The generation gap: the way people are learning is already changing

Written by Donavan Whyte on 14 May 2015

One of the objectives of World Information Society Day, celebrated each year on 17th May, is to raise global awareness of societal changes brought about by the internet and new technologies. I can already see how e-learning technology is changing how we learn in the workplace.

The iPhone came out in 2007 and seven-year-olds then will turn 15 years this year. Currently there is a generation gap in e-learning but by 2020, it will take off as that’s when the digital native population matures and enters the workforce.

They will be less inclined to want to learn using traditional text books or even face-to-face (unless online). Imagining how imperative e-learning will be is tricky but it’s unlikely that text books and other traditional learning tools will cut it for these future learners. For successful lifelong learning, this generation will expect learning to be mobile. 

A tech-savvy, mobile generation will demand learning tools that they can relate to. The use of mobile learning is growing, according to a report by the e-learning Guild Research, Mobile Learning: The Time is Now conducted in 2012.  In this report, author Clark Quinn examined the current status and trends in mobile learning, analysing usage, availability, return on investment, perceived barriers and other topics. He also assessed how mobile learning is changing and recommends strategies to make the most of the technology’s emerging opportunities.

The report found that 25 per cent of top learning companies are either currently using or developing learning apps. Nearly two-thirds of respondents are already using mobile devices for learning delivery and more than 40 per cent said it’s increased L&D participation and delivered business benefits.

Transitioning to e-learning and mobile learning, however, comes with its challenges and many businesses undergo a natural adjustment process as they make the move to digital-based learning. Some companies experience a generation gap as the younger employee demographic is more likely to become early adopters of digital learning tools. What’s critical is to measure effectiveness and learning outcomes. It’s often through results that senior leadership can be convinced that a transition to e-learning isn’t only cost-effective but can also produce improved results for learners.

To maximise the benefits to be gained from e-learning, companies can prepare by:

1)Understanding the employee/learner demographic now and in five years’ time, considering elements such as frequent travel, remote working and flexible hours

2)Partnering with a supplier to offer end-to-end consultancy and support, from skills audits, change management and implementation process

3)Gaining senior leadership buy-in - having stakeholders at the table early on is critical to them being convinced of the benefits of e-learning.

E-learning is the future in the workplace. By embracing the potential that technology brings to learning, businesses can help make sure they aren’t left behind and enjoy a smooth transition from traditional to digital-based learning.

Donavan Whyte is Vice President, EMEA Enterprise & Education at Rosetta Stone.

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