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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


How to support learning of generation Y?

by Veronika Tuul
Language: EN
Document available also in: ET FR

It is said about generation Y that they are restless and it’s hard to get them to hold on to a job, so the employer spends many resources on their training – and they just move on to a next position. Sometimes they don’t even reach the training phase at the workplace. In this blog post I am reflecting on which kind of learning or training would particularly suit the generation Y and which methods one should use to carry it out. And to be straightforward right from the start, so this blog post does not address e-learning, as such, but yes, using technology as essential tool to help learning has an important role here.  


Foto: Bonnie Kittle

When the idea of writing this blog post first started to take shape in my head and I discussed the potential problem definition with my good colleagues, I received a feedback: “Wait, what! Why are you writing again about this generation Y, there is already plenty of written material about them?”

I agree that much has been written about them, both in working context and also in adults’ work training context, but there is also an appropriate reason for that – after all, share of those born in 1977-1995 in the structure of workforce is maximally the largest right now. The undersigned belongs to this generation as well; therefore I’ll reflect on the issue from my own point of view.

We, representatives of generation Y (also known as Millennials) have been described as follows: technically astute, cooperative, open-minded, optimistic, self-directed, flexible and team-oriented. They have also been characterised as ambitious, competitive and acquisitive, self-centred, inpatient, sceptic, and keen on gadgets (all innovative things). 

In this blog post, I don’t want to go into great depth about the Millennials work-related joys and worries that result precisely from specificity of this particular generation. But I would like to focus on learning opportunities with generation Y in mind.  

What kind of learning generation Y would appreciate?
Due to specific features of generation Y, I would point out following suggestions for design and implementation of learning.  

Relevance. Learning material must be suitable. The driving force for generation Y is purposefulness. This generation is determined to be aware, for what purpose something should be done. In learning process, questions are often asked – students ask themselves and the teacher – what do I need this particular knowledge, these particular skills for? How would that help me progress in my (working) life? The more personal connection a student can develop with the learning material, the more familiar and relevant it grows for them. 

Small lessons. A world that consists of 140 characters and from 4-minute videos, has most likely affected our ability to go deep. The good news here is though that generation Y learns quickly as they are used to process the constant deluge of information. When designing learning contents one should avoid long texts, large-scale tables and long-lasting learning videos. With smaller “learning snacks” the student can creatively decide himself, which piece of learning he wants to acquire and how strongly he is prepared to commit himself to it. This kind of approach supports also students’ responsibility in learning process as students are engaged in learning design.  

‘Traditional’ learning is boring. Something becomes a tradition when it has been done several times – traditions or habits. When it comes to teaching generation Y, then every training is unique. And indeed it will be unique if the trainer gives students the opportunity to make choices of their own in the learning process. Using technological tools does not necessarily make the training untraditional. This is not a matter of tools, but of approach.  

5 things to keep in mind when you design learning for generation Y: 

  • “Small snacks” – texts with maximum length of 600 words, use paragraphing and lists. 
  • Maximum duration for videos 10 minutes 
  • Create a points system and/or use badges available in learning environment 
  • In the beginning of each course, review the goals and the content of the course – is that relevant?
  • Share the responsibility – let the student himself design a suitable learning content and a learning environment  

I have a dream…
I wish to conclude this blog post by sharing my big dream with you. I dream that we wouldn’t compartmentalise learning according to the ways it reached the students or how it “looks like”. As a member of generation Y I’d like to say that there is no such thing as e-learning. There is no e-training, no e-learning environment; let alone e-students. Let’s get rid of the unnatural ‘e’ and let’s realise that learning is learning, regardless of whether we use whiteboard, SmartBoard, blog or blue or black pen in our learning process. 

Go ahead and share your opinions in comments whether this dream could ever turn into reality, or will there be a generation Z first, with even broader global orientation that would shatter all our dreams and current understanding of learning? 


Author: Veronika Tuul is learning designer and educational technologist, and EPALE Europe Adult Education ambassador. As practitioner she is interested in expanding the possibilities to learn by means of technology in vocational refresher training. Veronika is qualified adult educator, level 7. 

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  • Janett Scully's picture


    There has been a lot of research and reports compiled on the Generation Y and training & development, an example is a 2011 report done by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) – “Millennials at Work/Reshaping the workplace”  This report takes a comprehensive look at the key characteristics of the Generation Y and gives an insight into what they need to be attracted, managed and developed in the workforce. This report also mirrors all the points you raised and it seems that as employers and trainers are beginning to look at the means of training and developing the Generation Y  they are being urged to focus their attention on planning for Generation Z (or iGens). Looking to the future of iGens in the workforce has started,  examples of this can be found in a blog by Christopher Pappas, 11 June 2016 on eLearning industry site: which  gives 7 tips for developing training  for the iGen workforce and is also reiterated in a  blog post by Michelle Boyle, 30th August 2016 on learnkit  listing 4 top tips to creating effective training.   Rushing to develop method and training for the iGens seems to me precipitous while many of the characteristics of the Generation Y are also part of the iGens, it would perhaps be advantageous in developing and designing training that works for the  Generation Y as a  good foundation into what is needed for the iGens, because in truth they will most likely be the ones training them.

  • Anne Rosenberg's picture

    Olen sama meelt, kuigi ei kuulu autoriga samasse generatsiooni, et võiks olla ilma e-ta. E annab palju paindlikke võimlusi ja võiks olla juba praegu täiesti loomulik õppeprotsessi osa. Aga ei ole. E-õpe on eraldi õppetöö vorm ja koolid peavad arvestust e-õppe mahtude üle. Pidevalt on teemaks, millistele ainetele saab luua e-kursusi või vähemalt e-õppe toe. Ja Z-generatsioon tahab traditsioonilist õpet, sest e-õppes tuleb nii palju teha... Reaalsuseks saab vist siis, kui õppija oskab õppida ja teab, kellele ja miks õpib. Suurem osa seda kindlasti teab.