Adult Learning Theory and CME Effectiveness

adult learning theory and cme effectiveness

Adult learning theories play a crucial role in the design and implementation of education programs, including those in professional healthcare.

Many variations of theories are used in CME programs, but there can be a lack of understanding of the range of learning theories available and a shortage of specific examples when considering alternative theories related to their education setting.

Adult learning theory highlights the fact that training programs must be developed with adult learners in mind. They must also demonstrate CME effectiveness.

Two other things to note are that adult learners study for a specific goal and that everyone learns differently. By keeping this in mind, you can provide them with learning opportunities using online resources via a rich learning management system (LMS) platform, such as EthosCE. Adult learners will be able to address their needs with a learning system.

This blog post aims to explain the relationship between adult learning theory and CME effectiveness for learners.


Andragogy suggests that adults have different learning needs and learning styles compared to children and adolescents. Dr. Malcolm Knowles first introduced adult learning theory in 1968. His ideas encouraged educators to focus on understanding their learners through the use of andragogy, which is now a key factor in designing effective CME programs. The practice of teaching adults andragogy has several principles of learning theory.

Self-Learning Learners

One of Knowles's principles entailed self-directed learning. The learner knows what they need to learn, sets their own goals, tracks down materials, creates a plan to foster their own learning, and then self-evaluates. As you create your CME courses, you need to use adult learning theory for maximum effectiveness. It should be simple for learners to take their courses, and the technology available should enable them to study using their particular learning style, whether that is audio, visual, or textual.

Motivational Learning

Motivational learning is a theory in which the learning process that adults use includes activities that can be initiated and sustained. Learners put in the time and effort because they have internalized their motivation, whether it is for a better salary, credit obligations, required accreditation, or mandatory compliance courses; to have a degree or certificate; to meet degree requirements; and/or to do tasks or assignments that must be completed on a regular basis.

Constructivist Learning

Constructivist learning enables learners who already have a unique perspective on life to use their distinct experiences to impact their learning. Instructors ask specific questions and provide certain concepts to help learners explore the materials being taught. Constructive learning works by building on what learners already know. This theory shows that a learner's knowledge is not created between them and their instructor but is created by themselves.

How Adult Learning Theories Aid and Provide More CME Effectiveness

Your learners are varied, so you need to address the range of learning preferences. Multimedia content is an excellent way to reach many learners. While one learner may work best with text-based education, another might be interested in downloading podcasts that they can listen to, and another may be interested in courses that use animations. As a CME provider, you must create course content that addresses many types of adult learners.

Incorporating learning theory through an LMS technology interface will support course content creation in a way that attracts new learners and facilities. Without it, the effectiveness of your CME program will be reduced, and learners will be unable to engage in the training and may decide to go to another provider,

A web-based LMS platform like EthosCE can provide you with ways to address your learners’ specific learning styles and needs. With interactive formats that address specific adult learning theories that include videos, audio, and enduring materials, EthosCE provides:

  • Third-party video integration from websites such as YouTube
  • Self-hosted video in assessments and activities
  • Audio directives and podcasts
  • Live-streaming from offline events, such as seminars, annual meetings, and others
  • Access to interactive webinars
  • Access to easily produced enduring materials
  • Downloadable materials within activities
  • Instant feedback before, during, and after learner assessments so you can evaluate learning outcomes

EthosCE CME for Adult Learning Theory and CME Effectiveness

Adult learners have diverse educational requirements, so a web-based LMS is a vital component of any successful CME program. By using adult learning theories, you can boost your CME effectiveness when you use EthosCE.

At EthosCE, we understand the challenges of staying up to date and compliant with ACCME changes. We know how critical it is to get things done right the first time when it comes to team-based education and success.

To learn how EthosCE can enhance the continuing education of your healthcare teams, schedule a free 1-on-1 demo with one of our specialists today!