Traditional learning methods: They’re not for young people

Alan Bryant on how to approach L&D for the YouTube generation.

With A-level and GCSE results out, it’s an interesting time to look at L&D for young people. This generation is undoubtedly different to generations that have come before the way they source information and learn being key differentiators.

Growing up connected to the internet has meant this generation has never known a time when they can’t quickly get the answer to almost any question. They live in a world where, if they want to learn something new, there is a YouTube video, a podcast or an app they can turn to. They’re resourceful in finding the answers themselves.

This means their experience of more traditional L&D differs to generations that have come before them. It also means there is an array of ‘non-traditional’ learning methods to which they now have access – meaning they can learn anything they want, in whatever way they want.

This generation has never known a time when they can’t quickly get the answer to almost any question

This has had a sizeable impact on what they want from L&D platforms, and old-fashioned traditional methods may not cut it any more. They want to be able to develop and adapt skillsets quickly and flexibly, fitting learning around their work and life demands.

With this comes various opportunities. So what are these opportunities and what are others doing to develop L&D programmes fit for purpose for this generation?

Learning applied to business challenges

There has always been a degree of criticism that school doesn’t teach a lot of what you actually need to know for life and, with university fees rising steeply, many who have just reached university age are choosing to take a different path.

From apprenticeships and internships to new, innovative approaches towards further education, many options are now open to take a different route into employment.

An example of this is MissionU, an innovative alternative to the traditional education route of university, overcoming the issue of high tuition fees, as well as the issue of many struggling to find employment after leaving university.

MissionU does this by running a year-long course focused on solving real business problems and learning skills needed in the workplace, all backed by aspirational employers such as Spotify, Uber and Casper.

Learning through collaboration

Younger generations are very collaborative – they have grown up in a world of online and offline communities. Communities are a great way to develop an individual’s – and each other’s – learning.

A particularly interesting way that companies are beginning to embrace this is through reverse mentoring. Today’s young people think and learn differently to generations that have come before, but all approaches have their benefits.

Therefore, there is a great opportunity to pair up different generations to learn from each other, creating a value exchange.

An older example, but one ahead of its time that still rings true today, is Live Mag, a magazine created by young people for young people. The programme was set up by us here at Livity to give young people from different backgrounds the opportunity to come together, learn from each other and from professionals, try their hand at various skills and, at the end of it all, have a product they had created together.

This not only gave the young people the chance to learn various skills, it gave them mentorship to help them direct their energy, and also allowed the mentors to learn from their mentees.

Young people will prefer to learn little and often rather than take days out on training programmes

Build methods that allow young people to find their passion

As mentioned, young people want to try their hand at lots of different things; they want to uncover their passion. To do this, build an L&D model that allows young people to move around roles and tasks, learning transferable skills as they go, to keep them engaged.

An example of a business that has developed a learning culture, and a culture that encourages people’s passions, is Google. At Google, they don’t follow a specific training path, but they understand that their Googlers have different interests and skills outside of work that other Googlers would like to learn.

That could be a new language, kickboxing, knitting or coding. By enabling this, Google creates a learning culture that means all its employees want to learn more in general, always seeking out new information.

This is particularly powerful for young people as it allows them to find new passions and structures, learning in a new and less structured way.

Learning a little often

Make training so it fits around their lives, and also so they have a degree of control over it. Young people will prefer to learn little and often rather than take days out on training programmes. This is also a more successful way for them to retain knowledge, with short attention spans and the want for answers.

The growth of MOOCs such as edX, Khan Academy and Udemy are all great examples of this. Low-cost courses that people can learn from at their own pace, at a time and place that suits them.A  recent Deloitte study shows that more than $400m was invested in these kind of learning providers last year, showing how popular this approach to learning is becoming.

These are four key trends that we’re increasingly seeing with young people when it comes to approaching L&D, and some great examples of businesses taking actions based on these trends.

Businesses who act now based on these insights, and bring young people’s needs to the forefront of their L&D programmes, will already be a step ahead of most.


About the author

Alan Bryant is a strategist at Livity


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