Top Four Ways to Engage Millennials in Learning Environments

Note: Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Dr. Tina Rooks, who serves as Vice President and Chief Instructional Officer at Turning Technologies. With over 16 years of experience in education, she was instrumental in developing the educational consulting team and building the Turning Technologies school improvement initiative specifically for the K-12 market.

Whether you’re teaching a high school class or delivering a corporate training session, you’ll face a unique challenge when it comes to engaging millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000. It’s the largest generation in US history at almost 80 million strong, and, like the baby boomers and Gen Xers who preceded them, millennials have distinct generational characteristics. Since they grew up with the Internet and tend to be in constant communication with peers via social media, millennials as a rule are highly interactive. To engage this generation, instructors should keep millennials’ interactive nature and technology orientation in mind when designing lessons and defining the learning environment. Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Integrate response technology into the learning setting. PowerPoint is the go-to solution for many instructors, and it can be a great way to present concepts and messages. But with millennials, who are used to interactive learning, sitting through a PowerPoint presentation can be a challenge. Response technology can be the answer: With an integrated response technology solution, you can embed questions directly into your slides and allow students to answer with a keypad or smartphone. Then you can display their answers – in aggregate – right on the slide. This is a terrific way to keep an audience focused and involved in the learning process.
  2. Define objectives up front. Clearly outlining your goals for the session is a great tactic no matter who is in your audience, but millennials in particular tend to expect open, transparent communication. State your goals for the session, and periodically measure knowledge levels to see how students are progressing during the training to make sure they are meeting learning objectives. This will not only give students a greater sense of accountability, it will let you know when to spend more time on topics and when you can fast-forward through familiar issues for a personalized learning experience.
  3. Keep slides simple. Like a well-designed website, slides should be clean and simple. When you have a lot to say, it’s tough to resist the temptation to include as much information as you can on a slide, but remember that the bulk of the knowledge transfer will occur during the discussion about the topic, not from the slide itself. Keep that in mind as you’re designing your presentation, and make sure the messages are short and the slides are uncluttered. Millennial students tend to be video and image-focused, so if you have relevant material that fits into your presentation, by all means use it. But make sure it’s on point and doesn’t crowd the key messages.
  4. Keep your presentation interactive throughout. As digital natives who grew up with the Internet and in constant contact with friends, millennials expect a greater level of interactivity. Old school presenters tend to hold the floor throughout the presentation and only allow the audience to interact at the end during a question and answer session. You’ll have better luck with millennials if you keep the presentation interactive throughout, either by actively engaging students person-to-person or using response technology to allow them to give their input for discussion. You can design questions to measure students’ topic knowledge, or you can ask open-ended questions to spark discussion – both tactics can be highly engaging.

Like the generations that came before them, millennials have their own unique style and media consumption preferences. They are used to two-way conversations rather than top-down lectures, and unless they feel included in a personalized learning process, it’s a challenge to hold their attention. Fortunately, there are technology solutions and presentation techniques available that can help you engage millennials or students of any age. Use response technology to make your students a part of the action rather than passive audience members. Make sure your objectives for the course are clear and that you understand students’ progress. Keep slides clean and simple to promote clarity. And keep your presentation interactive from start to finish. By following these tips, you can ensure millennial students stay focused and engaged.

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6 Replies to “Top Four Ways to Engage Millennials in Learning Environments”

  1. I’m a Millennial and I agree with all of this. The more interactive the presentation, the more I engage and am willing to listen.

  2. These points are excellent. Millennials learn in a different way and I think through following the points you mentioned, educators can help keep these students engaged.

  3. As someone whose older than millennial, and someone who teaches students younger than millennial, I find great value in the points stated in this article. When I sit in on a lecture, I am more engaged if it’s interactive, when the objectives are defined and when the material is presented in a clear, concise manner. I learn more when I am engaged, as opposed to when I am spoken to (or lectured at). I think the same can be said for all of our students. Student engagement is key!

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