dr. Wilkie served as Dean of Academic Affairs at Charter Oak State College, located in New Britain, Connecticut where she supervised and lead the distance learning program growth and development.
Kristi Newgarden, Ph.D. earned a doctorate in Educational Technology from the University of Connecticut in 2015. She has been the Assistant Director of Instructional Design for Charter Oak State College, a fully online institution, since January of 2017. Kristi is leading initiatives in Competency Based Education and Open Educational Resources. Current design interests include integration of game-based learning and augmented and virtual realities. Prior to her work for Charter Oak, Kristi served for 18 years as director of the University of Connecticut American English Language Institute (UCAELI). In her research, she applies the perspectives of Ecological Psychology, Dialogicality and Distributed Cognition.

Extended Abstract


This session will discuss the value of developing the skill of integrating adult learning theory and current research-based best practices into online teaching and design practices. The process of engaging adult learners in a learning experience is known as andragogy. Participants will discover how to evaluate and design lessons within their online courses using the six principles of Malcolm Knowles' Adult Learning Theory; (1) Self-Concept; (2) Experience; (3) Social Role; (4) Time Perspective; (5) Motivation; and (6) Purpose.

Learning Goals:

During this session participants will discover how to:

  • Examine their own online course teaching experiences using adult learning theories to create a list of improvements for their own online course learning plan aligned to a framework for adult learning.
  • Capitalize on the variety of learning mediums available today beyond traditional teaching methods such as web-based platforms, informal learning, etc.
  • Motivate the adult learner to connect and apply learning to their career trajectory.

Audience Engagement:

At the start of the panel, we will open a live poll focused on the audience general opinion on the adult learning theory and the increased adult learner demographics.

The facilitator will prompt the panelists to comment on the results and contribute to their view. In this way, the audience will be eager to hear more. 

The panel will be divided into three different sections, each focused on a two subtopics of Knowles' six principles of adult learning theory. 

The facilitator will integrate the audience questions into the conversation with speakers at the end of each panelist’s discussion.


A Link to a PowerPoint presentation and handouts will be made available.