Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Designing Learning for N-Gen Learners

One of the recent posts on Work Literacy titled Presentation Literacies for the 21st Century (don’t be misled by the title :)) has an interesting article Why Professor Johnny Can't Read. This article focuses on the gap between our generation of “read and write” traditional learners and the new age “scan and share” digital learners. This article set me thinking about how to design and deliver learning differently for the N-Gen learners.

1. Capturing learner’s needs: Currently, understanding learner’s needs through contextual inquiry is a key step in our development process. This step is equally relevant to understand the behavior and learning pattern of N-Gen learners. The outcome of this step will effectively determine the design and mode of delivery of learning. What is critical here is to ensure that the researchers conducting contextual inquiry are well-versed with the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the digital world. Else, chances are that they would fail to observer key behavior patterns.

2. Mode of delivery: Any delivery mode that is non-inclusive may not be an effective way of delivering learning for this segment. We need a mode that ensures limitless access to outside information, collaboration, or facilitates social interaction. However, these modes should be integrated in the learning modules and not plugged in as special features. For example, an eLearning module deployed on an LMS with built-in chat and discussion board does not qualify as a collaborative learning environment. However, an online game that has the option of inviting others to join in or a web-based module that motivates learners to have online discussion or an informal learning environment that challenges learners to work in groups are good candidates for collaborative modes of learning. What is critical here is to integrate collaboration and sharing well within the design and delivery. (There is an interesting research on Informal Learning in Digital Era (Lence Miloseva and Miika Lehtonen)

3. Instructional Designers: Just as researchers need to have a fair knowledge of the digital world, instructional designers too must belong to this era to appreciate learners’ needs better. Since there is a huge shift in the way traditional instructions are designed, instructional designers need to be well-equipped to handle and appreciate the current needs of learners. It is one thing to be aware of the new age learning environment and another to belong to this environment. Therefore, IDs should make an effort to belong to this environment to relate to learners’ needs and behavior better.

4. Learning Design: Since N-Gen learners are highly active in the virtual world than in the real world, self-paced, unidirectional learning may no longer be effective for this breed of information foragers. IDs need to remember that N-Gen learners enjoy the challenge of finding information, linking them, sharing them, analyzing them and flaunting them. They have very little patience with linear unidirectional learning. What is critical is to ensure that the learning environment facilitates all this yet meet its objective of effective learning.


Archana Narayan said...

Thanks for sharing this post with us! An ID should 'move with the times' and understand what options are available to them. For this, we need to constantly research and stay aware of what others are doing, I think the ID should also interact closely with the development team to understand the tools and to explore the possibilities. IDs should not get comfortable with the way we have been doing things. But ensure that do not try to adopt fancy strategies just for the sake of it, but actually, truly understand learner needs.

Really informative post... :)

Geeta Bose said...

Thanks Archie. You are right. ID's should "upgrade" their skills with the times. And, as you have pointed out, they cannot work in a vacuum. They need to be in sync with the changes (behavioral, social, or technological) around them and adapt accordingly.