Designing e-learning for millennials

18 March 2019 | Walkgrove | , ,

A ‘millennial’ is someone who was born after 1984 and, supposedly, has a number of annoying characteristics: we’re entitled, we need instant gratification due to social media, we’re impatient because we never had to work for anything, we’re poor communicators (again down to social media and mobile phones) and, most annoying of all, we’re always asking why.

So, what does this mean for designing training? When we’re designing training for millennials what we know about them would probably tell us:

  • make it short and simple
  • use pretty pictures and videos to hold their attention
  • e-learning would be a good option because their heads are already in their phones, or laptops – so there’s little to no effort required.

Well, let me come to the defence of my generation for a moment and explain that, in fact, our attention spans are really pretty good. The same ‘boomers’ who complain that we can’t pay attention for any length of time also complain that we’re willing to sit for hours binge-watching a TV series, or scrolling through our phones. So maybe it’s not that we can’t pay attention, maybe it’s just that we are selective about what we pay attention to and, we don’t feel we have to pay attention to things that don’t immediately catch our interest.

So how do we go about creating training that millennial learners are going to respond to? Because like it or not they now make up a significant proportion of the workforce, and need training to work for them just as much as older employees do.

My tip would be, turn these supposed annoying traits of millennials to your advantage…

 Instant gratification

Grab them right off the bat - why not use a title that can’t be ignored?

’10 ways you can improve your productivity right now, number 8 will shock you…’

 Impatience

Don’t spoon feed them - if anyone knows how to use Google, it’s a millennial, so don’t tell them things they already know. Encourage them to explore websites or other resources and then test that they’ve done it with meaningful exercises.

 Sense of entitlement

Use gamification elements to give them the instant gratification they apparently crave. Instead of complaining about all the ‘participation awards’ we were apparently given throughout our childhoods, create an online learning games platform and give out a ‘participation badge’ as soon as the learner signs up for it. Then make more badges available for completing activities.

Impatience

Keep it short. Try and fit a bit of learning in between Instagram scrolls. It’s been proven that learning is best delivered in short bursts anyway, to all types of adult learners. Try to move away from the idea of a training ‘event’ that all has to take place at once time; instead use short activities and exercises that are released at intervals and with increasing difficulty.

 Poor communicators

Millennials like to feel that they are heard, appreciated and are making a difference; and they are used to doing this in an online setting. Online learning provides ample opportunities to make this happen.

 Always asking why

Well isn’t this what you want anyway? Didn’t asking why lead to the greatest inventions and the most valuable social change throughout history? If a millennial is asking why, it isn’t to annoy you, it may be because, quite simply, they have a better alternative. Take advantage of that. Take advantage of their need to contribute, of their expectation that they are a very special snowflake and are going to change the world…maybe they will.