5 Heutagogical Tips to Empower Lifelong Learners Online

November 19, 2014

538Prior to joining the marketing team at SchoolKeep, I worked as an educational program manager for an experiential learning company. As the company grew, I was forced to take on new, intimidating marketing tasks. I realized I had quite a bit to learn. Instead of going back to school for a marketing degree, however, I found HubSpot’s blog, which led to their Academy, and then of course to Inbound.org. Here, I found a place to continuously learn from and contribute to a huge digital marketing community.

During my transition to marketing, I became a heutagogic learner in just under 3 months, meaning I was markedly more self-determined, motivated and highly autonomous, without ever setting foot in a classroom.

In a world where information is instantly available to us, the educator is no longer the sole proprietor of subject matter expertise. The educator’s role has shifted and will not look as it did before the emergence of Web 2.0. Our instructional design must emphasize that learners can become experts in a fraction of the time by utilizing available resources and learning communities on the web.

Related Post: As Education Grows Beyond the Classroom, How Will the Role of Instructional Designers Evolve

This post is for educators and instructional designers who want to learn more about heutagogy and implement strategies that empower lifelong learners online. We’ll cover it all and leave you with five actionable tips to guide your instructional design process.

What is Heutagogy?

Heutagogy arose from the work of Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon. In From Andragogy to Heutagogy (2000), Hase and Kenyon suggest that learning is a learner-centric experience rather than an educator-centric one, where learners who encounter subject matter in addition to tips on how to learn increase their overall learning capabilities by becoming highly autonomous and self-determined.

To better understand this, let’s look at heutagogy in the context of two other famous “-gogies:”

Pedagogy, a teacher-centric approach, involves combining the skills and knowledge necessary for delivering high-quality, effective teaching, usually to young learners in a school setting.

Andragogy involves moving away from the teacher-centric approach and into a more learner-centric or collaborative learning relationship between learner, teacher and peers, usually in an informal adult learning environment.

Related post: Apply a Pedagogical Model to Create Powerful Online Courses


An adaptation of Figure 2 in Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning by Lisa Marie Blaschke (based on Canning, 2010, p.63)

As the graphic illustrates, learners aren’t always highly autonomous and self-directed at first. However, as learners progress and mature in skill and in life, so does their approach to learning.

With it’s roots in andragogy, heutagogy puts mature learners in the driver’s seat, as the final stop in the learning continuum. In Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self Determined Learning, Lisa Marie Blaschke writes, “in a heutagogical approach to teaching and learning… Emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workforce.”

Check out this interview with Fred Garnett, an industry thought-leader and Research Associate at the Institute of Education in London. His thoughts on the subject are enlightening and will inspire you to implement the five tips provided below.

Tip 1: Don’t Just Teach Content, Explain the Learning Process

Every HubSpot Academy video and webinar begins by asking learners to view a visual representation of their inbound methodology (see below). The HubSpot trainers know that constant exposure helps learners retain information. They’re also very vocal about these intentions, making for a level of disclosure that keeps learners engaged and conscious of the learning process as a whole.

inbound-marketing-methodology 2

Many adult learners, especially “digital immigrants” that didn’t grow up alongside computers, may not be comfortable working on devices, let alone using the Internet to carve their own learning path. It is not enough to ask learners to simply hit “play,” on a pre-recorded lecture. Deliverers of online instruction must also include learning strategies and empowerment tips to get students excited about how far they can take their learning online. It will help keep them motivated and enrich their entire experience.

Don’t hesitate to shine a light on the learning process, and while you’re at it check out the MOOC, Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects and the book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Tip 2: Conduct a Needs Assessment

In Learning to Teach Online, a MOOC I recently took by the University of New South Wales, I was prompted to choose my motivations for taking the course from a drop down menu. I was also asked to thoughtfully detail what I was hoping to learn and how I planned to apply the learning to my life.

This is an example of a needs assessment. You’re simply asking learners to explain what they’re expecting to learn, so that you can take that information and provide meaningful opportunities in return.

Don’t skip this step! The feedback will even help you develop future learning experiences. A simple survey via Google Forms or Survey Monkey will make it easy.

Tip 3: Offer Courses Asynchronously

Adult learners have a lot on their plates. From full-time jobs to familial obligations, carving out time to learn can be difficult for the heutagogic learner, which is why being able to engage with course materials asynchronously is important.

With asynchronous learning, learners are free to engage with the content how and when they want. This is great for when busy learners have a few minutes of free time, or when your course can help an employee learn a specific skill needed at the workplace.

On SchoolKeep, building asynchronous courses is easy. Our syllabus builder and learner experience make coming back and engaging with content later a seamless process.

Tip 4: Offer Bite-sized Learning

At DevLearn 2014, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session titled, Bite-Size-Learning: Blend, Chop, Serve! Delivered by Hilti training managers Rachel Hutchinson and Terry Copley. The talk broke down how they improved the skills of their global sales team by implementing bite-size learning into their training regime. They compared eLearning design to planning a meal, where you would absolutely never serve all 3-5 courses at once.

Related Post: DevLearn 2014: 7 Takeaways We Couldn't Wait to Tell You About

To offer bite-sized learning, you’ll need to take your larger program goals into account and figure out how to break it down into small, digestible bites. This process is referred to as ‘chunking’ by instructional designers.

With effective chunking, learners will be happy to watch video after video, so long as they are short, direct, and provide value. In Hilti’s case, they were able to study how their sales people interacted with training videos. Salespeople reported videos being most effective if they were under 90 seconds, or even better - under a minute.

No matter how busy learners are, they’ll come back for a quick “bite” when they have the time.

Tip 5: Enable Collaboration, Encourage Discussion

Learning is a collaborative process of knowledge exchange and creation. For a learner to be considered heutagogic, they need to build and manage successful personal learning networks and find a supportive personal learning environment (PLE), or systems that help them take control of and manage their own learning. Luckily, the Internet is full of personal learning environments with varying degrees of depth and information exchange.

Related Post: How to Take Your PLN to the Next Level in 2015

To build collaboration, active discussion and knowledge exchange into your course consider these options:

  • Add a school or course forum
  • Add discussion boards to course activities
  • Provide opportunities for group work
  • Offer socratic style Google Hangouts or webinars
  • Encourage learners to join in conversation on Twitter via a course or subject-related hashtag
  • Show learners where they can find active and supportive learning environments online

These are just a few of a near-endless amount of ways. How do you enable collaboration and encourage discussion in your online learning activities? Tell us in the comments!

There you have it. A brief overview of heutagogy and how you can give your courses some heutagogic flavor and keep lifelong learners coming back for more. For an in-depth look at heutagogy, visit the Heutagogy Community of Practice website and check out #heutagogy on Twitter.



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