Some factors influencing adult learners in the way they approach their studies include:

  • prior learning;
  • access to other learners;
  • access to resources in workplace or home;
  • prior training;
  • sense of failure;
  • motivation;
  • fear;
  • prejudice; and
  • time

Demographic factors

  • How many learners are you likely to have?
  • What ages are they? Are they children? Adults?
  • Are your learners men? women?
  • What is their family status?
  • How many children do they have?
  • What is their geographic location (for example, rural, urban)?
  • What is their previous education?
  • What language or languages do they read and speak?
  • Do they hold jobs?


  • Why are they learning?
  • How might your programme relate to their lives or work?
  • What do they want from the programme?
  • What are their hopes and fears?

Learning factors

  • What are their beliefs about learning?
  • What learning styles do they prefer?
  • What learning skills do they have (for example, reading ability)?
  • What experience do they have of open and distance learning?

Subject background

  • How do they feel about the subject of the programme?
  • What knowledge and skills do they already have in that subject?
  • What misconceptions or inappropriate habits do they have?
  • What personal interests and experience might they have that are relevant?

Resource factors

  • Where, when, and how will they be learning?
  • Who will be paying their fees or expenses?
  • How much time will they have available for study?
  • What access will they have to facilities such as study centres?
  • What access will they have to the equipment and media required for the course?
  • What access will they have to human support from tutors, mentors, colleagues, and other learners?


Learner Support in Open and Distance Learning. The Commonwealth of Learning and Asian Development Bank.