Educating Millennials in the workforce isn’t a new problem.  In fact, one “company” employs over 400,000 Millennials today with employees from that generation comprising 82% of the company’s entire workforce.  With work that frequently involves travel, collaboration and extremely stressful situations learning on the job isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.  No, I’m not speaking of highly compensated management consultants and investment bankers who have graduated from elite universities, they will eventually figure things out or get pushed out.  This “company” is critical to United States’ interests at home and abroad, it’s the US Army and the majority of the Army’s employees are enlisted soldiers.

Some of the challenges that the Army has identified include:

Millennials appreciate big-picture understanding, new information, and rapid application to help them learn quickly and perform well on the job. Millennials wish to understand the context and motivations behind the learning requests of others in order to commit to learning. The overall view of materials empowers them to determine how much time they will invest in new learning and how engaged they will be in the process. 

That’s quite a bit different than the traditional instructional models that the Army has been employing to date where soldiers will follow instructions and be self-motivated to learn and master new materials.  What else is running a bit counter-culture?

Millennials typically prefer not to be detailed and in-depth in their educational pursuits.

But all is not lost, this generation has moved beyond rote learning and pattern replication towards higher order Bloom’s levels notably including applications of knowledge to new situations.

In fact, millennials are focused on what they want to learn and why and are quite interested in applying new knowledge to work with significant discussion.

So how is the Army configuring their new learning environments to better educate, support and enable Millennials?

 Millennials prefer having the option to learn independently or in small groups to deepen their understanding of new information. Thompson notes that millennials focus on what they want to learn and expect to be told upfront the important application of the curriculum.

From an instructional design perspective, if you’re already using Junction – or have considered doing so – you would have heard us speak endlessly about keeping learning objectives at the top of every page and in front of each lesson.  Learners need to know what they should be taking away before, during and after they dive into a learning environment regardless of their generation.  Maintaining connectivity and collaboration across learners isn’t an option, it is a requirement.

Is this a different instructional model than most of the Army’s educators grew up with?  You bet.  But they are investing to learn and adapt their approaches – and so should the rest of us.  If not now, then watch out as… 

Research predicts that Generation Z might create a disruption in higher education: “It is anticipated that Gen Zers will continue to prefer practical and hands-on learning given their desire for meaningful experiences. This predisposition will continue to raise the bar on active learning classrooms and pedagogy. 

Shameless plug: if you’d like to learn more about how Junction can help you engage, motivate and educate Millennials, Gen Z’ers or anyone else drop us a line.


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