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Adults learn differently than children, and therefore it is extremely important for startups that are engaged in education to take this difference into account to stand out from the competition. As the adult education market is growing at an enormous pace, it attracts investors. According to Verified Market Research, it is expected that the market will grow significantly with a CAGR of 12% in the next seven years.
Unlike pedagogy, which is related to the traditional schooling of children, the way adults receive new skills and knowledge is called andragogy. Understanding its principles helps EdTech founders bring real benefits and results to adult students. Let’s outline three main differences between adult EdTech and children’s EdTech and how to use this to create educational programs.
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1. Adults have a different motivation to study
Learning as a child is a natural developmental process. Without getting basic knowledge, they’ll have a hard time adjusting to life. The challenge, however, is that children have a harder time keeping their attention. EdTech projects for children add more gamification and entertainment to get them interested. Statistics show that students who educate with challenge-based gamification increase their results by up to 89.45% compared to those who have lectures only.
Adults learn more effectively when they are intrinsically motivated and understand why they need this knowledge. That means they are engaged in a study even if there isn’t an obvious reward, like a diploma. Adults choose a learning course that matches their interests, helps in self-development and the process of education brings pleasure.
Of course, extrinsic motivation is also present. For instance, if you do not develop in a professional field, there is a risk that a more advanced employee will take your place. Among examples of extrinsic motivation are salary increase, career advancement, publicity and influence.
Still, the best way to succeed in adult education, however, is to emphasize extrinsic motivation. The curriculum must clearly demonstrate what the learner is getting out of their interaction, otherwise, learners will quickly become disengaged. Demonstrate the content’s value, and students are far more likely to be involved in the experience of learning. For example, the manager wants to become the head of a department, so he is trained in expert sales techniques to break sales records in the department and get promoted.
How to use it: The founder and the educational startup team must research their audience in detail and understand what motivates them. It could be a salary increase or a career promotion. Determine what motivators and factors are crucial for the person, and explain how the educational program will help get it.
At the beginning of the program, tell the students about the goals and roadmap, and at the end of each module, summarize and ask for feedback.
Related: Does That College Diploma Really Matter for Success?
2. Adults care about real-life skills, not grades
Recall yourself in high school. You probably didn’t care much about how an algebra or chemistry formula would help you in life. The main thing is to get a good grade or at least not be kicked out of school. An adult will learn the formula in most cases if he understands that it will be used to calculate, for example, his deposit in compound interest.
Adults rarely study for study’s sake or diploma (unless they’re still in school), but instead, they study for skills that will help them quickly solve specific problems at work or in business. That’s why they are required for up-to-date knowledge and skills and don’t care so much about theory. An adult learner will only go long and hard on the material if they feel it is something they will apply. It’s updating and tying into the real world.
How to use it: Structure the program so that students are solving real cases in class. Content that’s based on real-life stories, correlated examples, and drawing on first-hand experience will lead to a more thoughtful understanding of the discipline.
At Refocus, we rely on four key components:
- Detect and identify the problem.
- Understand what knowledge can help solve it.
- Transfer this knowledge.
- Show how it works using real practical examples.
Learning from abstract examples is ineffective. That is why, for example, our marketing students receive a real brief from a client and make a marketing strategy for it. This gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a working context and cope with real tasks already during the learning process.
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3. Adults seek networking vs. fun
During school or extracurricular activities, children get to know each other, develop friendships, spend their free time together and share the results. It is important for them to be in a group in order to learn to communicate with peers and adults — to learn to solve conflicts and different tasks, as well as to share ideas.
In adult educational programs, it’s extremely rare to look for friends purely to have fun. Much more important for adult students is to get access to a community of specialists with whom they can discuss experiences, cases and negotiate partnerships.
How to use it: In educational products for adults, it is important to create a separate field for networking. This is a whole area in education – community management. In an Edtech startup, there can be a separate team or person for this.
For example, Refocus has a dedicated staff member who facilitates informal online meetings between students. This helps create collaborations and fits into our commitment to fostering a friendly and supportive community.
It is impossible to build a high-quality, successful EdTech product for adults without understanding the principles of andragogy and using them. Therefore, when developing a program, always conduct audience research and understand their motivations in order to create a practical course. Put the emphasis on practice, providing the opportunity to deal with real cases in the course. And of course, don’t forget about networking to increase student engagement and outcomes.
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