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How to go about a multi-generational approach to e-learning

Previously I have talked about the different demographics that make up the current workplace and their respective approaches to learning. Baby Boomers and Gen Zs for one, seem to have absolutely nothing in common and yet learning specialists are faced with the task of providing both these generations — along with the ones between them — with access to valuable educational materials, suited for their very diverse (and quite often divergent) needs and preferences.

Read more: Setting knowledge profiles for different generations of employees

In this article, I will note some of the strategies that will prove effective in rendering corporate learning content that will be relevant and useful to a wide array of users. Let’s dive in:

Engagement is the key ingredient

Learners who are genuinely enthusiastic and want to participate fully in the experience are crucial to the success of a learning intervention. This means that instructional designers have to be aware of what motivates employees, whether we are talking about intrinsic motivation (an appetite for self-improvement, getting recognition or even seeking entertainment) or extrinsic motivation (the promise of a reward or the threat of loss).

There is evidence to suggest that the modern learner requires mobility and flexibility, the ability to take ownership of learning, social workplace learning experiences, and modules that are succinct yet packed with information as time is very limited.

To provide effective training to a multi-generational workforce, organizations need to focus on a variety of mechanisms aimed at increasing engagement:

Social learning

Social learning appeals to most employees, regardless of demographic. While this has always been a part of training (in the form of team-building exercises, collaborative tasks, or on-the-job mentoring) the expansion of social media has made the set up for this type of learning more familiar.

In today’s learning environment there are a number of social learning opportunities and venues - communities of practice, discussion groups, blogs, vlogs, and podcasts. Companies can either establish their own network or utilize the existing, established ones.

While the setting will work without a hitch for younger generations, senior employees will require some convincing, but since they greatly value teamwork and collaboration, it will not be an impossible task.

Read more: How to design a great social learning experience for remote learners with an LMS


Gamification has enormous merits when it comes to learner engagement. It is entertaining, it can be easily applied to numerous subjects, it nurtures experimentation and innovation and it can encourage both competition and collaboration.

There is also a social side to employing gaming mechanics that will suit most modern-day learners. Challenges can be set up to be tacked either individually or as part of a group and modern technology offers enough flexibility that gamified modules can appeal to all learning styles.

Read more: Taking gamification in training to the next level


Recognition always has a positive impact. It comes as a natural continuation to gamification as that is the number one reason why online gaming is so widely popular – it offers instant feedback and gratification.

Intrinsic motivation is often stimulated by recognizing achievement in the form of public praise or digital leader boards. Extrinsic motivation can be met by offering tangible rewards for good results or performance.

Read more: Recognizing training success with digital badges


This is a requirement. Our short term memory can store five to seven items at most. Younger generations demand to find quick answers to their questions without having to peruse numerous screens. More seasoned employees already have to adapt to numerous transformations so they need to feel like they can turn to a reliable, easy to use knowledge source.

Shorter modules guarantee that a smaller amount of information is lost and that it won’t be a hassle for users to go over it again if they feel it’s necessary. This approach to e-learning is also better suited for mobile usage – one of the top demands of the digital natives.

Instructional designers can add links to documents, videos, podcasts, or other relevant items so people who want to get deeper into a certain subject can do so. Having a diverse library of micro-modules makes it easier to generate quick solutions when there the need for them arises.

Read more: Overcoming the shortcomings of micro-learning

Active recall

Active recall methods should be connected to microlearning. In school, we were tested for two purposes – to encourage our memory to recall the information we were asked about and to be assessed on it. The process of actually making the cognitive effort to drive information from our memory increases the chances of that particular information to be assimilated and used in practice.

Adding active recall as an integrated part of the learning path promotes long-term knowledge retention as well as the capacity to apply and adapt it to various situations. The technique is highly effective when intermixed with short learning events. Requiring learners to repeat the information imprints it better in their memory. Immediate feedback further strengthens active recall and knowledge retention.

Read more: Overcoming the forgetting curve in training courses

Personalized learning experiences

The ultimate goal should be a personalized learning experience. This does not mean that L&D specialists need to tailor learning paths for each employee. They just need to provide a diverse enough selection of content and presentations that it would feel that way to the user. Luckily, modern technology and above all the development of xAPI makes this task a lot easier than it initially sounds.

The preferred learning style can normally be surmised by looking at the demographic of the user and this ought to be the primary consideration. Moving forward, information regarding the competencies required for the job role as well as gaps in skills and attitudes will be useful in providing the appropriate learning solutions.

The personal feel makes users perceive the prescribed modules as highly relevant and genuinely useful to them.

Wrapping up

In the face of unprecedented labor pool diversity, L&D specialists have to be creative in their approaches in order to accommodate as many of the employees as possible. Brain science suggests that employing the strategies I have mentioned here will lead to complex learning interventions, appropriate for the heterogeneous needs of the 21st-century workforce.