Engaging the Millennial Learner 11:10, November 3, 2016

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Engaging the Millennial Learner

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Engagement is necessary for online learning that goes beyond the computer screen. Engaged learners are attentive, curious, interested, optimistic, and passionate while learning, indicating a high level of motivation for internalizing the material. Millennials make up over a third of the workforce, making them the biggest proportion of the national workforce. At LawRoom, we think deeply about how to engage millennials as well as the rest of the workforce when delivering important social and legal content.

In comparing the effectiveness of in-person learning versus online learning, proponents of the former argue that students in an online environment may feel isolated when struggling with difficult material. However, research on what engages the millennial learner shows that digital denizens who have grown up with attention-consuming gadgets learn differently than people who have not. For example, the American Psychological Association suggests that millennials learn better with multimedia approaches. “This is a culture that has been inundated with multimedia and they’re all huge multitaskers, so to just sit and listen to a talking head is often not engaging enough for them,” says psychology professor Christy Price. Combining the best of both worlds, LawRoom courses take a multimedia approach to complex issues like sexual misconduct and ethics, and offer a resource section with links to further reading for learners who want clarification or more information.

Millennials respond positively to microlearning and gamification. LawRoom courses contain short videos to explain complicated concepts, while branching video interactions allow users to navigate tricky social situations and explore the potential effects of both appropriate and inappropriate actions. Our blog post last week examined the benefits of case study based learning for adult learners. While case studies can be used in both in-person as well as online training, live scenarios acted out in a classroom setting require a high level of skill in execution to avoid the dreaded eye-roll reaction. LawRoom videos feature professional actors, are art directed, and depict scenarios that are often based on real cases. And as we’ve discussed before, beautiful courses are simply more effective.

As we talked about in our post on why certain compliance trainings fail, training led by non-expert individuals can actually do more harm than good. Traditional diversity and harassment training fail when they employ an accusatory tone, or induce feelings of guilt and shame in the dominant group. A retrospective of trainings from 1964 to 2008 by Dr. Rohini Anand, a scholar in cultural competency and diversity training, discusses how guilt tactics can actually cause more harm than good: “The training also took on varying degrees of intensity. At one extreme, it was an ‘in your face,’ ‘admit your guilt’ session for White men to ‘confess and repent.’ This left them feeling defensive, and thus concepts like ‘backlash’ and ‘reverse discrimination’ emerged.” Indeed, a collaborative study between Tufts and Harvard University showed that White Americans believe that, despite the persistent disparity in wealth and outcomes between White and Black Americans, that Whites have replaced Blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in the United States. Despite millennials being vocal about progressive issues, 58 percent of white millennials say discrimination affects whites as much as it affects people of color. Only 39 percent of Hispanic millennials and 24 percent of black millennials agree. These types of beliefs make effective training on discrimination and harassment more difficult.

Neurological learning theories suggest that shame and other negative emotions inhibit learning, which may prevent behavior change. Research on emotional dispositions shows that “Feelings of shame…apparently disrupt individuals’ ability to form empathic connections with others.” Unfortunately, negative emotions can be difficult to avoid when discussing social issues. Our instructional writers keep this in mind when communicating heavy concepts. One solution may be to integrate compassion training along with compliance. Compassion training asks users to do short mental exercises to promote mindfulness and compassion for self and others. Short-term compassion training has been shown to enable prosocial behavior. Therefore, training that encourages folks to reflect and be gentle with themselves may be more effective and engaging than those that rely on guilt tactics.

Though in-person training has its benefits, the rapid expansion of interactive tools available to course designers allows us to create better online training courses. Online training based on up-to-date research and sensitivity to the human factor may be a better choice for the millennial learner, and for compliance training overall.

LawRoom (powered by EverFi) delivers online compliance courses to help your business meet compliance requirements both dynamically and scalably. In addition to our award-winning online courses, LawRoom delivers a robust, cloud-based learning management system to help you easily deploy and track our growing library of ethics, anti-harassment, data security and employee conduct courses.

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Jayinee Basu
Jayinee Basu is an instructional writer and part of the creative development team at EverFi. Having earned her BA in Literature/Writing and Political Science at UC San Diego, she is currently finishing a post-bac program at UC Berkeley. She is the author of a book of poems entitled Asuras (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2015).

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