The Millennial Perspective on Learning

keyboard_learn_key_400_clr_10240 (1)The Future of Learning According to Millenials captures the essence of a study just released by Millennial Branding.com. In her recap of the study, Samantha Whitehorne of Associations Now explains why Millennials gravitate to online learning AND that they also embrace hybrid opportunities that bring face-to-face learning segments to the mix.

All generations are represented in my college classroom and the majority of students want their learning opportunities delivered the same way. That is, how and when they can get it … and often online. The majority recognize that when they can participate in a face-to-face opportunity, their experience will be richer and the opportunity for networking greatly increased. That makes optional Saturday classroom days a hit!

I believe that Millennials had a great deal to do with this shift in education delivery. And while my first reactions were not entirely accepting of so much flexibility, my work to meet the students “where they’re at” has been well received by students of all ages. Whether they are working two jobs or homebound with sick children or on the road with their job, their learning is online and available. If, however, they can make it to a classroom on a Saturday, we’re there — with hands-on learning and networking. Let’s face it — learning in a group while sharing in laughter and experiences, is a lot more fun and enriching than the experience one has in front of a computer screen. Life happens and often it happens in sudden and unexpected ways. I believe that learning should be able to adapt whenever possible. Yes, I know that’s my opinion and not shared by all academicians but I honor any program that gives working adults the opportunity to develop their skills and grow their career.

How that relates to education provided by the non-profit association community can be tricky. First, let’s all keep in mind that the opportunity to network is typically in the top two reasons individuals cite as decisive factors when registering for a meeting, conference or event. And just about any association professional can point to a number of initiatives and even entire corporations that began as a result of that “meeting within a meeting” that happens in hallways and break areas at conferences.

I struggle with how that synchronous collaboration can happen online in a truly genuine way. Technology is (my opinion, again) not yet ready for what we need to provide virtually. So, while much of the education provided by associations and academia can be online, there is simply no replacement for face-to-face interaction. That’s probably why so many of my students drive great distances or even fly in to the Twin Cities, for Saturday classroom days.

One of my favorite books was published in 1998. Written by Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, “Blur: the Speed of Change in the Connected Economy” looks at how the forces of speed, intangibles and connectivity converge and challenge business as we know it. The book may be dated, but the principles cited are alive and well. Back in 1998 the authors aptly described the “new economy — a world where the rate of change is so fast it’s only a blur . .. ” And so it is. We have blurred and will continue to blur if we are to succeed.

Millennials may have mandated this shift to continue blurring, but each of us benefit.

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