PurposeThis paper analyzes critically four selected learning theories and their role in online instruction for adults.Design/methodology/approachA literature review was conducted to analyze the theories.FindingsThe theory comparison revealed that no single theory encompasses the entirety of online instruction for adult learning; each theory explains some portion of adult online learning; theories are contextual; and components of all theories can be utilized to improve online learning.Research limitations/implicationsAdult learning theories and their roles in shaping online learning and instruction deserve more attention. The study of adult learning theories, combined with in-depth analysis of psychological and human resource literature, will enable researchers to delve deeper into the subject. More qualitative studies are needed to explore further how instructors’ ability to utilize theoretical principles can improve online learning.Practical implicationsThis manuscript offers practical advice to instructors and other practitioners for utilizing adult learning theories for instructional enhancement.Originality/valueThis literature review uniquely contributes to filling the gap in human resource development literature by examining selected adult learning theories, comparing them and extending the theories’ applicability and value in online instruction.
European Journal of Training and Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 7, 2017
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