Let’s start by making something clear – age is not the issue here. When it comes to the concept of the Modern Learner, the word ‘modern’ isn’t a euphemism for ‘young’. If the title of this article had you counting grey hairs and realizing that your memories of the 20th century make you irrelevant when it comes to Modern Learners, then these opening lines may well be an essential lesson to be learned. Modern Learning is a way of learning which, according to many experts, will be as mainstream as language tapes were way back in the days before anything was digital.

Signs of the Modern Learner

Now, look around your workspace and search for the following signs: Anyone surfing the internet, in any way, three times per hour in the working day. A colleague who hates online videos longer than four minutes. The person at the next desk who looks at their smartphone dozens of times per hour. Now let’s take our exercise in human behavior a little closer to home. If you can bear some self-analysis, take a close look at yourself. Are you:

  1. Likely to work away from your office desk at some point in a working week?
  2. Prone to solving on-the-spot problems by accessing your smartphone for solutions?
  3. Likely to learn more from search engines than books, manuals or human interaction with colleagues?
  4. Likely to share your new facts or skills with someone else?
  5. Thinking of sourcing your own training, and even paying for it yourself?
  6. Looking for a progression route to a promotion or a new job?

Demystifying the Modern Learner

How technology and new learning preferences are shaping modern-day learning

2,617: the average number of times per day we touch our smartphone

This questionnaire is a simple one to analyze. If you matched any of the descriptions or said ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then you are possibly a ‘Modern Learner’. Even though you may never have heard this term before, a ‘Modern Learner’ is staring right back at you every time you look in a mirror!

Whatever age you are, it’s increasingly likely that you are a tech-savvy, eager learner, who relishes the ability to freely connect with your colleagues, managers and other experts within your organization. If we apply these behaviors to your approach to training, you probably expect accessible, interactive learning experiences anytime, anywhere and on any device. To understand the Modern Learner, we can look at four key indicators.

The Modern Learner is Connected

Modern Learning is fueled by digital apps, tools and social networks. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the rest of the growing social media family, let us connect with peers, discover news, and share information.

The Modern Learner lives…in the narrow gap where technology curiosity and a hunger for information are fighting a monochromatic culture intent on squeezing learning into a tiny box

It is unsurprising that this expectation for easy interactivity has seeped into our expectations at work, meaning that we expect, even demand, the same level of interactivity in our workplace. The modern learning environment is one that understands the importance of technology and social networking in developing talent.

The Modern Learner is Always On

Technology has given employees 24/7 access to information, and smartphones have become their go-to sidekicks. Employees can access anything they want through their mobile devices, so why shouldn’t they be able to access educational content, videos and other information about their roles and internal processes via their mobile devices as well?

Businesses should offer easy access to learning programs via mobile devices, and give employees control over when and how they access content and knowledge-sharing collaboration tools.

The Modern Learner Has a Short Attention Span

To use vernacular from the early 1980s, when music TV channels

1% The percentage of the working week available to an average employee for training and development.

 poured forth fast-cut music promo videos on a hungry young audience, Modern Learners exhibit all the signs of the ‘MTV Generation’. However, these days it isn’t the latest music video which is shortening attention spans. It’s the constant consumption, of information via devices and platforms that have made them so short.

Smartphones are allowing employees to consume information continuously, but those shorter attention spans make it more difficult for them to focus on a single task for a prolonged period. The odds that your employees will filter out all outside distractions to engage with an in-depth learning course are increasingly small.

Demystifying the Modern Learner

How technology and new learning preferences are shaping modern-day learning

The Modern Learner is Hungry for Information

Whether it’s analysis, techniques or simple hacks/tips, there is a demanding mind, hungry for insight, at the core of the Modern Learner. This hunger is only going to increase as new digital tools and platforms enter the mix. The definition of the Modern Learner is like learning itself: a simple enough concept, but once you get under the skin, it is complex, multifaceted and challenging.

What we can say for certain is that Modern Learning is a revolution in personal development, and its proponents are, in their own way, ‘Learning Revolutionaries’. The real challenge isn’t in understanding the Modern Learner’s needs; it is in accommodating them. Deloitte’s research gives us a single piece of data which throws this challenge into sharp relief: 1% spent of working week is spent on average on training! 

That’s 24 minutes in a 40-hour working week to develop talent. This is where the Modern Learner lives; in the narrow gap where technology curiosity and a hunger for information are fighting a monochromatic culture intent on squeezing learning into a tiny box. It sounds like we need that revolution after all.