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Monday, August 27, 2007

Contrasting Different Learning Expectations

If, while playing a video game, the player waits for instructions or information, he or she will fail. Decisive action must be taken immediately. The gamer generation has learned this and expects speed in answers and learning. If a gamer needs information, he or she inputs a question into a search engine and then demands accurate, up-to-date results. They seek rather than wait for information.

In contrast, Generation X, Boomers and older generations are more used to receiving information in a formal, hierarchical sequence. Television, the medium of boomers, is linear, one way and delivered in 30 or 60 minute chunks. Books are divided into sections, chapters and sub-chapters. Academic classroom sessions last anywhere from one to three hours. Corporate training classes are often 6 hours long. Content is provided in a formal context with introductions, carefully parsed lessons and all encompassing summaries.

Gamers have a different expectation. They desire instant (or almost instant) learning delivered in an informal manner.

They do not want to log into the corporate Learning Management System (LMS), navigate to the desired course, and then page through 40 screens to find that one desired piece of information. It takes too long. Nor do they have the tolerance to sit in a classroom and be lectured at for hours on end about information they “might”
need later.

The gamer expectation of "instant learning" may explain why drop out rates for e-learning corporate training courses are as high as 50-60%. It seems that many training and development organizations have lifted the classroom paradigm of long hours of instruction and simply placed it online assuming the paradigm will work in this digital format. Many e-learning courses are as long as four hours, require the learner to progress screen-by-screen and provide little interactivity. These long, linear e-learning events are too boring and tedious for much meaningful learning to occur.

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thcrawford said...

I don't know that this is a generational thing. I don't know anyone who likes sitting through a boring lecture or a long, non-interactive e-learning module. I also know younger people who will happily sit through a great presentation with a powerful speaker. Maybe the only difference is that younger generations (no matter what the era) are more willing to push for change or not accept the status quo. It could also be that they have seen something different and know what's possible. So, generational, probably not.

Cathy Moore said...

My completely unscientific sense is that the more time a person spends online, happily foraging for information, the more disgruntled he or she will be when led by the nose through a painfully slow and dubiously useful online course. So as internet use grows in all generations, conventional elearning will become even more scorned.

However, I've seen Gen Y people create the same linear, boring training that Boomers crank out. I think the problem is that schools continue to use the hierarchical model, ISD programs continue to teach it, and now it's the default for elearning. PowerPoint conversion software and other rapid tools unfortunately perpetuate this approach.

We have to get out of the "course" mindset entirely and instead start talking about performance support and just-in-time learning snippets. But since companies have invested heavily in LMS's and other course-centric systems, turning away from formal courses will be like turning the Titanic.

Cammy Bean said...

Let's not completely demonize the linear. We have to do many things in this world and our jobs in a prescribed step-by-step order. (I'm in the midst of writing a software tutorial and am painfully aware of this fact).

So we can forage to a point and chunk things down as much as we can, but there's still got to be some semblance of order. People do still read books for pleasure and learning.

I do agree that much that is created as online learning would be best done as just-in-time performance support, but there is -- perhaps -- still a place for a conventional (but really cool and engaging) linear course here or there.

Karl Kapp said...


You may have a point, I agree that most of the generational things are typical, I would argue, however, that current technologies do add a new spin to the generational thing...especially in terms of what learners will tolerate in terms of presentations.


I agree, that a large part of the problem is how training and ISD is taught, breaking out of the linear process is difficult, I know I struggle with the concept constantly being a "trained academic" in ISD. We should break as much and as often as we can from the linear approach. Of. course Cammy does make a good point about the occasional need for linear content...probably most jobs are linear in nature.


I agree that their is a huge need for performance support systems and more effective approaches to helping people "learn" instead of "teaching" them.

Thanks for all the comments, interesting perspectives and thoughts.