Didactics in adult education

Didactics in adult education: This is the role of e-learning

Learning does not stop when a person graduates from school or university, but accompanies them throughout their entire (working) lives. We look at what factors are critical to didactics in adult education and how e-learning supports adult-centered learning.

Once again, let us begin with a brief theoretical introduction: Didactics is the science of teaching and learning. It deals with how a teaching/learning process must be designed in order to teach and learn successfully. And this basic assumption is central: didactics assumes that it is not enough to provide knowledge that learners acquire on their own. Rather, a successful teaching/learning process is constituted by the interaction of learners, learning content, and teachers. Even though it may sound like it at first, didactics is not a discipline that is exclusively at home behind classroom and lecture hall doors. Especially when it comes to adult learning, the sound design of teaching/learning processes plays a crucial role. In the following, we will look at what principles characterize didactics in adult education. We then explain what role our core and heart topic e-learning plays for didactics in adult education.

Principles of didactics in adult education

Since adults act differently from students in teaching/learning processes, principles have developed in theory and practice that reflect the specifics and requirements of adult-oriented learning. erwachsenenbildung.at, a service of the Austrian Ministry of Education, lists the following five principles for Didactics in Adult Education, which we would like to present to you in the following in a highly simplified form:

Principle of participant orientation
Participant orientation is considered the guiding principle of didactics in adult education. If an adult-oriented teaching/learning program is to be effective, its design must focus on the learners and their specific needs. The focus is on what meaning the learning content has for the learners.

Principle of experience orientation
Adults who attend training usually have a lot of private as well as professional experience. Didactics in adult education builds on this and actively incorporates learners’ stories and thoughts into teaching/learning processes.

Principle of lifeworld orientation
This principle is closely related to the previous two. Teaching/learning opportunities should be linked to the lifeworld of adults. In essence, it is about understanding learners as members of communities (family, culture, state, company) and taking into account their current life and work situation in the teaching/learning process.

Principle of orientation to use
This principle revolves around the question of what meaning learning content has for the future of learners. In concrete terms, then, it is a question of whether and how what has been learned can be applied in practice.

Principle of competence orientation
The fifth and last principle goes a bit further than that of use orientation and alludes to the formation of competencies, understood as the combination of knowledge and skills.

We are aware that terms like “experience” or “competence” would need to be defined more precisely in order to accurately reflect the different levels of didactics of adult education. However, for our purpose – the following connection to e-learning – the above explanations should suffice.

Blended learning concepts: These options are available

There are several options available for implementing blended learning. Which of these options comes into question in a specific case depends on the target group, its learning objectives and needs. In other words, blended learning concepts and didactic or e-didactic concepts belong together. Every successful teaching/learning offer needs a solid (e-)didactic basis. If you want to convey learning content in a blended learning format, this should already be included in the (e-)didactic concept.
The actual design of blended learning environments can vary widely. Here are a few examples of blended learning concepts:

Blended learning concept 1: Face-to-face and online phases alternate
In this first option, face-to-face and online phases alternate constantly. The digital phases are used, for example, to provide inputs or to teach theoretical basics. These inputs can be synchronous in the context of lectures or online discussions. But asynchronous forms are also conceivable. For example, learners can acquire content independently with the help of e-learning. In this form of blended learning concepts, the attendance phases serve to consolidate knowledge acquired online. This can be done, for example, through discussions or practical exercises.

Blended learning concept 2: Only the prelude takes place in presence
In this case, only the start of the corresponding education or training takes place in presence. All other units take place either synchronously or asynchronously in the digital space. Opening sessions are usually used to allow the group to get to know each other, to clarify open questions and to give learners a preview of the following content.

Blended learning concept 3: Milestones take place in presence
In this form of blended learning concepts, knowledge transfer takes place exclusively within the framework of online units. The verification or demonstration of the knowledge then takes place in presence. Learners come together on regular dates where they must take tests or prove what they have learned in the form of a presentation.

Didactics in adult education & e-learning

Now that we have developed a rudimentary theoretical foundation, we come to our core topic: e-learning. Specifically, we look at how the principles of adult learning didactics can be realized through e-learning.

Let’s start with participant orientation: This principle also applies to e-learning as a central maxim for action. e-Learning worthy of the name puts learners at the center. At the beginning of the e-learning conception are not contents, but the people to whom these contents are to be brought closer. The fact that e-learning and didactics in adult education take the same approach here shows how well digital learning and adult-oriented learning go together.
This becomes even clearer when we look at the role of e-learning in relation to the principles of experiential and lifeworld orientation: e-learning offers the possibility of responding individually to the needs of learners. Although these experiences cannot be the subject of discussions or role plays as in face-to-face settings, these experiences can be queried during conception and mapped through the use of media or interactive elements in e-learning.
And the principles of usage and competence orientation can also be realized by means of e-learning: e-learning advantages such as interactivity, multimedia or storytelling make it possible to reproduce realistic situations in detail. For example, workflows can be trained or conversations can be played out. Our best practices show how this can look in practice.

We summarize: Didactics in adult education and e-learning often start from the same basic assumptions. Adult education is therefore ideally suited to take place digitally. We prove this, among other things, with our e-learning formats, which make digital adult-oriented learning possible in a wide variety of didactic and methodological ways. See for yourself.