6 Actionable Ways to Leverage Adult Learning Theory for CME

ways to leverage adult learning theory for cme

As a CME provider, you’re probably doing (or what you should be doing and aren't) as you’re creating courses using your learning management system (LMS).


An LMS is a crucial tool for providing your learners with effective CME courses. When you successfully create and present your courses, you'll also want to have a grasp of common adult learning theories. Adult learning theories provide insights on how to best establish your educational environments to let your learners get the most out of their learning. Learners come equipped with life experiences and pre-existing knowledge which in turn enables them to grasp the new materials provided in your CME. 


Your learners will actually learn from your content when you successfully use theories such as self-learning, cognitive learning, constructive learning, and connectivism learning, all of which make up andragogy, the practice of teaching adults. 


In this blog post, we will discuss how you can implement six actionable ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME programs, using becoming more familiar with these theories.


Adult Learning Theory for Your CME


In adult learning theory, this demonstrates the fact that your CME training programs must be developed with your adults in mind to be effective. No one size fits all, so each and every CME provider needs to develop ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME programs.


Malcolm Knowles’ theory of andragogy allows instructors to structure lessons which are part of a relevant learning environment for adult learners These principles will aid in your learning materials’ development and enhance CME experiences for your learners.


Knowles' work developed several learning principles that were directed toward adults as opposed to children—andragogy. 


With andragogy, he showed that:

  • Adult learners have to know why specific things are being taught to them—basically to the old adage, “What’s in it for me?” (also known as WIIFM). When they understand the WIIFM, they are more likely to be more attentive.
  • Adult learners are task oriented. So, instead of relying on memorization, their learning should be in the context of common tasks that are performed by fellow learners.
  • Adult learners take into account the wide range of learner backgrounds. You should have course materials and activities that accommodate different levels of knowledge and/or experience with technology involving web-based content as part of your CME rather than traditional means of learning through the didactic means such as a lecture hall setting.


You can effectively utilize andragogy in your programs with ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME. In doing so, you will discover common problems that your learners would encounter due to their individual learning styles. As you plan your CME courses, think about how you would approach their development. 


Self-Directed Learning Theory

Self-directed learning enables your learners to plan, carry out, and evaluate their learning experiences without any help from others. They set goals to determine their educational needs and do more to enhance their learning. This particular theory is ideal for learners who are self-motivated and respond well to using technology-based learning. Introduce activities that are web-based such as webinars that provide opportunities to participate in interactive content. Provide your learners with downloadable materials such as enduring materials that they can digest at any time whenever it is convenient for them.


Constructive Learning Theory


Constructivism teaches new knowledge based on learners’ experiences. They will combine their new knowledge with their pre-existing experiences. However, when there is an experience that is inconsistent with their learning, they will change their perception, particularly if the instructor plays the role of facilitator rather than didactic educator of the lecture hall environment. Constructivism also addresses the learner’s need for a social and active learning environment. For these learners, offer the ability to attend online or live streamed events where there are plenty of opportunities to interact with fellow attendees through the use of forums and chat rooms on specific medical topics or new advances.



Cognitivism tries to explain learning through information-processing models and minimizes the focus on a learner’s behavioral response. It highlights the importance of information that is appropriately organized by the educator and the development of problem-solving skills by the learner. When deciding on actionable ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME programs, consider developing your content in the form of audio or video formats that provide a means to pose situations such as what a diagnosis is based on a series of symptoms.




Among other ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME programs comes in the form of a relatively new learning theory, connectivism. This adult learning theory suggests that learners should combine their thoughts, theories, and general information in a useful way. It considers technology as a major part of the learning process because it provides a 24/7 way to receive opportunities to make choices for your learners. Connectivism enables your learners to leverage group collaboration and discussions and allows for different viewpoints and perspectives. These in turn lead to enhanced decision-making, problem-solving, and determining an understanding of the information they are presented with. This theory also promotes learning that happens “outside-the-box” when learning takes place in ways such as social media and online networks. Learners take part in your CME courses, and take their new knowledge into today’s popular platforms, resulting in growing discussions about the topics at hand.


CME Platforms to Leverage Adult Learning Theory for CME


Technology is changing the way adults learn. Today’s learners are increasingly accessing their learning from smartphones, tablets, and laptops and even more recently, through technology platforms that offer ways to address how they learn.


A web-based learning management system (LMS) such as EthosCE can provide you with actionable ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME to address your learners' particular learning needs. Since learners process information using any of the adult learning theories, your CME needs to use interactive formats so they receive the best from their education. How can you use ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME programs? Step back and include these in your offerings:


  • Third party videos learning from platforms such as YouTube
  • The use of engaging videos through activities
  • Audio from sources like podcasts
  • Live streaming from online events such as seminars, webinars, annual meetings, and symposia
  • Easily downloadable materials
  • Text-based materials
  • Access to easily produced enduring materials
  • Automatic feedback before, during, and after learner assessments so you can evaluate learning outcomes as recognized adult learning theories and make any necessary 

As you are developing your CME courses, you should look to using technology that enables you to leverage user-friendly CME platforms that come with intuitive interfaces, engaging visuals, and diverse forms of content that meet with learners’ varied learning theories. 


EthosCE Provides the Enterprise-level LMS for You to Maximize You CME Through Adult Learning Theories

Your learners will well and truly learn from your CME content when you use any of the numerous adult learning theories. As you create your courses using ways to leverage adult learning theory for CME using EthosCE, you will be able to maximize your CME as well as provide your learners with course content that lets them be successful.