Should You Customize Your Learning Design for the Digital Natives?

I just read Prof Karl Kapp’s wonderful response to the Big Question: Learning design differences for Digital Natives?

I liked his definitions of a Digital Native and Digital Immigrant. As he puts it, a Digital Native is someone who has grown up with technology and a Digital Immigrant is someone who has had to adapt to technology along the way…didn’t have computers until college or late high school.

I am a Digital Immigrant and even I cannot stand when I am forced to attend boring classroom lectures on how to use a Software tool and compelled to switch off my computer, cell phones and other technologies. I feel stifled when I am cut off from technology.

When I jump jobs, my first question to my new hirer is whether I will have complete access to Internet and whether I will be allowed to blog and read blogs during my free hours at work. I make it a point to convey to my prospective hirer that I cannot work and learn without using technology. I just cannot imagine working in a place where I will not have access to technology.

Technology has become a part of my life. I learn and understand everything using technology.

If this is the case with a Digital Immigrant, you can imagine what a Digital Native’s learning expectations are.

I am sure Digital Natives will boycott classrooms if it turns out to be boring and outdated.

As Prof Karl Kapp rightly says They are dependent on it…they learn with it. If we don’t use those techniques, concepts and approaches in our training programs…we are losing huge opportunities to help them learn.

Even when it comes to e-learning, plain digitized text on screen with image, colour and some interactivity will not work with the Digital Natives. The conventional Instructional Strategies to design e-learning might not work with the Digital Natives.

As Prof Karl Kapp says Good instructional strategies are still good instructional strategies but we need to be more creative in how we deploy those strategies and leverage technologies to provide good strategies.

When you design e-learning courses for Digital Natives, you need to keep in mind that the Digital Natives might be already aware of the subject you are going to teach them and they might be expecting much more than they actually know. They might be looking forward to fresh knowledge and a new learning experience.

So before you set out to design a training program or e-learning course for a Digital Native, thoroughly understand them and their expectations. Assume that there is an equal possibility that the Digital Natives have some clue about the subject that you are going to teach them or they might have to be introduced to the subject from scratch. In either case think how the Digital Natives would want to be taught rather than how you would want to teach them.

Find out what new technologies can be used to make learning interesting for the Digital Natives. Introducing Digital Natives to new things is likely to interest them and engage them. Try using existing technologies and creating something new out of them. As Natalie point out, Wikis, Podcasts, Video, Second Life can be used to give Digital Natives a rich learning experience.

If you have have an audience that includes Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, use an approach that would cater to the needs of both.

Keep in mind the differences and similarities between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.

For example a Digital Immigrant might be interested but not aware of new technologies or be comfortable using them. On the a Digital Native might easily get accommodated to new approaches and new technologies.

In either case the interest level remains the same, the difference is just in how much they know and how they prefer learning the new technology.

So if you are designing an e-learning course to introduce Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants to a new technology, the course must give ample possibilities to explore and learn. The course must also have ample guidance and instructions for someone who will not be comfortable learning on his/her own.

This is just to say that e-learning courses must be customizable. For example a vaccum cleaner is so customized to suit your requirements. The crux of the machine remains the same. You have extra tools and attachments and attach them depending on where you want to clean and what you want to clean.

Probably e-learning courses must also be designed in this fashion. What say ? 🙂


2 Responses

  1. I can’t agree with you more, Rupa. Having to sit through multi-day face to face training in orientation is about as grueling (though not as enteratining) as a scene from the BBC’s Office series. I too am a digital immigrant, but I would rather receive training online then have both a discussion session with a mentor and other new hires to field my questions. I wouldn’t mind a short recap of the key points from the online training. In addition to that being connected with a ‘work buddy’ who can meet with me periodically to make sure I’m getting the right information and resources as well as ask questions about my integration would be more helpful. But I think that as long as the training field is dominated by those who feel more comfortable with face to face training… employees are probably going to have to endure long f2f training cram sessions.

  2. I agree with you Natalie. I hope things change soon:)

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