Addressing the Growing Generation Gap in Relation to E-Learning

759889_eye_see_you.jpgLast week I had the chance to partake in one of my favorite parts of my job….meeting with a new client.  See, one of the perks of what I do is that everyday has the opportunity to bring something new and different to the table.  It’s something I love and something I look forward to.

This particular client wanted to discuss the use of E-Learning and mobile learning to roll out targeted training options for their workforce.

My favorite subject!

So we sit down and start going over some of the basic questions I always start with.  Everything was cruising alone according to plan until I got to the one question that threw a wrench in every option I was currently building in my head.  “What age range are we looking at here?

The answer that came back? 18 – 82! Literally stopped me dead in my tracks. “18 to 82! Are you serious?” I know, it was a highly intelligent comeback, but it was all I could manage at that moment. The client explained that as part of their corporate compliance policy every employee was required to complete regular safety and policy training modules. The idea was if we could roll those out through E-Learning, or even mobile learning, then we could cut down on the time spent away from their position.

Now I had to start thinking. I was challenged to come up with a set of solutions that could span 8 decades and I wasn’t about to give up.

This client brought home a topic I’ve heard rolling around the E-Learning world for months now. Namely, how are we supposed to address this type of generation gap in the workplace from a technological standpoint? The truth is that while the world is moving forward, it doesn’t mean that everyone is moving at the same pace. We as E-Learning professionals must keep these types of age differences in mind as we strive to understand the difference between how a 25 year old will respond to training and how a 65 year old will approach the same lesson.

It’s a problem that isn’t going away. With the financial realities we are facing, individuals are having to work longer and often start earlier. It is becoming more and more common for kids fresh out of high school to jump into the work place while taking advantage of either night or online courses.  And while this isn’t a problem we can solve today, we are going to look at a few ways to address this gap as we strive to meet the needs of our clients.

With that in mind, here are 3 key ways to address the generation gap in relation to E-Learning:

835200_-holding_hands.jpg1). Always conduct a needs assessment

Before you create the first piece of training material, you must understand the needs of your audience. This includes having a clear picture of the individuals you will be training as well as their level of technological expertise. Having this knowledge allows you to find the appropriate place to start the training process and maximize the learning potential.

2). Offer basic training classes in the specific types of technology you plan to use

What I have found is it is far more common to find a wide spread of abilities in a given group than to walk in and learn that every participant is on the same page technologically.  With that in mind it is often a good idea to offer some type of training option geared towards the type of technology you will be using.  This allows all participants to become familiar with the look and feel of the training portal before they are facing material they must retain for their career.

This type of training option is especially useful when working with older individuals who might not be as comfortable with the idea of mobile or E-Learning.

3). Have a back up plan

If there is on1275249_study_table.jpge truth I can offer you it is that you always have to know when to retreat. Look at my own situation. I’m dealing with an age range of 8 decades and there is just no feasible way to require that all of those individuals move to a technology based learning platform.  With that in mind I am building the training the company asked for while another individual is preparing a separate version that can be presented real time. The idea is for the face-to-face training to be phased out over time, but right now it meets the needs of a specific segment of their workforce. Needs that cannot realistically be met by the tiny little screen of a smart phone.

So know your audience. Get creative. And find new ways to meet your client’s need no matter what age range they may lay before you.

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