Meetings

The Future of Learning, According to Millennials

By / Jun 21, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

A new study of U.S. college students asked them what they think education will look like in the years to come. What they had to say could affect your association’s meetings and education strategy when it comes to attracting these next-generation attendees.

Yeah, we know, we know: More and more is happening online. The handwritten note has pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur (although I do think both of my grandmothers are helping to keep both Hallmark and the postcard industry in the black, which is great because who doesn’t like getting cards in the mail), but can the same future be in store for the traditional classroom?

Education should not be a one size fits all model because everyone learns differently, regardless of age, occupation, and location.

A new study of 1,345 U.S. college students by Millennial Branding and Internships.com says that may indeed be the case, as respondents said that they are more willing to learn online and that they view the future of learning as more virtual and social media driven.

Here’s a closer look at the results:

  • 39 percent said the future of education would be more virtual, and 19 percent said that social media will be used to engage in the classroom in the future.
  • 50 percent of students said they don’t need a traditional classroom to learn, but 78 percent do think that it’s easier to learn in a traditional classroom than online.
  • 43 percent say that online education will provide them with courses of the same or higher quality than traditional colleges.

“Millennials understand that the future of education is online, and since they were brought up with the internet, they are prepared for that change,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, in a press release. “Education should not be a one size fits all model because everyone learns differently, regardless of age, occupation, and location. More online courses should be offered to cater to those who learn better in a virtual classroom.”

While this survey specifically  asked about students’ perceptions of and thoughts about online colleges and classes, it does provide plenty of food for thought for association meeting planners and learning professionals as they think about how to best engage and attract this next generation to both their face-to-face and virtual offerings.

The students’ split view that learning doesn’t need to happen in a traditional classroom but that it’s easier to learn in that space could make a hybrid meeting format (blend of face-to-face and virtual) more appealing to millennials since it gives them the option to attend in whatever capacity they prefer. (This was also suggested by another meetings writer earlier this week.) An example of an association doing this is the  American Payroll Association, which has held a successful hybrid event since 2010.

In addition, the survey results speak to the need for associations to continue to engage millennial attendees by using social media before, during, and after your event. In a virtual environment, this is an important way for attendees to form and continue relationships with one another. Also encouraging in these results is that students see the quality in online learning, meaning that they will likely be more open to registering and trying out virtual offerings than previous generations.

A good first step could be for associations to engage their millennial members—who may have participated in some type of virtual learning while in school—in a conversation about what they both need and expect out of online and in-person education.

What is your association to attract and engage millennials in your face-to-face or virtual offerings? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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