Millennials (those born 1980 to 2000) are now the largest segment in the workforce, and more are entering at the same time as many Baby Boomers are retiring. Millennials have a distinctive profile and learning style compared with previous generations, which sometimes makes it tough for instructors to connect with them. New teaching techniques and an understanding of this generation are needed help to unlock their potential.
Profile of the Millennials
Where older generations like the Baby Boomers are competitive, independent, and goal-oriented, Millennials can be well-rounded and highly confident individuals who enjoy finding new approaches to problems. They seek experiential, engaging, and interactive learning experiences.
This generation is technologically savvy since personal digital technology was prevalent as they grew up. According to eFront Learning, Millennials generally had lots of attention from their parents during childhood. Consequently, they connect better with older adults who provide coaching and some motivation and who show an interest in their development plans and goals. While Baby Boomers may be more content to follow orders for the sake of complying, Millennials grew up in a less authoritarian environment. They have been involved in decisions from a very early age and are accustomed to questioning practices in order to seek the best solutions. Thus, Millennials learn procedures better when they understand the rationale behind various practices.
Learning from a multitude of sources
Millennials don’t like to take what they hear at face value, even when from an authority figure. Instead, they seek information from a multitude of sources, with internet sources like Google and Wikipedia chief among them; they are experts at “googling” for what they need. With the internet continuously at their disposal, this generation values information for its relevance to their lives.
Learning in a relaxed setting
Millennials prefer a more relaxed learning environment – they are less likely to respond to an 8 hour class from an instructor and would prefer to learn the same information in small chunks. This could mean breaking up the existing schedule, learning on their own, or learning in a group of people their age. In fact, having a variety of methods is preferred by these students. Millennials find value in connecting with peers and find group work to be helpful in the learning process. Instructors sometimes find it difficult to capture the attention span of Millennials – using multiple sources of content or types of learning activities can help teachers to connect with their students.
Microlearning – a burgeoning trend with Millennials
According to a 2015 article on information-age.com, studies show that classroom training has relatively low effectiveness for Millennials. For this and other reasons, an alternative called microlearning is making waves. “Microlearning” is the process of breaking material into short lessons of 1 to 10 minutes in length and putting this information on digital devices like mobile phones and tablets. Millennials prefer this and generally enjoy learning in bite-sized chunks of 2 to 3 minutes each. The learning process can also center around the student, who can study and review whenever and wherever it’s convenient, rather than a class which must center around the teacher. Millennial students, who often seek more freedom while absorbing information, can learn on their own schedule in a self-paced environment.
Mobile technology has made it practical to replace traditional classes with microlearning. Training through this newer method is advantageous because it reduces costs over conducting classroom sessions. And better yet, engagement improves since the e-learning system feeds the user the pertinent facts and material during quick, focused sessions – just like the way Millennials consume their YouTube videos and Instagram posts. 97% of individuals in the Millennial age range own smartphones (as of 2016), and a smartphone-capable learning platform lets students use downtime throughout the day for learning.
Connecting with Millennials
Traditional classroom lecture techniques may not be as effective in reaching Millennials as they were for previous generations. Teachers and training managers can become frustrated trying to connect with their younger students. Fortunately, newer content delivery methods and laser-focused, digital self-study platforms can improve engagement and reduce costs for a win-win situation.