Linear or Exploratory Learning?

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Enspire designs and develops courses for adult learners and as a result their preferences are at the center of what we do. I was recently asked whether user-driven exploration is more effective than linear instruction. Here’s the question and how I responded. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Q: Is user-driven exploration more effective for adult learners than a forced linear path?

A: It depends on the target users and the instructional content. Andragogy, Knowles’ theory of adult learning, emphasizes the importance of considering the learner’s prior knowledge on the topic and whether they are self-motivated to proceed on their own. As learners progress and mature in skills so does their approach to learning. Veteran learners tend to go more in-depth with their learning. Self-determination theory focuses on motivation and how people learn. Adults want to be able to apply what they learn to help solve a problem or to improve their performance.

Most of the courses Enspire develops encourage user-driven exploration. A try and then learn approach is often incorporated, enabling learners to see for themselves how much or how little they know about a topic. Then, a differentiated learning experience is provided based on this information. A linear path is used to describe a specific process or procedure. User-driven exploration, linear pathing, and a combination of both can be effective with adult learners.

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