Home > learning > Designing Learning for Digitial Natives (aka GenY, aka Millenials, aka Next Generation of Workers)

Designing Learning for Digitial Natives (aka GenY, aka Millenials, aka Next Generation of Workers)

The Big Questions for May are:

  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?

The second question is the one that really captures my attention. We’re at a point now where people, regardless of age, are tired of reading reams of text without context, without personal meaning, and without impact. ADDIE, ARCS, Blooms, etc. box Learning Designers into a scripted method of design that typically yields topic-centred, page-turning, predictable eLearning…. you know the kind I mean… the “Upon completion of this course you should be able to…. blah blah blah” eLearning.

Maybe, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Why are millenials the only ones who want to be engaged, who want to learn at the moment they need it not 3 months before, who need a social component to their workplace learning? Why do we think Boomers want to read an eBook instead of take a eLearning course?

When will we realize that it’s time we dropped the prescribed methods that were developed 20 years ago and looked at what our learners need…. each time we design a learning solution for them?

I’ve been reading Michael Allen’s books lately and attended Ethan Edwards (from Allen Interactions) session at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering in April. We can do better. Is it more work? YES! Is it worth the effort? YES!

We will rarely (never?) be in a situation where we’re designing learning for only one generation. Our workplaces are made up of multiple generations. We should be designing not for the digital immigrants, not for the digital natives, but for the people that are taking the course. How?

  • Put the content into a context that meaningful TO THEM!
  • Challenge them apply the what they’re learning in realistic situations
  • Give them feedback that encourages them
  • Put them at risk of failure (they’ll fail in the real world!)
  • Let them connect with other people – peers, mentors, managers
  • Make them want it – create motivation around the solution

Design for your learner… regardless of when they were born.

  1. May 6, 2008 at 08:30

    Kerry, exactly! Better eLearning for everyone, not just millenials. The things that they’re looking for are better learning, not just more flash. I’m not sure it’s harder, maybe just needs a different mindset, but you may well be right. Still, fully agree it’s worth it. Making the e in elearning stand for ’emotional’ :).

  2. Kerry McGuire
    May 6, 2008 at 11:01

    Clark, it might just be semantics… harder vs. different mindset – depending on a person’s skills, shifting to that different mindset is probably the most difficult part of the process. Once you’re there, it’s just a matter of being a good designer.

    PS: I like that ….. e(motional)Learning! Fabulous!

  3. May 15, 2008 at 23:58

    Kia Ora Kerry.

    I’m not a great fan of Marc Prensky’s digital people idea. For one thing, he tends to propagate the myth that humans appear to have evolved (impossibly quickly) in just one generation. So much so that they learn differently and can multi-task in a way that people never did before.

    Recent research on road accidents involving drivers using mobiles (cell-phones) shows clearly that old and young get distracted alike. Nothing new evolved there.

    I don’t really think that things are as different today as they were even 40 years ago in terms of the mix of learners that were met by teachers – mixed intelligences – mixed abilities – mixed backgrounds – mixed experiences – cultural mixes – different ages.

    No, my feeling on this is that it could well be the mind set of the teacher, not the student, that causes the distinctions to be drawn between one categorised group and another.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  4. Kerry McGuire
    May 16, 2008 at 09:51

    Interesting view Ken. I’d agree with the fact that from a learning perspective I don’t think GenY learns different then GenX. What I would say is that GenY has grown up with technology, so while their brains multitask the same way a boomer’s does, they might use different tools and technologies.

    But, in terms of workplace learning…. Let’s just design it better… so everyone is engaged!

  5. May 16, 2008 at 18:45

    Hi Kerry.

    Different tools? Perhaps. Much of what is studied about the way many ‘youngsters’ use technology indicates a periferal use with expert command of the ‘skin’ of the technology. In many ways the technology is actually designed so this will happen.

    My son, who is now nearly 40, learned his tool skills by using a ZX81 Sinclair computer. But before he could do anything he had to program the computer. He saved his games programs on a cassette tape recorder. But he has skills that would match those of anyone 1/3 his age when it comes to new technology, while I have students of that age who play about with technology like a boomer 😉

    Ka kite

  6. Kerry McGuire
    May 17, 2008 at 08:17

    Hey Ken! Excellent point… I guess I’ve fallen into the generation generalization that I tried to argue against in the post 😉

    I’m at the young end of GenX and most of friends go as far as email in terms of technology. So, I should really know not to generalize!


  7. May 17, 2008 at 12:40


    “Is it more work? YES! Is it worth the effort? YES!”

    We are starting to put together classroom projects and e-learning at our school: many of us are just new digital immigrants and some of our students act like digital natives, but in fact, we are all embarked in a “e-dventure” where the essential lies in sharing, encouraging and keep learning.

  1. June 27, 2008 at 13:50

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: