There are countless articles describing how we need to change the way we deliver learning to attract and engage millennial learners, but many of these articles seem to forget that organizations must deliver learning to learners across multiple generational groups. How can you ensure your education program provides benefits to members of all ages?
Recent studies have focused on the importance of training and development to millennials, for example, the State of the American Workforce report from Gallup states, "87% of millennials "rate ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ as important to them in a job". However, professional continuing education, while sometimes not the listed as the most important benefit, is often highly valued by other membership groups also. In June 2016, an article in Association Now magazine referenced a study titled “Member Engagement Study: Aligning Organization Strategy With What Matters Most to Members.” The article noted that the key benefits that millennials want from associations are job opportunities, credentials and training, and while other membership groups of other age categories prioritized different benefits, job opportunities and credentials were consistently important across the groups.
Do millennial learners prefer different types of training?
A poll of Association Adviser readers published this week seems to suggest that there might be a difference in preference for how learning is delivered among association members. Running with the headline, "Despite Living in a Tech Age, Association Members Still Prefer In-Person Courses", the analysis of the poll suggests that 50% of associations report that their members prefer location-based, in-person delivery of continuing education programs, as can be seen in the graphic here:
What is really interesting in this poll, is that if you look at the other types of learning delivery included in the response options, books and podcasts received zero votes. The remaining two types of learning are online courses and webinars, both of which are accessed online, which means there is an even 50/50 split between preference for online and offline delivery of learning among association members. What we would really like to know is - how does this 50/50 split breakdown across member age groups?
In a previous post, we explored whether the age of members affects the organization's choice of LMS, noting the differences between younger and older learners' preferences for how learning is delivered. Younger members want anytime, anywhere access to learning, showing a preference for online resources, accessible via any mobile device. They also need engaging content that allows them opportunities to interact with the content and collaborate with other learners. Psychological research from Christy Price, published in 2009 described how to engage millennial learners:
- Make your class multimedia, incorporating more variety and shorter content to allow students to multitask.
- Millennial students prefer a less formal learning environment that allows them to interact informally with the professor and fellow students, so incorporate opportunities for collaboration, through social media or online communities.
- Make your teaching relevant. Millennial learners are more likely to perform better when instructors connect their lessons to real life.
- Provide experiential and exploratory learning opportunities. Millennial learners prefer opportunities for active and collaborative learning.
Focusing on Millennial Learners' Needs to Benefit Modern Learners of All Ages
Interestingly, at the end of her research, Price says, "the needs of millennials may not actually be generational at all". She notes that millennials may just be looking for educators to use better teaching methods. This thought was echoed in a recent article in Learning Solutions Magazine, titled "Portrait of the Modern Learner", which the author opens with the line, "It’s time to ditch all those stereotypes about employees of a certain generation and focus on educating modern learners—of any age or generational affiliation".
Since Price's research was published, and even since our post was published in November 2015, there has been explosive change in the pervasiveness of technology in both the workplace and our private lives as consumers. In the workplace, the pace of work is also accelerating with people expected to accomplish more in less time, thanks largely in part to the growing use of technology. We have noted in several of our recent blogs that there is a growing skills gap between the skills needed for employment and what is being provided by our current education system. This phenomenon is prompting modern learners - across the generational divides - to seek out new opportunities for professional development and continuing education, to ensure they have the skills required for their jobs.
The 'Portrait of the Modern Learner' outlines the modern learner's requirements for educational content, and these are remarkably similar to needs of millennial learners, as described above:
- Available in the moment of need and delivered on mobile devices for easy, quick, 24/7 access;
- Highly relevant to the daily problems and challenges of employees;
- Structured to enable collaborative learning experiences;
- Delivered in a variety of approaches and formats.
So it seems that Price is right. The focus on the needs of millennial learners in recent years, is actually resulting in the adoption of better methods of designing, structuring, and delivering learning content - which is benefiting modern learners of all ages. The 'Portrait' article ends with this thought:
"To smooth learning, managers should worry less about age-related stereotypes and focus instead on supporting all learners in finding and accessing the most relevant content; designers’ role comes in making the eLearning usable to all learners, whatever their age or comfort level with technology."
To best serve the learning needs of members of all ages, an association should look to a proven LMS system, such as TopClass, that offers:
- responsive design that works in all types of formats and on all mobile platforms,
- customizable look and feel and configurable user interface, to support personalization of learning
- delivery of learning content in a variety of immersive and easy to use formats,
- comprehensive filtering and search functions for the content catalog, for ease of access to learning resources,
- inbuilt discussion forums or integrated social learning features and online communities, to support collaborative learning,
- ability to also manage delivery of offline, in-person learning experiences, such as classroom-based or conference sessions - to cater for preferences of all members.