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Ask a Gen Y


Another E-Learning and Gen Y Myth Debunked

November 15, 2011
Related Topics: Talent Management, Generations At Work
KEYWORDS ask a gen y

Much has been written to debunk common e-learning myths. Myths range from the belief that e-learning must be easy, e-learning is a valid replacement for classroom instruction or tracking e-learning course completion translates to improved performance. One myth generally overlooked is that e-learning should be designed to accommodate generational differences. Let’s explore and debunk this myth.

The generational bubble has surrounded workforce management and learning news since Gen Y entered the workplace – claiming that everything from management practice to training programs should be adjusted to accommodate this new generation. Most of the focus is on how generations are different and how a company should cope. However, the truth is the research does not back up any of these assumptions, and at the end of the day, no empirical data supports the idea that training should be designed differently for each generation.

Professor Thomas C. Reeves provided a thorough review of the literature regarding generational differences in the article, “Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design?” The first key finding addressed the gap in generational research:

The majority of the published sources are focused on people who will enter colleges and universities and eventually pursue “white collar,” “knowledge worker” or “professional” careers. Virtually no literature can be found that specifically addresses the generational differences among those who will not enter higher education or who are more likely to assume “blue collar” or service industry jobs. Needless to say, this is a severe limitation.

The second key finding was that practitioners are likely to succumb to promotions of the latest and greatest popular technology, rather than stick to applying learning theory that is grounded in valid evidence. Reeves also notes the influx of uninformed generation “experts” that have entered the scene, touting their ability to solve generational problems while having little basis in theory or sound research.

The third finding supports the debunking of another myth – that not one modality, or educational technology (media or traditional instructor-led), is more effective than another in the delivery of instruction. Reeves also reviews the lack of research around learning styles, including how learning styles differ from generation to generation.

Most importantly, these findings add up to reveal the conclusion reached:

A review of educational research reveals that there are virtually no research-based findings or evidence drawn from robust learning theory that supports the differential effectiveness of different instructional designs or strategies across the generations. Nor is there a compelling case for the development of a new instructional design model to accommodate generational differences.

Knowing this myth is debunked, efforts should be refocused on the design of learning environments that apply sound learning theory and are effective for all audiences regardless of the age component. Think again before investing in your next generational awareness program. Instead, invest in a program that explores valid historical research in learning and brain science.

Read more e-learning myths:

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