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What Millennials Teach Us About Developing Effective eLearning Programs

February 9, 2016 | Posted in Concepts of Unified Learning, eLearning Best Practices by icohere

The Millennial generation will soon make up the majority of association members, nonprofit leaders, and the workforce in general.  It’s important to take their needs and wants into consideration, especially when it comes to advancing eLearning.

We reached out to Millennials on the iCohere team to gain their insight on developing high quality eLearning (professional development) programs. We approached it from two perspectives: a team member who is out and about with customers, and one who is behind the scenes designing programs and supporting the customer experience.

Is your eLearning program reaching Millennials

Will your eLearning program meet the needs of this generation? Their answers to four key questions about program design might surprise you.

1. What are the learning preferences of Millennials? Do they prefer online learning?

Taylor LambertTaylor Lambert, a sales representative at iCohere, said Millennials love interfaces that look aesthetically pleasing, and are fluid, easy to use, and inviting. He believes this stems from their subconscious excitability to share it on social media.

“Our relationship with technology centers around presentation,” explained Lambert. “Technology is an extension of our personalities and how we interact with our world.”

Merwan ShafaMerwan Shafa, an account manager and support lead at iCohere, cautions product and service designers to remember that Millennials grew up on technology. He said Millennials prefer modern features and focus on look and feel.  For them it’s all about the experience. Shafa says Millennials are used to changes and updates with technology, where older generations focus on functionality and remember buying high quality items, taking care of them and making them last.

“In many ways we [Millennials] are less sentimental. When something we use has run out, we are much quicker to toss out the old in favor of the new,” says Shafa. “Especially when it comes to technology, things change so fast they are nearly obsolete when you buy them.”

2. Are there differences in the way content needs to be designed?

Shafa says Millennials need to feel value for their commitment of time.  Video and interactive activities are important, but learners need to be able to learn in blocks of time, which means that in about 15 to 20 minutes they need to learn something of substance and high value. Ideally, users should be able to divide content into chunks, where you create your own smart stopping points based on your learning needs and information consumption.

Adding a social or community aspect doesn’t mean Millennials will automatically participate either. Shafa says communities are challenging but can be well worth the effort.

He said, “If you find a way to engage people in an active community, you create meaningful relationships that serve to reinforce learning through feelings of connectedness. The power in ongoing learning communities comes from trading your experience and learning from others’ mistakes. It helps you feel more plugged in, less alone, and validates that what you’ve learned is worth learning because other people are learning it with you.

Lambert looks at online communities a little differently. He said community is often built around things that are trending, or things that spark popularity. Building a community around an eLearning program suggests that learning is cool and that’s unusual. But it can be done successfully for other reasons. He said things that require deep-thinking aren’t as accessible to a larger audience. He also pointed out that we are so wrapped up in a politically correct world now and a community might help to provide a secure, private sounding board. Lambert advises program developers to consider the topic being learned and to infuse the eLearning community through a bona fide platform.

3. Is mobile access or on-demand important?

Lambert stressed that learning is subjective and depends on the individual. It has to fit the learner’s way of learning, whether that is in a quiet room without interruptions or on the go, in between stops. So with that, mobility is important, however he advises that the actual content being learned should be uninterrupted regardless of the device being used. This means no banner ads or other actions that will take the learner away from the content.

Shafa said that when it comes to mobility and responsive design, it’s best to design a platform that does not feel awkward to use without a mouse or keyboard (a better experience for tablet and smartphone users.) The experience should be positive on any device. He went on to say that although it depends on what is being taught, a good delivery method for program designers to consider is through hybrid content delivery.

“On-demand carries value because it’s flexible and convenient,” says Shafa, “even though you may lose the benefits of peer-interaction.”

In the context of on-demand courses, he stressed the importance of creating dynamic interactivity rather than expecting learners to peel through pages of text. He warns that text-heavy content is unappealing, and Millennials especially, tend to lose focus.

With Hybrid experiences – where content is absorbed online and then consolidated at a live event – Shafa said, “Live events are good motivators for activity. Learners are motivated to fully participate during the online portion and keep up with online activities, so they can intelligently interact with the specialist during the live portion.”

4. Is there a preference for a personalized experience?

Shafa said personalizing content for Millennials is expected, and warns not to approach personalization halfheartedly.

“If a program actually responds to the way you use it, then personalization becomes meaningful,” said Shafa.  “Generic personalization has limited value because it’s everywhere. We grew up in a world shaped by technology. We expect things to continually get better because we’ve seen the rapid pace of growth year after year.”

He said, personalizing a learning program needs to be intelligent and responsive. It has to be part of the whole look and feel and can’t be arbitrarily inserted just to say you did it. It has to be really well thought out.

Lambert said context is more important than personalization, “All students learn in entirely different ways. Personally, I need to walk around, talk with someone, and establish a context for what I’m learning. It’s easy to throw around abstract concepts, but for many learners said concepts are hard to understand, until you’ve established a use case. Having context establishes concrete meaning, and that meaning is the underbelly of learning.”

In fact, Lambert said a great deal of his learning about the iCohere online platform came when he was given a test site to play with and manipulate and learn from. He says context gives content more meaning and where there is meaning, there is interest, and focus.

Is your eLearning program designed with multiple users in mind? Get the resources and training you need with Unified Learning Design Studio – a free, online training available in the iCohere Academy.


Join here.

Lance Simon is VP Client and Government Solutions for iCohere, the Unified Learning System. iCohere is celebrating its 15-year anniversary of successfully serving organizations, nonprofits and government clients.

Written with Jo Lynn Deal.


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