Podcasts and the Adult Learner

Podcasts and the Adult Learner.

Learning can be defined as the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. Our conceptualization of learning generally conjures up images of classrooms, blackboards, and report cards as a result of the passive learning typical throughout K-12 and higher education. The context of learning continues to shift, particularly for professionals, based on their limited amount of time and the widespread availability of technology. Podcasts provide a convenient platform for effectively and efficiently engaging the adult learner. Adult learning, also known as andragogy, is markedly different in a number of ways. In his landmark work, Malcolm Knowles identifies five assumptions about adult learning:

Learning is self-directed.

Learning is self-directed. The self-concept of the adult learner has shifted from being dependent to capable in their own right. Adult learners are not interested in simply being receptacles for information, but are looking for content that supports their ability to effectively complete tasks and develop their expertise. Podcasts meet these demands by providing a multitude of content-specific options on a platform constructed to engage the auditory learning process. The learner is able to select relevant material on a platform that is convenient, efficient, and engaging in a form that is different from reading a book or journal article.

Learning is formed by and developed through experience.

Learning is formed by and developed through experience. Adult learners bring prior knowledge to all educational contexts. In the collective learning setting, this allows adult learners to build from their individual knowledge base while simultaneously engaging information provided through the experiences of others. Podcasts, which are generally conducted in a conversational style, allow the listener to learn from the experiences of multiple other individuals with expertise without the inconvenience of scheduling collective learning experiences.

Learning is based on a “need to know”.

Learning is based on a “need to know”. The adult learner is interested in content that will support their developmental growth, particularly in terms of their social roles. For example, the adult learner will engage information relevant to their career advancement, especially if this information has an immediate relevance to their daily life. Podcasts, particularly profession-based podcasts, provide adult learners with context-specific information and tools that are immediately relevant and applicable to their career development.

Learning is problem-centered.

Learning is problem-centered. Because the adult learner is interested in content immediately relevant to their ability to effectively perform tasks, they are more engaged in the learning process when the content is presented in an application-specific format. Podcasts effectively engage adult learners by providing a platform for the discussion of a specific task or barrier the hosts or participants faced. The learner is able to learn from how experts approach a specific problem, and model the same approach when facing a similar challenge.

Learning is based on internal motivation.

Learning is based on internal motivation. Though adults can be motivated by external factors, such as promotions, salary increases, etc., the most salient motivators are internal factors. Adults are generally developmentally oriented with a drive to keep learning and growing. Adult learners will engage learning opportunities they see as meaningful and enjoyable. Podcasts attract adult learners by providing a platform that allows them to engage content of their choosing in a context of their choosing, allowing the learner to take control over their development. Relevant knowledge is easily consumable, as episodes tend to be short and provide information deemed the most relevant to the topic. This information can be consumed during a daily commute or job, which keeps the learning process from interfering with other important aspects of adult learners’ lives. Podcasts play an important role in engaging the adult learner in multiple important ways. Technology provides widespread accessibility to content, and podcasts in particular allows adult learners to control when, where, and how they engage in learning. They are highly efficient in that learners select the exact content they need to know in a length that is easily consumed. Finally, podcasts provide the flexibility desperately needed in the adult learning landscape. ConveyMED is a podcast platform built specifically for professional education so that association leaders can take full advantage of the medium and offer adult learners a new and effective way to stay current with clinical practice and other trends.

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Podcasts and the adult learner