Millennials are the first generation to grow up entirely with technology and is truly comfortable using it and being around it. For them, technology is not an extra… it is an integral part of their live, almost like an extension of themselves. Millennials want technology to make their lives easier, faster, better, flexible, and more interactive and have a more pervasive presence. While we might not want to generalize, the millennial generation wants technology to be a part of their homes, their community, and their jobs. However, if you go online you’ll find a number of articles branding this generation as shallow, undisciplined, non-aspirational, and extremely demanding. Now that, according to me, is where the gross generalization starts.
How To Prepare Your Online Learning Strategy For The Millennials
The millennial generation has to be more than a demographic group; it is more of a mindset…a mindset so used to technology that it does not hesitate to question what is given – “There has to be a better way” / “Can it do better than this?” / “Is there an alternative to this?” Millennials are experts at finding out “alternatives” since they do not want to be stuck with a bad user experience. This is the generation that believes that technology should adapt to humans and not the other way around.
Now when it comes to education and learning, like all other things, Millennials have different expectations from their education and training. The static content delivered in droning lectures is not going to lead to learning and work for them. That this generation is going to use online resources and the internet to facilitate learning is a foregone conclusion. So learning providers now have to work harder and come up with an online learning strategy targeted at this generation which will be both engaging and inspiring.
- Relevance And Rationale.
For Millennials, everything has to have a relevance and a rationale. Having been raised in a less authoritative environment they are used to decisions and actions being justified. Thus, when it comes to learning, especially when it is online, learning providers have to look for ways to engage the student and present information in a manner that it is organically synthesized to find relevance in their life by explaining the rationale and context behind it. Hands on and application-based courses and study material thus become essential to enable knowledge discovery for the millennial.
- Mobile Learning.
Millennials are one of the largest populations in the United States totaling to approximately 7.7 million. They are also the largest segment of smartphone owners. According to the Nielsen Mobile Youth Telefonica survey of 2014-2015, 84% of the Millennials own a smartphone in the U.S alone. Millennials are resourceful and use their smartphone to dig out answers to any question they might have. They also want to use the mobile for anything and everything. So an online education strategy targeting the Millennials has to be mobile optimized. Since research also suggests that this generation has shorter attention spans, having an hour long training material for them is not going to facilitate learning. The content designed for them has to be bite-sized, precise, and mobile, so that it can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
- Social Learning.
Millennials in the U.S spend almost over 30 hours a month on social applications. As a socially plugged in generation, Millennials are comfortable communicating with friends and co-workers over social media and in a number of cases also comfortable conducting business with the help of social networking. Integrating social media as a part of the online learning strategy for Millennials facilitates driving learning experiences. The Millennials can collaborate on projects, work with their peers to solve problems, complete online assignments, and also get proactive feedback using social media.
Millennials want to mix work and play. To an extent, I agree with them. Why does ‘work’ always have to be mundane, boring and tedious and jaded? Why shouldn’t earning badges of merit be a proud achievement? Why should learning, whether it is in the corporate world or in educational institutions be straight jacketed…devoid of all elements of fun and creativity? Use of gamification in online learning strategies can change all this. Games introduce a storytelling component to the learning material and help learners stay engaged by introducing rules, challenges, and goals. Gamification also provides on the spot feedback that enables proactive action rather than reactive action and helps in deeper learning.
- Video Learning.
Video is the new text! All of us, and more so the Millennials, are attracted by rich and informative video content that captures their attention. This is one of the reasons why dynamic, video-rich websites are replacing text heavy websites. The meteoric rise of YouTube and Vlogs (Video Blogs) are a testament to the growing popularity of video content. When it comes to learning content, it is best to keep instructional videos shot and precise to retain the millennial user’s interest and attention. Millennials are more likely to retain information when large content is broken down into small segments with short summaries and presented in a high-quality video format.
While penning this, a thought came to me. While these outlined strategies are meant especially to engage the millennial consumer of education, wouldn’t adoption of these changes make learning more interesting for all ages? To that extent have we all become Millennials, just that little bit?