This question caught my eye in a recent association chat on Twitter. As a member of the incoming generation, I think it is crucial to prepare your association for Millennials’ needs and wants, which are drastically different from those of Generation X.  I have learned from a computer for the majority of my life. At first, my computer only included educational games (my mom was a bit of a hippie and opposed the violent and competitive games my friends were playing).  I learned some basic html coding when I was just 11 years old because I constantly wanted to update the backgrounds on my NeoPets and MySpace profiles.

This is not to say that every Millennial had the same experiences I did. However, when it comes to member education there are certainly similarities in how we like to receive information and learn. This is because we’ve grown accustomed to the visual stimulation, instant gratification, and quick access to the wealth of knowledge that’s available through digital technology.


The rise of YouTube took the music videos that awed our parents’ generation and elevated them to another level. This is true for every form of media and entertainment today. Even music concerts have come to include some pretty over the top visuals that make use of our sense of sight. So, it is no wonder most Millennials are disinterested in webinars or eLearning courses that are text heavy or slow moving. Millenials have grown up in the era of text messaging and Tweeting; we like concise, easy to read messages. A huge block of text during a webinar is unwelcome for most Millenials. Instead, it is important for Millennials to have engaging visuals they can latch onto.

When designing education for Millenials, use screen casts to explain procedural tasks; get members to interact with the content through interactivity, or better yet – give them opportunities to re-enact lessons with the use of scenarios and simulations.


Online Learning for Millenials

Millennials tend to be very competitive; perhaps this is due to the fact that we have been surrounded by gaming our entire lives. The competitive spirit has been ingrained in us from a very early age.  If that wasn’t enough, the relatively new ability to share personal achievements with social networks have made “winning” that much sweeter for Millennials.

Use this to your advantage; think of ways your association can utilize gamificiation to engage and excite Millennial members. If game-based learning is not an option, try providing incentives for members to participate in educational opportunities at your association. Some ideas that come to mind for me would be: awarding certification credits, recognizing the most active members each month, or incorporating contests.


Having been exposed to technology early-on, and learning the ins and outs of how it works (as a novice computer programmer at age 11), I have different expectations for how it should work than generations before me.  Millennials tend to see technology failures in a harsher light than others; we expect things to “just work.”

As a provider of online member education, the most important thing you can do to ensure your success with Millennials, is provide an intuitive system that is easy to navigate. If a Millennial member has to pause in frustration because the resource they’re trying to find isn’t in a logical location or is buried deep within your portal, you risk losing the learner. A Millennial, like me, will recognize this as an inefficiency in the system that could have been prevented and are less likely to overlook the poor design. This also goes for bugs in the system; if anything is “off” in your online learning because of technology, you can be sure that a Millennial learner will notice.

There are many perspectives on what Millennials want out of their online education experience. I am providing my viewpoint, but keep in mind that Generation Y spans a vast range of ages, demographics, and ideologies. Recognizing the shared desires between different individuals is the key to understanding how to adapt your association’s learning for this type of member.  What do you see Millennial members wanting more of in their online learning? Share your thoughts below.

Want to continue this discussion?