Differences When Designing eLearning For Children And Adults

What Are The Differences When Designing eLearning For Adults And Children

What Are The Differences When Designing eLearning For Adults And Children?

Experienced eLearning professionals know that when developing an online learning course, you can’t follow the same approach for all audiences. Even if the source content is the same, the end result will differ greatly depending on the profession, level of specialization, learning objectives, or even the platform of choice of each user. Now imagine having to develop eLearning material for an audience of young children. Since adults and children learn differently and are engaged by distinct stimuli, it’s safe to say you will have to follow a whole new set of guidelines to design effective eLearning for children. Explore below the 6 standout differences that you need to keep in mind when designing eLearning for kids versus adults.

Pedagogy Vs. Andragogy

In reality, when we talk about designing eLearning for children versus adults, we talk about following the pedagogy versus the andragogy model. The former refers to a teaching approach developed with children in mind, while the latter focuses on adults. Due to the nature of the target audience of each model, pedagogy is mostly teacher-led, as children of a younger age require direction, while andragogy is student-led to accommodate the needs of self-aware and experienced adults. In the following section, we will explore in greater detail the differences between these two teaching approaches, which translate to a different methodology when designing and developing online learning courses.

6 Differences To Keep In Mind When Designing eLearning For Children

1. Autonomy

One of the main differences in learning between adults and children is the level of autonomy. Adults are typically independent learners with a clear understanding of the motives behind their learning journey, as well as a large amount of control over its duration, pacing, and overall experience. On the contrary, children are often still developing their sense of self-awareness and responsibility, which makes them unable to take control of their own learning. As a result, when designing eLearning for a younger audience, you must give clear instructions every step of the way, monitor learner progress closely, and be prepared to identify and deal with issues yourself instead of expecting children to bring them forward.

2. Learner Readiness

Another difference to consider when designing courses for young learners is what initiates learning for each group. For adults, learner readiness or willingness is intrinsically linked to their current circumstances. Specifically, adults embark on a learning adventure due to real-life needs they want to address, such as a new job, a need for self-improvement, or a problem they need to overcome. Children, on the other hand, might not have a clear sense of direction when it comes to learning. It is a requirement that may be beyond their understanding. This has a direct impact on the amount of effort you must put into making the learning content engaging for them, seeing as they might lack the necessary internal motivation.

3. Orientation Of Learning

The previous point leads to this next difference, which is the orientation of learning. Since adults start learning with very specific goals in mind, they expect eLearning content to have immediate application and effect on the real-life issues or goals that led them to the course in the first place. Additionally, if any of their circumstances change, they want to have the freedom to adjust the course accordingly. However, given that children mostly learn to advance to the next level of mastery, it is the subject itself that determines the direction of the learning journey. As a result, you don’t need to plan for as much flexibility.

4. Life Experience

When creating eLearning courses, Instructional Designers must always take into consideration what the learner brings to the table. For adults, this usually refers to previous knowledge and experience that acts as a resource you can utilize to diversify the learning experience and foster connections with personal experiences. But when it comes to young learners, there isn’t much background to draw on. Children may have a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity, but they may not have enough personal experiences to leverage throughout the learning process. Quite the opposite, this course will become the foundation that they will build upon in the future.

5. Motivation

As a result of their learning orientation and readiness, the motivation strategies eLearning professionals need to use for kids and adults differ greatly. Although, between the two groups, adults typically have less time available to devote to learning, they are often more easily motivated than children. They have intrinsic motivators such as self-confidence, self-actualization, desire for a higher quality of life, etc., to thank for that. On the other side of the spectrum, children have mainly extrinsic motivators to rely on, as learning is usually not initiated by them. For this reason, you need to pay special attention to how you can make the eLearning course fast-paced and interesting to keep disengagement at bay.

6. Learning Preferences

The last thing you need to remember when designing eLearning courses for kids is the difference in learning preferences. Children do not have the same attention span as adults and will certainly not sit through a lecture and note down its key points. On the contrary, they need short and captivating activities that are practical and ideally engage a variety of their senses. You should also incorporate a few games or other interactive and fun activities. A little flexibility also doesn’t hurt for both groups. For one, adults have busy schedules they need to tackle on top of learning, while children are prone to distractions and might leave a module unfinished.


There are some fundamental differences when designing eLearning content for adults versus a younger audience. From the amount of autonomy each group has and the factors that initiate their learning journey to the type of motivation they need and the experience they bring to the table, the rules are quite different. Being aware of these differences can help you create effective eLearning experiences for all audiences and make the most of your existing training material.