Generational Differences

Most eLearning professionals know the importance of incorporating a variety of visual, auditory and kinesthetic activities. However, what many course creators do not realize is that generational differences also play a tremendous role in successful eLearning design. In this article, we will look at the three generational preferences, and review some best practices for developing eLearning solutions for each generation.

The three main generations are…


Baby Boomers:

Senior caucasian man working from home in shorts with desk with two monitors

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)

When instructional designers create courses for Baby Boomers, they should remember that this generation did not grow up with all the technology that is now coming into the world; therefore, courses designed for this audience must have an intuitive interface.

Most Baby Boomers prefer linear courses with minimal interactivity. They like to have clear learning objectives in front of them, and value courses designed in progressive manner. Orientations and phone support will increase their online experience.


Gen X:

Woman in office with computer smiling

Gen X (Born 1965-1980)

Generation X learners, on the other hand, enjoy new technology and expect courses to be interactive. This generation likes to have options and wants to be able to do things their own way.

To satisfy the needs of these learners, eLearning professionals should consider providing a variety of options, such as the ability to turn audio on and off, as well as offering downloadable performance support tools and job aids for later reference. It is also worth mentioning that both Baby Boomers and Generation X learners greatly appreciate closed captioning and video transcripts.



Two young people looking into smartphones while walking on city street

Millennials (Born 1981-2000)

Those in the Millennial category like to have control over their learning. They enjoy games and simulations as opposed to passively interacting with the content.

When instructional designers create courses for Millennials,they should consider creating a pre-test to help these learners figure out the gap between what they already know and what they still need to learn. Millennial learners prefer non-linear courses that they can navigate however they want to accomplish their learning goals. Teamwork and collaboration are extremely important for Millennials. Fortunately, nowadays, with the rise of social media, eLearning professionals can easily make learning a collaborative process.

While the tips offered in this article will help instructional designers to accommodate generational differences, it is important to keep in mind that there are always going to be exceptions. Therefore, before deciding which route to take (interactive/passive; linear/non-linear), it is suggested to analyze your target audience and weight the costs and benefits of each option.

Learn more about instructional design and eLearning with our free, online course: Principles of Instructional Design: A Roadmap for Creating Engaging eLearning Content.


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