Characteristics of Adult Learners

Kathleen Cercone identifies 13 characteristics of adult learners and provides recommendations for online course development based on these characteristics. To view details of the article use the link below and access the PDF. The first two characteristics are provided in the article and the remaining eleven are in the appendix.

Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of Adult Learners With Implications for Online Learning Design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from

The characteristics of adult learners are listed below.

  1. Adults may have some limitations and these should be considered in the design of the online environment
  2. Learning styles need to be considered due to the wide range of individual differences
  3. Adults need to be actively involved in the learning process
  4. Adults need scaffolding to be provided by the instructor
  5. Adults have pre-existing learning history and will need support to work in the new learner -centered paradigm
  6. Adults need the instructor acting as facilitator
  7. Adults need consideration of their prior experience
  8. Adults need to see the link between what they are learning and how it will apply to their lives
  9. Adults need to feel that learning focuses on issues that directly concern them and want to know what they are going to learn, how the learning will be conducted and why it is important
  10. Adults need to test their learning as they go along
  11. Adult learning requires a climate that is collaborative, respectful, mutual and informal
  12. Adults need to self-reflect on the learning and be given support for transitional learning
  13. Adults need dialogue and social interaction must be provided. They need to collaborate with other students.

About Karin Potgieter

Originally from South Africa, I have been privileged to enjoy the beautiful lifestyle of Canada. My career in Early Childhood Education has been motivating, ranging from the endearing relationships with the children and families of the Preschool that I owned to the inspirational interactions with my students as instructor of the Early Childhood Education Certificate Program. My qualifications include a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Early Childhood Education Certificate, Provincial Instructors Diploma and en route to completing the Certificate in Online/eLearning Instruction.
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