E-Learning, M-Learning and the Education of Generation Y

Generation Y, sometimes referred to as the “millennial generation,” is the fastest growing work segment today. Depending on the data you access, those who comprise Gen Y were born between 1980 and 1992, and will account for more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Based on this knowledge, it is imperative that an organization meets the specific educational needs of this generation. Given the digital age of their upbringing, most members of this demographic grew up with extensive and immediate exposure to the Internet, cell phones, texting, tablets and so on. They are accustomed to instant access of information and knowledge, and expect their education to be on demand as well. To them, the concept of eLearning and mLearning is not only second nature, it is a necessity for ongoing engagement and an incentive to remain with a given organization. 

So, what is eLearning and mLearning? Simply put, eLearning is generally asynchronous education viewed through your desktop or laptop. Usually, eLearning modules are up to 20 minutes in length and can be fairly detailed in nature. Similarly, mLearning is also asynchronous in nature but it is viewed on a cell phone or tablet. mLearning modules are much shorter (3-5 minutes in length) and are laser-focused on a topic in small segments.

For example, if you were going to learn about safety procedures using one of these two methods, the eLearning module would typically address the topic in great detail while the mLearning module would provide a checklist or outline of the specific steps of the process.

Why is eLearning and mLearning so appealing to Gen Y? For starters, they are very flexible – modules can be completed whenever, and in the case of mLearning, from wherever the learner wants. For example, a mLearning module can be completed riding the train to work or while waiting in line for coffee. This bodes well for a generation that craves instant gratification and values the ability to complete things whenever, and wherever, they want. 

Both methods also allow for gamificaiton, or the ability to learn through playing a game. This resonates well with Gen Y because they grew up with gaming systems in the home and often learned through games at school. Gamification includes everything traditional hangman to demonstrate simple comprehension to avatar-based games with complex graphics and interaction. 

Both eLearning and mLearning are delivered in a clear and concise manner that allow for multiple viewings that can be accessed anytime, based on the needs of the viewer.

Hypothetically, the learner might view the first five minutes of an eLearning module while waiting for colleagues to arrive at a meeting and then, would be able to finish the module later in the afternoon when their schedule allows. 

While there are many more ways to meet Gen Y’s educational needs, one of the best ways to better understand your younger audience’s learning preference is to ask them. Refreshing any education program first starts by opening up a dialogue for engagement.

Posted By Chris Ballman

Chris Ballman is director of Education and Learning Services at SmithBucklin in Chicago. He has more than 15 years of experience in the design, implementation and evaluation of educational programs for adults in eLearning and instructor-led settings. In addition to his leadership role, Ballman supports the development of SmithBucklin’s national eLearning program.

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