In the coming three to four months, employers across the nation will welcome thousands of summer employees, interns and recent graduates into their ranks. This means that for many organizations, it is now time to scale up training initiatives. Adopting a Learning Management System (LMS) is one way to quickly and efficiently scale up training while also tracking training results, but in contrast to the past, today’s incoming employees often already have high expectations for LMS features and performance.
In the past, most employees encountering a learning management system were doing so for the first time. Today, most incoming employees have used an LMS (in college or university) and if they are under twenty-five, they may have been using some type of LMS since middle school. What does this mean for employers? On the one hand, it means that the need to introduce the concepts of eLearning and mLearning will continue to decrease over the coming decade. On the other hand, it means that today’s workforce is already LMS savvy. After all, by the time most young people arrive in the workplace, they have used three or more LMSs in different educational contexts. If they have held part-time jobs in retail or the service industry or held one or more internships, they have likely encountered even more learning management systems over the course of their twenty-something years. In short, today’s entry-level workers often arrive on the job with high expectations for what makes an LMS effective, fast, and convenient, and this puts increased pressure on employers to ensure their LMS is in fact state of the art. In today’s post, we examine what the youngest Millennials and the up-and-coming Generation Z are looking for in an LMS and further examine why organizations are well advised to take a lead from young LMS users when adopting a system for their workplace.
Level of Exposure to LMSs
Prior to arriving in the workplace, the vast majority of young people have already used at least one LMS during their education. A 2014 Educause survey, The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives, found that 83% of students use an LMS in one or more classes. A small majority (56%) reported using an LMS in most or all of their classes. In addition, while faculty still report under using their campus LMSs, most students would like their instructors to increase their LMS use: “In 2014, 56% said they wish their instructors used it more.” Why is this important for employers? First, one can now reasonably expect incoming employees to already be LMS initiated and to even prefer eLearning or mLearning to traditional onsite training. Second, one can now also reasonably expect their youngest employees to have strong views on what makes an LMS work.
Personalizing the LMS Experience
On Educause’s 2014 survey, one open-ended question asked students how they would redesign their institution’s LMS from the ground up. In summary, they found that most students were interested in specific enhancements or additions to the LMS (i.e., the addition of new apps) rather than improving aspects the LMS’s operational functionality (i.e., performance). For example, nearly half (46%) cited various LMS features that would improve their use. At the top of their “wish list” were the following features:
- Enhanced communication mechanisms (e.g., IM, video chat, online tutoring, social group)
- Discussions and forums, and access to other students’ contact information
- Alerts and calendaring
- Grading tools, including calculating and projecting
- Multimedia access (e.g., recorded lectures and podcasts)
- Mobile interface (e.g., access from smartphones and tablets)
- Touch screen capability
- Compatibility with other platforms
What does this mean for employers? As suggested above, incoming employees now have high expectations when it comes to LMSs—they want a multifunctional system with enhanced communication options. In addition, they have grown up relying on their LMS for other reasons (e.g., their LMS may have long functioned as their calendar, contact list and in some cases, a portal through which they access other information and resources).
In contrast to older workers, younger workers are also far more likely to access their LMS on a mobile device and to expect mobile compatibility. In the 2014, Educause survey, 86% of students reported owning a smartphone, 47% reported owning a tablet. 78% reported accessing their LMS from a mobile device and at least 61% indicated that it is at least moderately important to access their LMS from their mobile device. For employers with younger employees, these findings suggest that investing in an LMS with mobile compatibility should also be a top priority.
Don’t Make Assumptions about Younger Users’ Level of Knowledge
Half (51%) of the undergraduates surveyed in the 2014 Educause survey confessed that they would be “more effective students in their classes if they were better skilled at using the LMS.” However, the survey also reported that two in three students (67%) indicate that they were adequately prepared to use the technology in question when they started college. However, as the survey emphasizes, “Students’ perceptions of their technology literacy may not necessarily align with their actual digital skills; although their general digital literacy for technology operations and concepts may be solid, specific applications of those skills may be lacking.” For this employers, the message is clear. Despite the fact that young incoming employees will likely already have experience using an LMS, they may still require some support to make the most of an LMS.
How to Choose an LMS for Use with Younger Employees
While younger employees are not the only people who will be using your LMS, appealing to this LMS-experienced demographic is important. After all, if your LMS is dated (e.g., it looks like the LMS your youngest employees were using in middle school), it likely will not be appealing or yield great results in terms of training module completion. Among other considerations, look to adopt an LMS with the following features:
Mobility: Younger employees are more likely than older employees to assume they will be able to access an LMS any time and any place. They may even prefer to use their smartphone, rather than a computer, to complete training modules. For this reason, ensure your LMS offers mobile compatibility.
Integration: As emphasized above, for many younger employees, an LMS is more than a place to complete course work or training modules—it is where one finds contacts, accesses outside resources (e.g., gains access to data sets, digital library resources etc.) and collaborates with peers. For this reason, employers should also select an LMS that can be easily integrated with other software systems.
Networking: We’re now welcoming a demographic into the workplace who has spend much of their education networking online, often via their school’s, college’s or university’s LMS. Leverage this generation’s high level of familiarity with online networking tools to create new collaborative learning and training opportunities.
Performance Tracking and Evaluation: While some older workers, even those in their mid to late 30s, may find online performance tracking and evaluation tools invasive, for most younger workers, these tools are already familiar. Again, many of the workforce’s youngest workers grew up with their “performance” being readily available via platforms, such as eChalk and PupilPath. In short, rather than wait for report cards, they have grown up watching their performance be calculated online. As a result, they are less likely to perceive of online performance tracking and evaluation tools as invasive and may even crave the ongoing feedback these tools offer. For employers, this opens up new opportunities to provide productive metrics to employees in training and to more effectively track training results, even on a day-to-day basis. For this reason, selecting an LMS with automated, advanced reporting and analysis is also critical.
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