May 12, 2022

Instructional Design Best Practices: An Overview of Adult Learning Trends

While we all strive to be lifelong learners, adults aren’t always the most enthusiastic students. We are busy and with many demands on our time and attention it can be difficult to make room for learning. For this reason, instructional design professionals often recommend best practices specifically used to capture and hold the attention of adult learners. Major trends in instructional design reflect this orientation. You can use the latest learning trends to engage users and help them retain information.

Whether it’s for onboarding, continuing education, or the introduction of new equipment or software, these trends, as noted by instructional design experts, could help your adult students learn better.


Wondering why you can spend hours on Candy Crush but your mind wanders in a meeting? The power of games is that they reward the user in a way that motivates them. Gamification keeps the learner engaged and coming back for more.

Gamification uses methods focused on learner motivation. Progressive and earned rewards such as badges, leaderboards or other desired items give the user a sense of satisfaction and motivation to complete the training.

Gamification stops presenting information all at once and instead requires information to be presented in the form of actions and context. Other effective gamification methods include avatars – characters that users can guide through scenarios and make decisions for them – and chatbots, which are characters or dialog boxes that interact with learners in a conversational way. .

Gamification improves production and user motivation. It also provides valuable information to employers. Game-based learning data enables assessments that demonstrate what their employees are doing well and where they’re struggling.

Virtual reality and alternate reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Alternate Reality (AR) technologies are increasingly becoming part of the adult learning scene. Using virtual reality as a training platform can be a great way to engage users.

Virtual reality and augmented reality can create a more interactive experience that can help learners retain information better. While digital learning is an effective and popular way to train employees, the problem with digital learning is that the outside world will constantly grab the learner’s attention. Creating a tangible learning experience through virtual reality can take the user out of typical digital training, giving the learner something more immersive and challenging. Virtual reality can bridge the gap between the digital learning experience and the real world.

Some potential uses for VR or AR training could be creating simulations to practice on things like emergency situations or immersive situations that could train employees on new equipment.


Microlearning is another powerful trend in adult learning, and one that is often accessible without a technology upgrade. Microlearning breaks down information into digestible chunks, allowing the learner to process the information. This method allows the learner to focus on one subject at a time and learn it fully before moving on to something else.

Microlearning is a more informal learning approach, but it can also be more effective for a learner. It takes into account time constraints and the possibility of competing demands for attention. It is also more easily integrated into a day.

Combining the principles of microlearning across any training approach used can help the learner stay engaged. For example, if a training is delivered through videos, the learner’s attention will be better captured simply by including a short quiz at the beginning, middle, or end.

Learning trends may seem to come and go, but instructional design experts recommend these trending best practices because they’re effective at holding adult learning attention. Using any of these methods when designing training for adult learners can help them stay engaged and increase the amount of information retained. Incorporating gamification, micro-learning, or virtual reality could make training more effective, resulting in better-informed, better-trained employees.

Plus, they’re versatile and can be added to both in-person learning programs and instructor-led virtual training programs to increase training flexibility and learner engagement within your organization.