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CCAF Mannequin For eLearning Educational Design: Grownup Studying

Lens 2: Adult Education

This is the second in a series of articles examining the Allen Interactions CCAF model for classroom interactivity from the perspective of various eLearning classroom design considerations. In this article I take up the principles of adult education and ask whether CCAF is in line with those principles.

First, here is a brief summary of CCAF. This interactive learning design approach, first published in Michael Allen’s Guide to eLearning [1], defines classroom interactivity with four key elements: context, challenge, activity and feedback. Following the CCAF model as a framework for learning provides a reliable process for enhancing and enhancing the type of classroom interactions that create lasting and meaningful change.

CCAF model for eLearning Instructional Design: 4 components

CCAF mandates that engaging and effective classroom interaction incorporate these 4 elements.

  1. context
    Context offers meaning and relevance. It teaches the learner that the skills and knowledge have meaning and usefulness in the real world.
  2. Challenge
    The challenge is used to arouse the learner’s emotions and motivate them to engage authentically and on purpose. Challenges arise from risks, meaningful consequences and achievable goals.
  3. activity
    Activity refers to the gestures the learner needs. Gestures should evoke knowledge and actions that are present in the performance environment and can be applied beyond the eLearning course.
  4. Feedback
    Feedback is how the learner reacts and adapts to the learner’s actions – where learning outcomes are validated and reinforced. Feedback indicates correctness, but also communicates how the learner can improve.

The Power of CCAF vs. Adult Education Principles

In the training world at least, we typically deal with adult learners. While there is no evidence that child-to-adult learning in itself differs significantly, there are characteristics common to adult learners that should be considered when designing educational materials for a primarily adult audience. Let’s see how CCAF accommodates these learning patterns.


Adult learners often have a mature self-concept and expect opportunities to work independently under personal responsibility. They are used to making decisions, setting goals, and assessing their performance in most aspects of their life. It is extremely unmotivating when aspects of control are removed from the adult learner during training.

Adult learners don’t want what to do. It is important that adults make decisions about their learning. They want a voice as they learn and even as they learn. For many, choosing a strategy for exploring materials is important. Where and when they start and stop should be left to the control of the learner.

A fundamental characteristic of CCAF is that very little (in the traditional sense) is told to the learner. Instead, learning is guided by decisions (actions) that the learner makes when faced with meaningful challenges. The content is most effectively conveyed to the learner through feedback in response to the learner’s decisions. Learners often feel in control even when moving through a carefully defined environment or context.


Adult learners have lifelong experiences to draw from. As designers, we shouldn’t forget that adults have this advantage over younger learners. In certain areas, their knowledge and experience, even in the areas you teach, can be extensive. This knowledge must be recognized, respected and used in order to engage adults. Ignoring this reality and designing training courses that treat all learners consistently while ignoring previous experience, skills and abilities results in training courses that are often rejected by the intended users.

If implemented well, CCAF offers learners a wide range of opportunities to use existing knowledge and targeted learning strategies. CCAF should be part of a test-dan-tell structure. The context shows relevance to the learner’s world in which they are expected to answer or carry out a task. A learner whose previous experience leads to immediate success will get through the lesson at great speed. It is a very satisfactory, reinforcing procedure. Learners new to this content will likely stumble while answering the challenge; This is a crucial trigger for the lesson to “tell” or provide corrective information to the learner.

Willingness to learn

Unlike students in more traditional educational institutions, adult learners often approach learning with a pre-identified skill or professional role in mind. They are ready to take responsibility for their learning, but they need to believe that it makes sense and is related to challenges they see in their own lives. Adults are likely to reject activities that involve skills that seem irrelevant or unhelpful. On the flip side, learners invest authentic efforts in activities when they believe the assignments represent productive learning.

Traditional content presentations and simple interactivity for understanding often fail to create a connection with learners as the material is presented in an abstract manner and appears removed from the real world. CCAF can only exist if a relevant setting that is meaningful to the user is embedded and serves as the basis for individual interactions and even for the entire lesson. Adult learners engage when the direct benefit of the lesson is obvious and immediate. Simulations can be a very effective application of CCAF thinking; they are useful and attractive to many learners when the simulation scenarios are directly linked to the existing challenges the learner faces in real life.

Orientation to learning

Adults come to exercise with a specific goal. They expect to apply new knowledge immediately. The value of the training content is directly related to its usefulness. Adults (when encouraged) are critical thinkers and want to see how something works and try it out. They are less inclined to accept something just because the teacher said it. In other words, adults learn through problem solving.

Designers often do not have the time or resources to build sophisticated problem-solving interactions. But CCAF also inserts a framework for problem solving for simple interactions. The learners are not told in advance, but rather seek, discover and validate decisions and actions. Consequences instead of simplified assessments as feedback, support and empowering learning strategy that includes most adults.

Motivation to learn

Adults have mature values, beliefs, and opinions. These personal beliefs can have a huge impact on motivation. If these values ​​are ignored or not in line with superficial indicators of success, learners can actively resist learning. Adults in a learning environment are often more motivated by their inner beliefs than by external prompts. Intrinsic rewards for success in a task that the learner personally values ​​are often a sufficient (or even stronger) motivator than the more typical external prompts and rewards in a learning environment.

At CCAF, it is a fundamental idea to tap into existing motivators within the learner. The context and challenge should be specifically designed to tap into typical existing motivators in the target audience. It is far more efficient to build on what the learner is interested in and willing to do than trying to force an artificial outcome on the learner.

CCAF: A Comprehensive Model

CCAF was developed primarily with the awareness of creating meaningful exchange in an independent, individualized learning environment. To achieve this goal, it also masterfully supports the basic things we understand about adult learners. Our experience shows that this is the most powerful eLearning strategy that really makes a difference.

This article is part 2 of a four-part series. Read part 1 here.


[1] Michael Allen’s Guide to eLearning

eBook Publication: Allen Interactions Inc.

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