Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How We Learn

Gerald Celente, author of the 1997 book Trends 2000, predicted that interactive, online leaning would revolutionize education and training. He also predicted that, “in the 21st century, online learning would constitute 50% of all learning, education, and training.” He was right on both accounts.

The standard for training accountants has long been in the form of an information transfer with an instructor standing in front of an audience lecturing on a specific topic. However the traditional lecture is not the only way to learn.

In certain ways, online learning can be better than classroom learning because participants can:

  •          Learn during their peak learning times.
  •          Learn at their own speed.
  •          Focus on specific content areas.
  •          Test themselves daily.
Online learning can also be better for businesses than traditional training methods because technology can:

  • Drive down costs.
  • Deliver information more quickly.

Studies show that how an individual learns is usually determined by the method of learning they experienced in school and growing up, which to a certain extent, is determined by when they were born and how much access to technology they had.

There are three groups of learners most affected by the advances in technology:

                                            Born between
          Baby Boomers            1946 and 1964
          Generation X               1965 and 1980
          Millennials (Gen Y)       1980 and 2000

I am part of the Baby Boomer generation, and I learned primarily through lecture, reading, taking notes, and class participation. My learning was not impacted as significantly by technology since I grew up before computers and the Internet were an integral part of everyday life. As you might expect, I prefer live instructor-led training.

Jonathan Krafchick pointed out in an Accounting Today article (The Way We Learn Now), that younger generations “have all experienced shifts in technology in very different ways and the reaction of each generation has been just as different... Gen Xers adopted technology as it matured and tend to view it as an optional and preferred convenience, whereas, Millennials view technology as a standard and, good or bad, the primary means of connection.”  

When online learning is combined with more interactive instructor-led training, it will easily outperform the one-size-fits-all, traditional delivery method.

Kraftcheck summed it up well by recommending that, “When teaching just one generation, simply speak to your audience the way they tend to understand: lecture for Boomers, case studies for an audience of Xers, and interactive discussion with the Gen Ys.”

As predicted, the Internet has changed the preferred method of learning from the traditional lecture method to online learning. For course designers, the challenge for meeting professionals’ training needs will be to design programs that can appeal to all the different learning styles and methods of all adult learners.

What do you think?

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