Online learning has been around for several decades and, now more than ever, has become the learning medium of choice (and necessity, due to Covid19). The pandemic has accelerated the pace of remote instruction for learners in academia, corporations, and for front line and field workers in all types of industries. Developing learning that meets the needs of a wide variety of learners of varying ages who learn differently is critical to learning success.
Millennials vs. Old Schoolers
Many of today’s learners are millennials who learn differently than old schoolers. Instructional designers who understand the pedagogy know they must adapt learning modalities to this growing audience ̶ who typically share specific learning characteristics. In general, millennials:
- Learn best via hands-on experience.
- Can multi-attend and multi-task very efficiently; they dis-attend or shift their attention when they don’t find something compelling.
- Prefer brief segments, such as YouTube videos that demonstrate a task.
- Require quick responses and action.
- Benefit from personalized learning experiences.
- Learn through collaboration with peers and mentors.
Pumping up Training for Today’s Learner
In the past, the hallmark of effective training was interactivity within an elearning course, which typically included a few exercises, activities, and quizzes. Today, we need to rethink the learning experience by providing more creative learning opportunities and sophisticated interactivity. This can take the form of video scenarios and simulations, one-on-one mentoring with an instructor or workplace manager, chat room peer collaboration, peer group learning, and personalized learning experiences ̶ in some cases aided by the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
With the variety of technology tools available, instructional designers can vary the modalities and keep things dynamic and interesting for younger audiences. Additional development tips to keep in mind when developing synergistic learning include:
- Learning should be online and developed with responsive design in mind so that it’s available on various devices so learners can learn anywhere. Millennials like to bounce around from device to device or have several devices open at the same time.
- Build learning in small chunks vs. lengthy sessions. Learners can digest and apply content more easily, and it minimizes the possibility for distractibility or inattention.
- Track learning via a Learning Management System (LMS). LMS tools are now widely available; some have their roots in corporate settings, others gained popularity in universities. An LMS not only can structure the learning journey for each individual learner, but provides important feedback for the instructor about the learner and ways to improve the learning experience.
- Focus learning on goal achievement and provide regular, timely feedback to help learners accomplish their goals and stay motivated.
What Lies Ahead?
As AI becomes more commonplace, what we can expect to see is more personalized and optimized learning experiences and better retention. These learning experiences might include real-time case studies, simulations, adaptive assessments which can offer branched learning based on how the learner progresses through the content. Organizations who are early AI adopters will optimize their content according to the learner’s preferred learning style based on data collected about the learner. This will result in more engaged learners who can apply what they’ve learned and ultimately demonstrate improved job performance.