Knowles (1968) popularized this European concept over thirty years ago. Andragogy, (andr –
‘man’), contrasted with pedagogy, means “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980).  Knowles labeled andragogy as an emerging technology which facilitates the development and implementation of learning activities for adults. This emerging technology is based on five
andragogical assumptions of the adult learner:

1. Self-Concept: As a person matures, his or she moves from dependency to self-directness.
2. Experience: Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their learning.
3. Readiness: The learning readiness of adults is closely related to the assumption of new
social roles.
4. Orientation: As a person learns new knowledge, he or she wants to apply it immediately in
problem solving.
5. Motivation (Later added): As a person matures, he or she receives their motivation to learn
from internal factors.
These five assumptions dovetail with the thoughts and theories of others. Merriam and Caffarella
(1999) point to three keys to transformational learning: experience, critical reflection and development.
The aspect of experience (the second assumption to andragogy) seems like an important consideration in creating an effective learning opportunity for adults. The learning opportunity needs to be relevant and applicable to a person’s set of experiences. Argote, McEvily, and Reagans (2003) point to experience as an important factor in one’s ability to create, retain and transfer knowledge.
Critical reflection is the second key to transformational learning and part of andragogy’s selfdirected learning. Reflection/think time is yet another essential principle to creating an effective
learning experience for adults. Garvin (1993) shares the importance of fostering an environment that is conducive to learning including time for reflection and analysis. Adult learners need time to
contemplate the ramifications of the learning experience to their experience and responsibilities.
The third key to transformational learning is development (corresponding to the third assumption
of andragogy). Merriam and Caffarella state that “the ability to think critically, which is mandatory to
effecting a transformation, is itself developmental” (p. 330). If development is the outcome of
transformational learning, then an effective adult learning opportunity needs to be created that will take personal development into consideration

Andragogy assumes the following about the design of learning:

  1. Adults have the need to now why they are learning something.
  2. Adults learn through doing.
  3. Adults are problem-solvers.
  4.  Adults learn best when the subject is of immediate use.

According to Knowles ( 1984, Appendix D) an example used to apply the principles to personal
computer training:

1. Explain why certain skills are taught (functions, commands).
2. Task oriented instead of memorizing. Tasks should be common tasks .
3. Take diversity into play. Acknowledge different learning levels and experience.
4. Allow adults to learn on their own and from their mistakes. ( M.Knowles)


Dave Cormier posted a video on YouTube with his own tips on how to take the most out MOOCs. His strategy consists of 5 steps, as follows:

1) ORIENT Where are the materials, when are the online sessions, when are the assignments due?

2) DECLARE Find some place to put your thoughts and share them with your colleagues, like a blog, but for it to work you’ll need to…

3) NETWORK Check the forums and other channels of your course and comment on posts, retweet links and so. This will help you to form a…

4) CLUSTER Find people who are interested in the same things you are and interact with them. Your experience and learning will be all the richer because of it.

5) FOCUS Keep in mind why you took the course and use your network to help you achieve it.

Below you can check the original video:


a) Choose which platform(s) you want to use: not all of them are the same in terms of tools available, structure, channels of interaction and student support.

b) Choose which course(s) you want to take according to your interests, needs and possibilities. It’s important to pay attention to the structure of the course, the amount of workload required, length, how evaluation will work and which activies are involved. Also, not all courses offer certificates and you should check this as soon as possible.


a) Read the initial announcements: they often summarize many of the questions cited above and thus are a valuable guide to get your bearings.

b) Explore the course syllabus/guide and any other sections dealing with how the course will work from the platform/teachers perspective. Explanations of what is expected of quizzes, homework and assignment are especially valuable as is deadline information.

c) Organize yourself. MOOCs require more discipline than traditional courses: there are no physical classes to attend to nor anyone else keeping up with your work. It’s useful to make some kind of control tool to monitor your progress. It should give you an overview of the course, show what you need to do and when and what you’ve already done. I find it useful to mix a calendar with a cheklist of all the videos, texts, quizzes, assignments and exams in which I can highlight the most important stuff and mark what I’ve already done. It can be digital or analogical: whatever works for you.

An example of control tool


a) Keep track of your progress using the control tools you created before. Be aware that you are not always required to study ALL the material made available to you: adjuste it to your learning needs and possibilities.

b) Interact with the tutors and other students. This might be tricky in a course that has tens of thousands of students. It depends on the channels available (including those made by the students) and your (and others’) disposition to interact. Even when those 2 requirements are fullfilled there’s still confusion because of the sheer number os participants. People might not respond to your posts or a thread might be continually restarted because new people can’t keep up with the discussion. It appears to me that a good way to deal with this is by commenting on other people’s posts or creating more exclusive channels (like a blog, a facebook/G+ group or mashup). Those options allow you to connect more closely to a smaller and hopefully more manageable group.


That have given me the idea to start this Guide and contribute with many of its tips

Success in a MOOC (video)  A simple and direct video with some basic tips to thrive in the MOOC environment.

There are 40,000 people in my class… My strategy to avoid becoming overwhelmed (blog post)  A post by a fellow colleague at EDC with some helpful tips for those who feel lost in vast expanses of a MOOC.

Strategies for dealing with the ‘massive’ (forum thread) In this thread our colleagues are sharing their own experience and helping each other.