What have you learned about working with different generations of learners in an online forum?
When designing online materials, we need to keep in mind that our learners, whether it be in the classroom or workplace might consist of different generations. With this, we must keep in mind some of the characteristics of the generations as they will help guide us in how we design and deliver our content.
I learned that there are different names for the same generation and that the years they fall in differ depending on the source. But I really like Prensky’s (2001) idea of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. This is good to keep in mind when introducing a new online forum. For example, when rolling out a new course on a platform such as Moodle, the Digital Native learner might just go through the course intuitively and figure things out as they go. The Digital Immigrant learner however, might be overwhelmed first, by the new platform that they are experiencing for the first time and then by the different modes of content delivery. For them, it would be useful to have an introduction to Moodle video or some kind of tutorial walking them through the navigational aspects of a course. It is important to think about the platform for the content and delivery as well as the content and delivery itself when working with different generations of learners in an online forum.
How does this fit with your experience? What has your own learning been like related to interacting and learning with different generations?
A few years ago in the school where I was working, we got laptops and SMARTBoards in all of the classrooms. I was beyond excited about this as I knew it would open a whole new world of teaching with technology. I would no longer have to attempt to draw images of words that my students didn’t understand. I would be able to use more online materials in my teaching and play YouTube videos without having to bring in my own laptop and find a TV on a trolley and a VGA cable to connect my laptop to the TV. Some of the teachers I was working with however, did not feel the same joy and excitement that I felt. (I was about 10 years younger than the next youngest teacher at the time.) The other teachers were completely overwhelmed by having to teach a new group of students with these two foreign objects in their classrooms as their main method of sharing and displaying information. We had some professional development around using the SMARTBoards and the interactive tools we could use for teaching. But that training assumed that we were all at the same level of SMARTBoard understanding. I remember that during break time and sometimes during class time, I would find another teacher at my door with tech-related questions. I was always happy to help and glad that I could help but it was really interesting to hear the different questions that they had. A lot of the things they ask about, I had completely taken for granted. It was a great learning experience for me in terms of instructional design as I learned not to assume anything.
What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?
Although I have been teaching students of varying ages for a while now, this is the first time I’ve thought about it in the frame of generational theory. I think this is because I was teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants and while a lot of my students were of boomer age, they came from countries where the construct of a baby boomer generation might not apply. In relation to the theory of generations, Codrington (2009) points out that, “where people have limited access to media and global influence and/or where people are living with daily struggles for mere survival, most sociological models will fall short” (p. 5). I wonder if this is what I saw with my new immigrant students. As I have mostly been working with ESL students, I have always thought about culture when it comes to designing learning content. However, as I am trying to branch out of the ESL world and into the more corporate side of things, I will definitely be keeping the generational backgrounds of my future learners in mind.
On another note, I also feel that there is a trend in teaching towards everything 2.0. Technology is a great tool for teaching and while the world is certainly moving towards the 2.0, it is good for eLearning designers to remember that some learners might not be there yet.
How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
Prensky (2001) says that “today’s teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students” (p. 4). I think that this is true in any type of course, whether it be online or in person. In a face-to-face course, we keep the different learning styles of our learners in mind when we plan learning activities and design learning materials. The same needs to be applied to online learning. If my online course was for a class of Generation Y university students, I might refer to Coates (2007) “Tips for Teaching Generation Y” (p. 5) when designing my course. However, in the corporate world, I need to keep in mind that my learners will more than likely be from different generations. In this case, I cannot get too excited about technology and take things for granted. I need to design my online course so that it takes the time to explain the different tools used while being flexible so that those who don’t need it, can skip those parts. Aside from the generational aspect, the learning activities definitely need to be hands-on, relevant to the learners and take full advantage of all of the online resources that learners can had might already be using to direct their own learning.
Coates, Julie. (2007). Generational Learning Styles. Available from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/63832024/Generation-Y—The-Millennial-Generation
Codrington, Dr. Graeme (2009). Generations and Culture. Retrived from http://tomorrowtoday.uk.com/articles/article034_generations_culture.htm
Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf