Engaging Millennials

Five ways to interest the next generation in training and development courses.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mike Broderick

CREDIT Turning TechnologiesAs school teachers have long known and employers have discovered more recently, effectively engaging Millennials in a learning environment involves greater levels of interactivity than the learning techniques used with prior generations. But as they enter the workforce in even greater numbers, it’s important to tailor training and development programs to engage Millennials, which are the largest generation in US history at almost 80 million strong.

Like the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who preceded them, Millennials have distinct generational characteristics. Savvy learning and development professionals can identify these traits and design lesson plans around them to strengthen workplace training programs. Since Millennials grew up online and are likely to be in constant communication with peers via social media, one of their chief characteristics is the value they place on interactivity.

Know when you should spend more time on topics and when you can skip over material students have already mastered.

To engage the millennial generation, instructors should keep the generations’ digital focus and technology orientation in mind when designing lessons and establishing the learning environment. Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Use response technology to give them a voice in the classroom. Many instructors use PowerPoint for training presentations, and with a dynamic instructor who can bring material to life, it can be an effective way to present concepts and messages. But sitting through a PowerPoint presentation can be a challenge for interactive Millennials. Response technology can turn a top-down lecture into a two-way conversation. With an integrated response technology solution, you can embed questions directly into your slides, allow students to answer with a keypad or smartphone and display aggregated results right on the slide. It’s a great way to keep your audience focused and involved.
  1. Define learning objectives and key takeaways upfront. This is a good technique for any audience — all learners want to know what to expect and what value they’ll receive from attending the class. But Millennials in particular are used to open, transparent communication, so it’s a good idea to state your goals for the session upfront and periodically measure knowledge to see how students are progressing during the training. Knowing that they’ll be tested during the session gives students a greater sense of accountability, and it will let you know when you should spend more time on topics and when you can skip over material students have already mastered.
  1. Keep slides clean and simple for greater clarity. Modern mobile apps and websites tend to have a clean, simple design, and slides should also to promote understanding. It can be hard to resist including as much information as you can fit on a slide when you have a lot to cover. But the bulk of the knowledge transfer should occur during the discussion rather than from the slide itself. Keep that in mind as you’re designing your presentation, and make sure the messages are short and focused. Also remember that millennial students favor images and video in their communications, so it’s a good idea to incorporate visual elements into your presentation where appropriate.
  1. Make sure presentations are interactive throughout. Millennials generally expect a greater level of interactivity, and if your presentation relegates audience participation to a brief question-and-answer period at the end, it may be time to rethink it. You can keep the presentation interactive throughout by actively engaging students person-to-person or by using response technology to allow them to provide their input throughout the discussion. You can design questions to measure students’ topic knowledge, or you can ask open-ended questions and lead discussions — both tactics are interactive and engaging.
  1. Millennials have distinct media consumption and learning environment preferences. They typically prefer two-way conversations to top-down lectures. If they don’t feel included in a personalized learning process, it’s a challenge to hold their attention, but there are technology solutions and presentation techniques that can help you engage Millennials — or students of any age. Use response technology to make your students a part of the conversation rather than passive observers. Set clear objectives for the course and track student progress. Keep slides clean and simple to promote clarity. And keep your presentation interactive from start to finish. With these tips, you can make sure millennial students stay focused and engaged.

Mike Broderick is the cofounder and CEO of Turning Technologies, creating leading instructional assessment delivery and data collection solutions for learning environments. He began developing applications for the first radio frequency wireless group response hardware soon after its introduction as a partner and president of one of the earliest group response software companies. He is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award and was inducted into the Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame as the first winner of the “Entrepreneurial Spirit Award”.

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