This is a song being sung in the eLearning town and it goes- "There's a new fish in town and we call them the millennials". Heard that? Seen them? Have you? Yes, we are talking about people here and honestly the term has been around since late 2000s.
For those who are new, Millennial is a term used to define an age bracket or in other words a generation of people born between 1981 and 1999. Raise your hands if you fall in that group (just kidding!).
Jokes apart, you must be wondering why the eLearning industry has been all gaga about it lately. To put it blankly, Millennials compose a vast majority of the working population today, and the learner’s demography definitely helps in analyzing the learning pattern. The key finding- Millennials or Generation Y or Gen Y use technology at higher rates in comparison with the other generations.
Marc Prensky, an American writer and speaker on education calls them the 'Digital natives', as they represent the first generations to grow up with new technology. This very aspect makes millennials different from the learners who had come before. For Gen X or the Baby Boomers technology was relatively new and hence, it was easier to fascinate them with eLearning a new concept that broke the monotony of classroom training. However, that's not the case with Millennials, they are technologically sound and try to stay up-to-speed too. We as eLearning professionals should focus on delivering eLearning in the best possible way to this group of individuals. And how?
Here's how to Engage Millennials in eLearning.
1. Stay Updated
It goes without saying, but as eLearning professionals we have to keep ourselves up-to-date, know what technological changes have come up in the market, understand how it can be used for creating/delivering eLearning or how it may affect the learning pattern. Create innovative eLearning and don't just continue creating projects the same way as before. Similarly, for organizations that have existing eLearning content that were created earlier either on Flash or were text-heavy or in PPT formats, it is time to change. HTML5 and multiple devices are here, and your existing eLearning can even affect employee retention in the long run.
2. Build Curiosity
The millennials like a bit of challenge. eLearning has to be purposeful, should be meaningful and the learners should be able to take away something from it. Making the learners curious by building an interesting scenario, or giving them a mysterious environment can often be helpful. Promotion of new eLearning by running internal campaigns and other promotional activities are often used bey organizations in doing so. Of course it should make some sense, or else it is just a wasted effort.
3. Make it Interesting
Essentially this is an extension of the point mentioned above. Millennials are said to have a very short span of attention, '8 minutes' according to some researchers. But, the actual interest has to be created during the first few minutes of the course or else chances are that the learners will lose interest. This is why game-based learning and serious games in learning often work wonders in terms of engagement. Simulations can also keep the learners engaged depending upon the functionalities provided.
4. Give them a Free Hand
Yet another characteristic of the Gen Y is that they are risk takers and love adventures. Restricted atmosphere bores them and so, when it comes to eLearning give them a free environment and make it explorative, let them experiment-fail-experiment again and learn in the process rather than giving them just a straight route to follow.
5. Make it Flexible
Flexibility does not imply flexibility in navigation/usability alone, it means that learner should have the flexibility to learn anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Not just that creating eLearning that includes social, collaborative learning gives the learners the choice to channelize the way of learning and to use it as part of a blended learning experience too.
6. Recognize their efforts, Encourage them
Millennials like any learners give great importance to recognitions. Gamification-awards, badges etc. can be of great importance. Adding proper feedback mechanisms and encouraging their efforts on completing different levels of the course can give eLearning a more personalized touch and hence increasing the level of engagement which in turn can improve the learning retention.
However, do remember Millennials may or may not be the new fishes in town, but the when we talk about the learners they can be of any generation and no matter what the eLearning we design should cater to all of them. Moreover, the Millennial mentality has spread both amongst all generations and so the above mentioned aspects if considered can help in engaging all the learners.
What are your thoughts about the increased focus towards Millennials? Do share your opinion.