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Instructional Design Best Practices: Adult Learning Trends Roundup


Fri Sep 17 2021

Instructional Design Best Practices: Adult Learning Trends Roundup

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While we all strive to be lifelong learners, adults aren’t always the most eager students. We’re busy, and with many demands on our time and attention, making space for learning can be difficult. For that reason, instructional design professionals often recommend best practices specifically used to capture and keep the attention of adult learners. The top of trends in instructional design reflect that focus. You can use the latest learning trends to gain users interest and help them retain information.

Whether it’s for onboarding, ongoing training, or introducing new equipment or software, these trends—as noted by instructional design experts—could help your adult students learn better.



Have you wondered why you can spend hours on Candy Crush but your mind wanders during a meeting? The power of games is that they reward the user in ways that motivate them. Gamification keeps learner engaged and coming back to learn more.

Gamification uses methods that focus on the learner’s motivation. Progressive, earned rewards such as badges, leaderboards, or other desired items give the user a sense of satisfaction and motivation to complete the training.

Gamification breaks out of presenting information all at once and instead requires information to be presented as actions and context. Other effective gamification methods include avatars—characters that the users can guide through scenarios and make decisions for them—and chatbots, which are characters or dialogue boxes that interact with learners in a conversational way.

Gamification improves production and motivation in users. It also provides valuable feedback for employers. The data from gamified learning allows for assessments that demonstrate what their employees are succeeding in and where they are struggling.

Virtual Reality and Alternate Reality

Virtual reality (VR) and alternate reality (AR) technologies are becoming part of the adult learning scene. Using VR as a platform for training can be a great way to engage users.


VR and AR can create a more interactive experience that can help learners retain information better. While digital learning is an effective and popular way to train employees, the struggle of digital learning is that the outside world will constantly pull at the learner’s attention. Creating a tangible learning experience through VR can break the user out of typical digital training, providing the learner with something more immersive and stimulating. VR can bridge the gap between the digital learning experience and the real world.

Some potential uses for VR or AR training could be creating simulations to train on things like emergency situations or immersive situations that could train employees on new equipment.


Microlearning is another powerful trend in adult learning—and this one is often accessible without an upgrade in technology. Microlearning breaks up information into digestible chunks, which allows the learner to process information. This method allows the learner to focus on one topic at a time and learn it entirely before moving onto something else.

Microlearning is a more informal learning approach, but it can also be more effective for a learner. It takes into consideration time constraints, and the possibility of competing demands for attention. It’s also more easily incorporated into a day.

Combining microlearning principles throughout whatever approach of training that’s being used can help the learner stay engaged. For example, if a training is being conducted through videos, the learner’s attention will be better captured simply by including a short quiz at the beginning, middle, or end.


Learning trends may seem to come and go, but instructional design experts recommend these trendy best practices because they are effective in keeping the attention of the adult learning. Using any of these methods when designing a training for adult students can help keep them engaged and increase the amount of information retained. Incorporating gamification, microlearning, or VR could make training more effective, which would create better-informed and better-instructed employees.

Moreover, they are versatile and can be added to both in-person learning and virtual instructor-led training programs to increase the flexibility of training and motivation of the learners within your organization.

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