The world of learning and development is not only changing but it’s making a difference to a company’s bottom line and employee retention rates that just can’t be ignored.

But do you understand what it’s all about?


93% of employees say they will stay longer at the company that invests in their career development.

The world of Learning and Development is moving from a one size fits all, learning as an ‘event’ based approach, to flexible, just in time, anywhere on any device learning that focuses on responding to learner needs where and when they’re needed to build capability and increase engagement.

Contemporary eLearning gives the flexibility to deliver and meet the needs of learning in a busy workplace but you must still apply the principles of adult learning over this to increase engagement and improve outcomes.

So what are the principles of Adult Learning?


Your people are adults with a rich history, and a range of past experiences they can draw upon, which helps them in their learning endeavours.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

Consider what your learners already know and build capability pathways that build on existing knowledge. 

For example: If you’re building systems training for employees cater to different stages of learning.

For those new to the company, cover “logging in” and “logging out” of the system as part of your Induction pathway. 

But for those who have already been using the system for a while, don’t force them to do lessons like “logging in” and “logging out”. As adult learners these team members can draw from their past experiences and sort these out on their own. 

If you must include it in the course, make it optional.


Adults tend to be self-directed in that they like to have control over their own learning content and process.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

Give learners ownership of their learning and the flexibility to learn around their workflow – don’t be prescriptive. And give them control over their course by:

  • Not locking down your navigation
  • Let learners choose the order in which they view the content  – let them decide their work flow..
  • Allow them to select an avatar to guide them through the course.
  • Build scenarios that give learners various options and allow them to make decisions.
  • With course gamification allow learners to select ‘rewards’ that matter to them – offer things like badging and micro-credentials 

Those are just a few ideas. The key is to find points in your e-learning where you can give learners control over the e-learning experience.


Adult learners need to see the direct link of how the learning relates back to their real-life problems and tasks, rather than simply learning theory or academic materials that won’t help them on the job.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

Talk to your people about the skills and capabilities they need to succeed in their roles and connect this in your eLearning to professional development and promotion pathways.

Focus your e-learning on tasks and use real-life scenarios to provide context for the content. Context is incredibly important here – delivering content that resonates with the day to day experiences of learners massively improves engagement and outcomes.

With the Skillpod Learning Journey our L&D experts can help you navigate this process to deliver relevant training that gets results.

Whether you are building something in house, getting bespoke content from an eLearning provider like Smartwork Creative, or using prebuilt templates (such as Skillpod micro modules)  you need to tailor your content to reflect your brand, your people and their roles.


Adults want to learn the information they need to know right away, and are not overly concerned with information they may or may not need down the road.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

One of the benefits of elearning is that it can be available anywhere, any time. Google has trained people that the answers they seek are only a click away, and you need to emulate this in your L&D platform.

Learners need to be able to find the training they need when they need it, wherever they are, in bite sized pieces (what we call micro-modules) that are easy to consume and fit with their workflow. Get rid of any “nice to know” information, or at the very least, make it optional. 

This ties into the previous point about relevance: if you focus on what’s relevant to the tasks at hand, you’re more likely to create training that focuses on what learners need to know right now, which is what they’re interested in.


Adult learners need to understand the benefits and what they stand to gain from the learning in order to be engaged by it.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

Learners need to know “what’s in it for them” – this ties into the relevance above, but also their career goals and aspirations, their professional development goals within your organisation and the immediate benefits they will get from undertaking the training.  

You need to capture their interest by being explicit up front about the benefits for the learner in understanding the material at hand. 

  • Will the process they’re learning make their current job easier? 
  • Will it save them time or collect better data in the system? 

You need to identify specific ways this training will make your learner’s job easier and better. But if it won’t, you need to explain the reasoning behind why they still need to learn this information and get their buy in.


Adults like to be able to share their past experiences, capabilities, and insights with others.

How to apply this principle to e-learning?

It’s critical that you blend online delivery with the real world, otherwise you risk your training simply being a box ticking exercise that doesn’t generate the outcomes needed.

Many Skillpod Modules come with Discussion cards that support and guide team discussions in the real world, taking the learning off the computer and into the team whanau. 

Make your online learning social.

  • Incorporate group activities and tasks/projects within the elearning pathway – this necessitates that people work together outside of the platform building engagement and real world application
  • Consider an internal chat channel where people have follow-up discussions about the e-learning course they just took, 
  • Have a question board where the Subject Matter Experts or course designer can answer questions. 
  • Consider some aspects of gamification to make it social. For example, you may look at the possibility of including a leaderboard on your company’s internal website or LMS to let people see how they’re ranking.

At Smartwork Creative and Skillpod we’re experts in applied elearning that gets results. We can help you build an individualised capability framework and relevant elearning that supports your organisational goals while giving your people the elearning resources they need to succeed in their roles.