So the eLearning Guild 08 Gathering just wrapped up in Orlando, and there were some really good sessions. I moderated a session on “What does the Next Gen Learning Experience Look Like.” Even though the session was held a 7:15 am on Tuesday morning (and I hadn’t slept at all the night before), we had a good group and a productive session. These are the results of our collective brainstorm.


Next Generation Learner

With recent studies showing that 40% of the workforce will retire by 2015, we used the “21st Century Students Deserve a 21st Century Education” survey of 1.2 million K-12 students, teachers, administrators and parents representing over 14,000 schools in all 50 states. This seemed like the obvious place to start, since this group will constitute our target audience in a few years.

So to predict what the Next Gen Learning experience might be like, we started by listing what we saw as the trends. Here’s the list we came up with:

• “Always on” connectivity with their peer group

• User generated content, self-publishing video (YouTube), blogging and posting to (MySpace, Facebook)

• Social connectivity, accessing a looser set of networks more casually for problem solving, companionship or just to feel connected to a larger group

• Gamers, with nearly a 50% split between males/females enjoying console or computer games

Based on these trends (which are certainly not exhaustive), we tried to imagine the type of learning environment that would engage this profiled learner. Here’s what we came up with:

• Bite-sized intruction – the group pretty much agreed that an instructional session longer than 40 minutes would be deadly. Ideally, ten minutes is even better.

• Context-heavy – The Next Gen Learner is less likely to accept an instructor’s opinion of the importance of the content.

• Embedded learning – Rather than “force-feed” content, learners seem to want more “just-in-time” learning that they can access only when they need it.

• User-generated content – Based on the research, students value creativity and teamwork, moreso than the Boomer or Gen X, so more project-based instruction and constructivist styles would be more effective.

• Scenario-based/role-play – Learners are used to virtual worlds where there are multiple choices that can be made, rather than one correct answer.


What Does Nex Gen Learning Look Like?

We agreed that we may need to rethink the traditional form of assessment, looking at outcomes first and perhaps measuring assessment through job performance, rather than based on arbitrary learning requirements or test scores.

We need to foster the creativity to allow learning to be ad-hoc, continual and learner-directed. This continuing education model may require managers to play a larger role in professional development and performance assessment. This could actually take the form of learning through special projects – acheiving a true constructivist model that encourages creative thinking and decision making.

Finally, the tools for learning need to be portable to many devices, so that learning occurs on-demand, when learners need it, rather than when we decide they need to learn. These “job aids” may need to include performance support, featuring interactive multimedia.

So that’s the recap. This was a really cool exercise, and this type of mind-experiment is a great way for educators to continually leverage new media and technology to explore better ways to evolve and adapt to the nex gen learner.

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