Of the 376,521 learners who took part in further education in Ireland in 2015, only 9,688 participated in online learning (SOLAS, 2016). This implies that engagement in online learning amongst adult learners in Ireland is low. This implies that a resistance to online learning by adult learners may exist in the further education sector.  This resonates with feedback from my own adult learners who voice their concern on their lack of self-directedness and the absence of face to face contact.  On the other hand, literature indicates that adult learners are self-directed and notably should be involved in the planning process (Knowles, 1990).

According to Malcolm Knowles different methods of teaching are required for adult learners.  This is referred to as andragogy whereas pedagogy is more related to teaching children (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1998). Knowles states that adult learners are relevancy oriented, self-directed, have accumulated experience with a readiness to learn, are intrinsically motivated and have a problem-centred approach.  Knowles postulated four principles of andragogy from these assumptions where adults need to be involved in the planning process, experience should be linked to activities, the subject matter must relate to them personally and they are drawn to learning that is problem-centred (Knowles et al, 1998).  Furthermore, literature indicates that andragogical assumptions should be considered in online learning design for adult learners (Blondy, 2007).

Andragogy emphasises process where the facilitator respects the involvement of the adult learner in the design process (Merriam & Bierema, 2013).  On the other hand, pedagogical instructional models are more concerned with content which is determined and evaluated by the teacher.  Adults are self-directed in their own lives where they will frequently make decisions regarding their career and family.  However, in most educational settings adult learners are not involved in the decision making process.

This research will put theory into practice where adult learners will be involved in the redesign process of a face to face module to online.  The module is Career Planning which is non-assessed and will take place in a further education setting.  It posits the research question: How does adult learner participation in redesigning a module from f2f to online impact their perceptions of online learning?  In particular, does it alter their views of online learning and their self-directedness? This will involve adult learners in the redesign of a career planning module from face to face to online.


Amárach (2014). The Second UPC Report on Ireland’s Digital Future:  Accelerating Economic Recovery. Retrieved June 9, 2016, from

Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and application of andragogical assumptions to the adult online learning environment. Journal of interactive online learning, 6(2), 116-130.

Knowles, M. (1990). The adult learner: a neglected species (4th ed.). Houston: Gulf Pub. Co.

Knowles, M., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (1998). The Adult Learner. (5th ed). Texas: Gulf Publishing.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

SOLAS, (2016). Further Education and Training Strategy 2014-2019 Summary. SOLAS: Dublin.

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