December 5, 2023

Challenges and solutions for successful andragogy

Andragogy is described by its creator Malcolm Knowles as the art and science of helping adults learn. One of the biggest challenges of andragogy, or adult education, is allocating time and resources. We will try to look at both of these challenges, drawing on Knowles’ principles of andragogy.

The challenge of time in andragogy

Adults divide their time to accommodate different activities in their mostly busy schedules. This means that it is difficult to set aside time for activities such as learning and leisure. What does this mean for learning? One of the features of andragogy is that it is mostly self-directed. One of the disadvantages of self-directed learning is that it can easily be pushed to the periphery depending on the schedule. Adults can schedule study time only during unallocated free time. This means that learning is usually in direct competition with other activities such as leisure and family time. Andragogy must therefore be a clear, short and concise activity, with a clear purpose and available on the go.

The four principles of learning

First, we need to familiarize ourselves with the principles of andragogy. Malcolm Knowles (1968) applies four principles of learning to adult education practices. Second, for our purposes we will consider that our student has limited time and may be reluctant to choose something to add to their already busy schedule.

  1. Adults learn better from their experiences and their past knowledge should be taken into account
    Adults have limited time. Their attention may also be limited due to other competing tasks. Using their past experiences during teaching sessions allows them to retain the material more easily.
  2. Adults prefer a pragmatic approach and need to be able to apply learning to solve a specific problem
    Because time is limited, adult learners need to know why they are learning by engaging in goal-oriented training.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning that has the most meaning
    Adults rank what to read in order of importance and schedule time for what they think is necessary.
  4. Adults must be involved in the planning and evaluation of instruction
    Adults would rather spend their time learning activities they have been involved in since the beginning. This stems from the need to understand how and why they are involved in the learning artifact, as time is a constraint.

Based on the above exercise, we want to hypothesize that adults are likely to engage in learning activities that they consider necessary or beneficial to them, prioritizing time as a limited resource. One may need to do some in-depth research to draw one’s own conclusions. Despite this, it is easy to find parallels with Knowles’ four principles of andragogy.

How do we meet the challenge of time in adult education?

Based on the previous points, we need to design learner paths that take the busy learner into account. For example, your delivery mechanism should reflect timing considerations. “Is a full e-learning course necessary, or might a microlearning setup with small-sized artifacts be adequate?” Such questions allow us to meet the already limited time of the individual.

Suppose we are to further consider leisure and family time as substitutes for adult education in terms of time spent. In that case, it’s fair to think about making our learning artifacts as enjoyable and meaningful as we can. Gamification techniques, ease of use, and the use of an intuitive platform are some of the concepts that may be necessary to create adult learning aids. Now let’s look at our second constraint: resources.

The challenge of limited financial resources in andragogy

Another significant challenge in 21st century andragogic training is limited resources. The average adult student has limited financial resources depending on where they live. This makes them picky because they will want to maximize what they buy. In some regions, this is more evident in the basic necessities of life; for example, access to technology is made difficult due to high internet connection rates.

How do we face the challenge of limited resources in adult education?

  1. Learning artifacts should be accessible to engage and motivate students.
  2. There should be no one-size-fits-all approach to developing learning materials; rather, a concerted effort should be made to study various subjects and corresponding prizes.
  3. Enabling the functional capabilities of the system (eg offline mode) in the learning management system allows users to access information without additional financial pressure, using different media, etc.
  4. Utilizing a top-down organizational learning scheme will allow employees to engage in learning without being limited by budget.

The limitation of resources is therefore a limitation in adult education that hinders the development of andragogy. We can hypothesize that adults are picky and will only invest in or purchase learning artifacts that are most beneficial to them. Adult education may be limited by resources. One may need to do some in-depth research to draw one’s own conclusions. Despite this, it is easy to find parallels with Knowles’ four principles in andragogy, as we did in our previous section on time.


It is therefore wise to develop your learning artifacts in a way that allows your students to maximize the benefits, as there is a likelihood that these two factors can influence the principles of andragogy. All in all, resources and time allocation are critical factors in andragogy. Considering these two limitations can only help in creating a better experience for adult learners. What do you think? Are these relevant limitations? Share with us!

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