How to Engage Adult Learners: Six Retention Strategies

September 8, 2020
Written By Deliyanis Rosa Fontanez

As the capacities of technology evolve and the bustle of life press on, many adults are turning to online learning for its affordability and flexibility. Especially in 2020, many colleges are discovering a sudden increase in online enrollment due to social distancing and government ordinances during COVID-19. These factors are driving enrollment for adult learners.

The number of adult learners will only continue to grow from here on it becomes more mainstream.

Today, universities and other learning platforms must focus on how to retain their influx of adult students. Here are a few strategies to keep adult learners engaged and retain them after they’ve turned to online learning.

six adult learner retention strategies

  1. provide flexible financial options
  2. make support and counseling available
  3. keep your brand simple for adult learners to understand
  4. create content relevant for adult learners
  5. ensure faculty is building relationships
  6. provide convenient and creative deliverables

support systems for adult learners

1. provide flexible financial options

Online learning is typically cost-efficient. This is a result of no need for transportation — so saving on fuel usage and parking costs. Most importantly, tuition is also typically cheaper as online universities and courses don’t have as many staff members to pay.

What attracts many adult learners is the flexible financing options available to them. Options for monthly, annual, or per-credit financial payments provide adult learners with a sense of security and affordability. In summary, deliver flexible and accelerated learning options for adult learners to choose from and they’ll be more inclined to continue.

2. support and counseling availability

Adult learners have their own life with jobs, kids, socializing, and other time-consuming happenings. For this reason, immediate feedback and support keep adult learners tuned in to your educational platform. In the event that there are delayed responses or lack of responses in student services, it can be off-putting and discouraging for students.

Develop a strong, quick, and efficient service delivery platform for your students to be able to easily connect with advisors, administrators, and support staff. Create a one-stop gateway so online learners can effortlessly locate support services. The quality and availability of support is vital in retaining adult learners and keeping them motivated with their education.

3. make your brand simple for adult learners

Your website is essential to building the credibility of the brand and expanding on what you’re all about. Enhance your website for effortless navigation and clear branding messaging. In addition, detail what makes your institution different from others and highlight student services available for your adult learners.

engaging social media

Furthermore, consider how to make your website easy to locate by optimizing SEO. Students want engaging and easy-to-consume educational content that's sharable. A great way to illustrate education is by utilizing social media and other communication platforms as marketing tools to attract these students. For example, put quiz questions or short lessons onto your Instagram feed.


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effective education for adult learners

4. keep content relevant for adult learners

Motivation plays a key role in encouraging students to actively engage in their education. Of course, this still applies to adult learners. Whenever possible, assess students to determine the type of learner the class consists of and how to effectively retain their interest.

Remember, adult learners differ significantly from younger students. They already have work and life experiences that influence their established ideals. In order to understand what adult students want from the course, use some assessment tools and gauge your audience.

ways to assess the effectiveness of your online learning

  1. send a survey your audience
  2. ask for feedback before, during, and after the course
  3. survey on desired skill acquisition
  4. observe post-course how lessons are used in the real world

5. faculty that build relationships

While professors may be leaders in their professional field, some lack the necessary preparation needed to successfully instruct online courses. Before the course, provide proper training to faculty to ensure that the staff is proficient with any software required for class or necessary for student communication.

In addition, staff members should also reflect your brand’s message. Each staff member is critical in engaging and retaining adult learners. In order to build relationships, faculty should include an introductory video to help students navigate their courses and provide virtual office hours.

6. convenient and creative deliverables

While building the class, include creative and challenging assignments to inspire adult learners. Again, once students are complete with the course, conduct surveys to determine what course material is working.

By the same token, design creative deliverables and convenient class structure to encourage active learning. In addition, include an open Q&A segment in your course for students to ask questions that are available to other students who may know the answer or have the same question themselves. This encourages online discussion and can save student time from waiting for the professor's response to an already answered inquiry.

here are more creative deliverable ideas for adult learners:

  1. Q&A sessions
  2. Virtual seminars with industry authorities
  3. Video conferencing debates
  4. Real-world branching scenarios
  5. Group brainstorming sessions
  6. Student blogs or vlogs posted to a discussion forum

let’s engage adult learners

At energyhill, we’re passionate about helping organizations of all sizes achieve their goals. We understand how the education industry is constantly shifting and evolving. To keep our partners in line with current trends, we’re regularly creating content and materials today that will be a boost to their brand tomorrow and the next day.

If you are looking for ways to improve your marketing strategies for your educational business, contact us today.

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