Why The Net Generation Is Paving The Ways In Which We Learn And How We Will Learn, Now And In The Future

Why The Net Generation Is Paving The Ways In Which We Learn And How We Will Learn, Now And In The Future
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Summary: There is value in knowing about the science behind learning. Having a scientific perspective on how we learn explains why the Net Generation expects technology-based learning at work and virtual training will play a key part in workplace Learning and Development.

The Net Generation And Why Technology-Based Learning Will Play A Bigger Part Ever In Our Learning

I recently read a highly insightful paper from the NeuroLeadership Institute about how our brain learns, understands, and ultimately retains and remembers the knowledge and information it acquires. I don’t want to recount all the points addressed in the report, that’s not the purpose for my writing this particular piece, but two of the key points I did note from the insightful “Learning that lasts through AGES” paper was the part played by the environment on the way which people learn, and how people absorb knowledge. It’s those two points that I want to address.

As a learning provider, I do agree with the value of knowing about the science behind learning. Having a scientific perspective on how we learn will enable learning providers and companies to better understand the impact, and ultimately the value, of their chosen approaches to how learning is delivered, and the impact this will have on their workforce.

So taking the matter of the environment first, I do think the ultimate game-changer has to be on the design of workplace learning environments, now and in the future.

Learning Technologies: Defining the learning environment in line with the demands of the Net Generation

Today’s workforce can now enjoy online and virtual classroom training, not just the traditional classroom style. Technology is everywhere! The Net Generation just can’t remember a time when a computer wasn’t used for some kind of learning experience. It’s because of their “tech-savviness” that more traditional Learning and Development practices and approaches are coming into question. The Net Generation is growing exponentially and its intuitive and instinctive use of technology is quickly shaping and determining how workplaces work and what training methods they will buy into. The “Net Gen” is fluent in the language of technology and the work seamlessly in the virtual and the real world. They’ve grown up “Digital”; previous generations are still getting to grips with it. As such, current and future generations are evolving on a daily basis to become even more tech-aware.  As a consequence of this, employees will have very high expectations for their training and how it’s delivered in order that their demanding expectations are met. That’s why we now all need to be more aware than ever of the mind-set of the current and upcoming workforce.

Challenges For Learning And Development 

So what does the Net Generation want from learning technology? Interactivity! Some, (not all!) traditional classroom style training methods won’t tick this workforce’s boxes forever, as it won’t fulfill their learning potential and expectations. They want to be able to use the learning technology, but they want that technology to ultimately be relevant and interactive. (Remember, they had exposure to computers, tablets, and smart phones at school, and then at college or in higher education, so they need and want to take their computer skills way beyond just the basics.)

With this in mind, Net Gens will expect training technology in the workplace, just as it did in college or university, to allow them to engage with peers and trainers quickly, but in a centralized way. That’s why Virtual Training really meets this current, and future, change in the learning mind-set. They are fluent in Digital and, because of this, are used to preparing their own schedules, to collaborating constantly, and for wanting ongoing feedback and training, and for wanting access to the tools and technology to master their jobs. Forget telling them what devices and platforms to use. Companies can probably learn a thing or two about cutting-edge Learning and Development technology just by listening to the Net Gen! They are a creating a demand that needs to be met.

What comes after the current Net Generation? 

Needless to say, the workforce beyond the current Net Generation will exceed and surpass it. As such, companies will need to completely change their infrastructure of learning technologies. By then, hopefully companies will all understand how technology can be used to reach people in an effective way. The Human Resources decision makers and Learning and Development teams will just be older Net Gens with a legacy of knowledge behind them, and so have a greater and be more attuned to the training needs and expectations of the upcoming workforce.

The writers of the report to which I referred at the start ask “How do we ensure people are interested in learning what is presented, and how then do we present the information to ensure that the knowledge is sustainable, accessible, and easily applied in adaptive and contextual ways?”. For me, it’s Virtual Training and the hum that also being made about things like holographic technology (expensive though the latter might be for companies, but that could potentially be used to enhance company Learning and Development), that I think meet many of the scientific points raised about the way in which we learn, and the way people will want to learn in the future.

Until then, it will take tremendous effort and buy-in from both companies and employees alike to really understand and integrate latest emerging learning technologies effectively.

But the benefits will be well worth the effort.