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Associations Can Structure Online Learning for Millennials

How Do Corporations, Organizations & Associations Train & Teach?

Traditional education methods, such as classroom learning and in-person lectures have served previous generations. 

Association Learning Online Header-01-01 (1)However, with online learning opportunities exploding, younger generations, like millennials, are moving away from traditional patterns of learning and plotting their own course to learn what they want to when and how they want to. Online courses and training programs make this possible and easy to do.

If you are looking to attract millennial members to your association, it’s worth exploring how this generation learns new information. That knowledge can help you restructure your approach to e-learning in order to create training programs for millennial students.

How Do Millennials Learn New Information?

Millennial association members are often bypassing traditional association education opportunities in favor of self-selected education paths using freely available web content.

Millennials are digital natives. They favor quick and easy learning methods. This cohort has moved towards self-service learning. They pick and choose when and what they learn based on their own individual needs and interests.

Self-Service Learning

The self-learning model used by millennials usually involves open, web-based content that’s related to a skill or problem the learner needs to master.

For example, a learner might go to YouTube and watch a sequence of videos related to the skill or problem. This sequence usually begins with general information and then transitions to examples of others applying the information in real life. This combination allows the learner to practice the information personally through some type of assessment or work project.

Self-service learning is informal online learning that doesn’t require enrolling e-learning courses tied to education institutions or their standards. It’s a quick way to educate oneself with openly available web-based resources that millennials are comfortable with.

Making The Most of the World Wide Web

No generation has made the internet their own as millennials have. They are keen to get everything they can from it. One way millennials do this is by seeking open content for educational purposes.

Open content is generally defined as openly licensed materials. In an educational context, it’s informational content that anyone can access and use for their own learning purposes without permission or payment. The internet is full of such content provided on an informal basis and allows millennials to indulge in their preference for self-service online learning.

Open content is gaining traction in the e-learning industry. Online training programs and educational institutions are realizing the benefits of “open education resources” for themselves and their internet-savvy students. They are utilizing open content in online courses.

Learning management systems (LMS) can offer a wide variety of content.

There are still some bugs to work out before open content becomes mainstream in more formal education settings. Much of the success of open content in the future depends on associations using the world wide web to offer such content to millennial learners.

How To Redesign Your Online Learning & Improve the Member Experience

Millennials’ tendency for self-service and online learning poses challenges for associations looking for ways to offer engaging learning experiences for members. The good news is that organizations can redesign their training models in a way that adds needed contextualization and motivation for learners, which provides higher learning effectiveness than most self-learning. This kind of quality learning experience can draw and retain learners of all generations.

Millenials Highlighted-01

Provide Clear Context for Online Training

The first step in the redesign process is to provide a clear context for online training. It’s important to emphasize the “why” of the online learning environment, as well as to make it possible for millennial participants to personalize their experience.

In reality, organizations have a built-in advantage when it comes to contextualized learning – and that’s a community. By definition, most organizations comprise a focused Community of Practice (CoP), a community of individuals with a shared concern or passion. This community can be leveraged to provide needed context for training materials, as well as a collaborative community that can reinforce the learning process.

Having this community creates a familiar context in which students can work together or individually to learn and practice what they learn in a meaningful way to them. Millennials can be very tribal and thrive in collaborative learning environments.

Providing a social community context for online learning helps them connect that learning to themselves and their identity within the community. Coursework can draw from situations and issues that are relevant to the community and give learners motivation for learning and solving problems that directly relate to them.

Make the Learning Experience More Active with Educational Video

The second step in the redesign is to add elements that make the learning experience more active. This means moving beyond a passive information presentation and adding elements of collaboration, practice, and feedback.

Video, for instance, is an excellent tool for enhancing the learning experience. Video can be used to teach information through storytelling, graphics, and audio. Students retain information better when multiple senses are engaged, and video capabilities have long moved past passive information presentation.

Today we can change the use of video from a passive presentation to a tool for showing real-world examples and scenario-based decision models that allow for active collaboration, practice, and feedback from students. High-quality video not only engages learners but offers a great complement to the more active aspects of learning.

Create a Connected Learning Community

Finally, in your redesign, you will want to extend the learning experience beyond the confines of the specific training module. Associations can do this by introducing the learner to a connected community that provides ongoing resources, networking opportunities, and live events that serve as knowledge refreshers.

The inherent community in an association provides great context for learning, but learning must be taken into the broader world for best results. Associations can use online learning to introduce members to other communities that are connected to the same online courses, course information, and owners of learning content. This creates a social, collaborative learning experience that allows them to network and develop connections with other learners and teachers and further enrich their understanding and learning.

Adding Value to Online Learning with Application

A hallmark of the millennial generation is their interest in added value. They know they have countless free online learning opportunities and resources at their fingertips. The question is why should they use yours?

The combination of these three elements – context, active information, and an extended learning community – will add significant value to an organization’s training programs. It will result in meaningful educational experiences that combine the strength of self-learning with the powerful network and resources of an organization. This combination creates a dynamic, comprehensive, and innovative learning framework that should meet the needs of millennial members.

By restructuring your e-learning courses to provide not only information but real-life application, you add value to your content in the eyes of millennial members. Establish context for the information you’re giving them, create opportunities for active learning, and provide access to communities in which they can share and build upon their learning in the real world. If you’re not sure how to implement these initiatives in your e-learning courses, explore the capabilities of your LMS.

As an association you have resources to draw from that millennials will not find in self-service learning. It’s up to you to structure your online learning offerings in such a way that they find what they’re missing with you.

7 Ways to Draw Millennials to Your Association

NextThought team
About the Author NextThought team

Our mission... To constantly explore innovative ways to rethink education. We engage learners, build community, and deliver value. We will always go above and beyond standard learning solutions, providing perfectly-tailored educational experiences for our clients and their audiences.

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