Mobile Training Programs: Optimizing Educational Content for Mobile Learning

Is your association considering—or currently offering—mobile training programs? Follow these simple steps to optimize your existing educational content for mobile learning.

Why Consider Mobile Training and Learning Programs?

One of the top trends in training and education is the development of mobile training and learning programs to make learning more accessible. Mobile content is not only convenient for the learner, but it can also increase retention and productivity by delivering critical knowledge at the exact moment it’s needed. Also known as “just-in-time training,” organizations are recognizing the benefits of pairing in-depth learning with opportunities for real-time reinforcement and practical application. For this to truly be effective, however, content needs to be optimized so that it can be searched and delivered quickly on a mobile device. The practical applications for just-in-time learning are considerable. For example, think of the technician who is on-site to install or repair a specialized piece of new equipment. Although they were formally trained on the process months ago, the ability to access reinforcement material will help increase accuracy and productivity.  Simply by scanning a QR code on the equipment, or clicking a link to a searchable resource library, that technician can pull up the exact documentation they need to complete the task quickly and accurately.  Within the office environment, just-in-time training resources empower employees to make decisions and handle difficult situations with greater confidence. In a perfect world, this just-in-time content would be developed specifically for mobile training. Short instructional videos or easy-to-follow visual documents tend to be the most user-friendly in these situations. But developing all new content may not be practical for many organizations due to limited financial and personnel resources.  However, it is possible to use the content you already have for a mobile learning program if you take a few simple steps to ensure it can be delivered to the user quickly.

  1. Provide a centralized “home” for your mobile content

Members and employees need to be able to find relevant content easily. Provide cloud-based access to a centralized library where this content is stored, whether that’s within an existing LMS or an online resource library.  Whatever tool or system you choose, make sure the search functionality is powerful and dynamic enough to provide robust search results for the user.

  1. Modify document layout, if possible

While it may not be possible to completely re-create shorter, more visual content, look for opportunities to modify the layout of existing, multi-column documents to a single-column format where possible to reduce or eliminate the need for left-to-right scrolling. While vertical scrolling is common on mobile devices, horizontal scrolling is extremely disruptive to the user, increasing the time it takes to read a document while reducing overall comprehension.

  1. Minimize the file size

Mobile devices, although convenient, are limited when it comes to processing power. The last thing a user needs in a time-critical situation is to attempt to access a PDF file that takes minutes to open or download. If you are developing new content for mobile training and learning, create it with the intention to minimize file size. Limit the number of fonts and use lower resolution photos and graphics. If you are working with an existing document, there are several file optimization tools available in Adobe Acrobat®. The exact steps will depend upon which version of Acrobat you’re running, but some general guidelines include:

  • Use the Reduce File Size command or PDF Optimizer
  • Enable Fast Web View in the File > Preferences dialog box
  • Unembed unnecessary fonts
  • Downsample or compress images
  1. In longer documents, create bookmarks or hyperlinked table of contents

If your educational content takes the form of a longer textbook or training manual, it may be impractical to break it up into separate, shorter documents. But it is possible to make these documents easier to navigate by creating bookmarks in your PDF to create jump destinations that link to other documents or web pages.  If you are housing your educational content in an online resource library, each publication can be broken out into easy-to-navigate, hyperlinked sections and backed with contextual search capabilities so users don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the answers they need.

Mobile Training Can be Worth the Time it Takes to Optimize Educational Content for Your Learners

Providing quick, easy, and just-in-time access to learning and training materials is going to continue to be a key component of mobile training programs moving forward.  It not only increases retention and success for the learner, it also increases program value by providing practical application of education concepts when they are needed most. Eventually, educational content will need to be designed with this in mind. But if you don’t have the resources nor bandwidth to tackle this today, don’t let that stop you from testing some small pilot programs. It is possible to re-use existing content by taking a few, simple steps to optimize documents for mobile delivery.

Don’t Let Millennials Kill Your Training Programs, Too

 

Have you read the news that apparently Millennials are killing just about every product category we’ve held sacred for decades? It would be easy to dismiss this phenomenon as just one more way the so-called “entitled generation” is changing society as we know it.  But this would not only be a gross over-simplification, it misses the mark on a larger—and perhaps more important—theme: status quo doesn’t exist anymore, especially when it comes to your training programs. Even the most steadfast products and processes can become obsolete through a simple change in perspective.

There are numerous articles that have been published on the subject, all providing slight variances on the Millennial “hit list.” Here is a quick summary.

  • Ironing: an unnecessary skill in today’s world thanks to business-casual work environments coupled with improvements to fabrics
  • Napkins: the more versatile paper towel is a perfectly good substitute, so why spend money on both
  • Casual dining chains: faced with an abundance of convenient options that are also higher-quality, such as third-party delivery service and meal kits, “good enough” food doesn’t have to be good enough
  • Department stores: many failed to provide neither the convenience of online shopping nor the visual appeal and interactivity of popular bricks-and-mortar stores such as Apple and Ulta
  • Wine corks: a case where function and simplicity wins
  • Doorbells: replaced by the simple (and quieter) “I’m here” text
  • Fabric softener: a quick cost-benefit analysis has this product providing little perceived value

While the items on this list are all very different from each other, their slide into obsolescence is the result of three common themes:

  1. Advancements in one product category (fabrics, washing machines, paper towel durability) caused a ripple effect on other, related product categories
  2. Advancements in certain product categories changed our habits, lifestyle and expectations
  3. Someone simply stopped and asked, “Why?”

This disruption isn’t just limited to home goods. It can—and is—occurring in just about every industry, including education. As training professionals, how can you stay ahead of obsolescence? It’s not as daunting and terrifying as it sounds. And, it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your current programs.

Inventory Your Training Programs

Pretend you’re a new hire in your organization. Take inventory of every aspect of how you deliver your training programs—from how learners register for the class to how the educational material is delivered. As you do, ask yourself why you do it that way. Ask multiple levels of “why” if necessary, to get to the core reason. If you get stumped, don’t feel you have a solid answer, or if the answer doesn’t make logical sense after you really pick it apart, then this may be an area you want to address.

Ask Millennial Learners 

If you can easily access a list of your young professional members or prospects, see if you can recruit them for a quick online panel discussion or survey. You can use more traditional tools such as SurveyMonkey, or you can do a group video chat using social media live video tools on Facebook, Snapchat or Houseparty for a virtual “face-to-face” topic discussion. Get their perspective on the process and see if there are any aspects of your programs they don’t understand, appreciate or value.

Keep an Eye on Other, Seemingly Unrelated Industries

Millennials are supposedly killing department stores because these stores don’t provide the shopping experience they want—hands-on and interactive. Guess what? This is their expectation for just about everything else they encounter—including education. How can associations provide this experience? For instance, can you deliver the same content in a way that supports a “show me, don’t tell me” model through hands-on applications instead of lectures?

Start Small, and Keep it Simple

Training professionals have enough disruptors keeping them up at night, from gamification and mobile learning to program growth and success. Thinking about how to completely overhaul your existing training programs to remain relevant doesn’t have to be one of them, because it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes the simplest changes are the ones that have the greatest impact.

As the voice of your industry, associations provide tremendous value to members and learners. How this value is delivered, however, may need to change as the needs and preferences of your learners change. One of the easiest ways to keep evolving your training and education programs is to take a time-out now and again and challenge yourself to question old assumptions. You may find new—and even better—ways to deliver education.

Should Associations Take A Blended Classroom Approach to Instruction?

 

Blended learning first emerged as a buzzword for continuing education professionals more than a decade ago and continues to be considered among the top trends for continuing education programs because of its effectiveness for knowledge delivery and retention. As a result, many associations have implemented a blended learning strategy into their training programs, offering learners the opportunity to access education both in the classroom and through e-learning. Looking forward, there are indications that the conversation is starting to shift from blended learning to blended classroom, and associations may want to take note.

Blended Learning vs. Blended Classroom

Typically, the term “blended learning” is used to describe an approach to training that mixes traditional, classroom-based instruction with online learning modules outside the classroom.  While the use of e-learning tools is a way to extend the learning experience, this traditional approach to blended training may not go far enough to meet the needs of learners—particularly the emerging Generation Z. In response, some organizations, taking a cue from trends within the K-12 learning environment, are focusing on ways to blend multiple learning formats and technologies within a single classroom setting to meet the personalized needs of learners and provide deeper knowledge.

In the most common execution of blended learning, the only component that is truly “blended” is the subject matter. Although complementary, the in-person content is delivered separately, and often in a separate context, from the e-learning modules, which can lead to inconsistencies in both delivery and retention. Additionally, in the traditional approach to blended learning, the classroom content typically takes the form of a lecture, with little opportunity for in-field practical application.

Within a blended classroom, a learner may interact with printed materials, an LMS, mobile content and even virtual and augmented reality technology all as part of a single learning experience. E-learning is no longer a separate activity, but rather, it becomes integrated into the classroom, and vice-versa. The role of the in-person training becomes less about delivering fundamental principles, and more about facilitating a deeper understanding of how to apply the knowledge.

How does this play out in practice?  Here is one example: An instructor may introduce a broad concept using a printed coursebook, then have learners turn to a video or e-learning module to illustrate the concept. The instructor then may incorporate independent study time for participants to use AR and VR tools, e-learning simulations and printed workbook exercises to deliver personalized, hands-on application of the discussed concepts, followed up with group discussions to share experiences and ideas.

Consider a Blended Classroom Approach to Learning for Your Association

While blended learning is a major topic of conversation among adult continuing education and training professionals, the execution of a blended classroom is most commonly found in K-12 and even technical and trade school programs. Which is the very reason associations may want to start thinking about applying it into their continuing education programs. In a few short years, your newest (and youngest) members will be conditioned to expect it.

A Lesson on Innovation for Continuing Education Pros

 

Innovation is a concept that is often tossed around a little too freely without much definition of what it really means, or even how to achieve it. In almost every industry, organizations are tasked with finding ways to continually innovate and transform—in the continuing education and training industry, this means continuing to produce innovative educational programming. Without a clear understanding of how to apply such an abstract concept, however, most of us tend to default to focusing improvements on the very concrete, daily tasks in front of us. The opening keynote session at this year’s ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) Exchange Conference led by Dr. Megan Alrutz, encouraged attendees to experiment with the notion of innovation, even if it meant going beyond our comfort zone.

Innovation and Continuing Education Programs: 2018 ICE Exchange Opening Session

The format of Dr. Alrutz’s 2018 ICE Exchange opening session was anything but traditional. Dr. Alrutz directed a group of several hundred continuing education professionals, sitting at tables of 6-10 participants, to discuss thought provoking questions such as:

  • Can you innovate without risk?
  • Can you have safety with innovation?
  • Think about a time in your life when you stepped into the unknown.

She encouraged us to “play in the space that is uncomfortable” and challenge ourselves to grow during these discussions. She compared this “uncomfortable space” or “threshold” to that where the ocean meets the cliffs. This space is not the calm found in the middle of the ocean, nor the solid foundation of cliff formations. The threshold is the place where the energy of the waves challenges the sturdy and majestic cliffside. This is where innovation happens.

As the groups engaged in lively discussion, a very distinguishable buzz and energy permeated the room. This energy continued as everyone came back together for the full-group discussions. As the conversation started to dissipate, a sense of calm washed over the room. It was at this moment that Dr. Alrutz would throw out another question for group discussion, bringing with it the same buzz, followed by calm; buzz, then calm, again and again. The room became a tangible illustration of the very threshold where the ocean meets the cliffs that Dr. Alrutz described earlier. I believe this was her way of demonstrating how innovation is supposed to feel: moments of buzz and chaos, followed by brief moments of calm.

With a clearer understanding of what innovation looks like, the next challenge is how to make it happen. What do you need to do to step into the threshold of innovation? According to Dr. Alrutz, there are two simple commitments each of us needs to make:

  1. Bring yourself fully
  2. Challenge yourself to take a risk

If you can find small moments throughout your day to incorporate these two commitments, even while tackling your daily to-do list, you’ll be on a path to innovation without even realizing it.

[SURVEY RESULTS] Training Professionals: What Are Your Go-To Resources?

 

A few weeks ago we surveyed continuing education and training professionals to learn more about which resources they turn to for ideas, inspiration and information on trending topics such as micro-learning, blended learning and getting ready for Generation Z. This survey was conducted as a response to what we’ve been hearing from our friends and customers in the industry—that there isn’t a centralized resource specifically for those working within associations.

So where do CE professionals gather online and in person? As expected, in a variety of places. Some are more vertical-centric, while others are geared more toward the corporate training industry, but provide best practices that can be applied across all organization types. There were certainly resources mentioned that we are very familiar with, and others that were completely new to us.

Here is a summary of the results:

A majority of the respondents serve in leadership roles at associations.

We provided a list of the more well-known conferences designed for Training and Education leaders  to choose from. Turns out, our respondents don’t actually attend many of them.  The top conferences attended include the ASAE Annual Meeting and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) International Conference and Exposition.  There were quite a few singular answers provided in the “Other” category, demonstrating just how fractionalized the resource landscape is. Some of the “other” answers provided include:

We then gave the respondents an opportunity to list any and all of the online industry resources (newsletters, blogs, webinars, etc.) they find to be the most valuable for keeping up with trends and best practices. Once again, the answers given were all over the board.

The top online resources include:

Honorable mentions also go to the following:

A number of respondents also mentioned they look for ideas in LinkedIn discussion boards, through discussions with other associations, peers and vendors.

Several times, respondents took the opportunity to tell us they didn’t feel there was a “perfect fit” resource within the industry.

It’s not surprising, then, that respondents overwhelmingly indicated they would be interested in attending more peer-to-peer learning opportunities for association-based continuing education and training professionals, if they were available.

It’s clear that with so many potential resources available, many of which don’t quite get to the core of challenges and opportunities specifically for associations, education and training professionals find it worthwhile to have more opportunities to learn from each other, in both formal and informal settings. Perhaps this will be the start of a larger grassroots movement to make that happen.

Applying Micro-Learning Concepts to Your Printed Course Materials

 

In an earlier post, we discussed how micro-learning—or “the delivery of bite-sized content nuggets”— is considered to be the #1 trend for training professionals in 2018. But this doesn’t mean it’s being widely executed. While some organizations are starting to experiment with their offerings, most are still figuring out how to get started.

The discussion of micro-learning is typically centered around online and mobile-based training programs, which, according to recently-compiled data from a series of industry studies, is one of the primary reasons that the implementation of micro-learning programs isn’t as widespread as you would think. Continuing education professionals stated that the time investment required to create online and mobile-friendly content is a major barrier, particularly for those who are already tasked with growing their programs using the same or fewer resources. Meanwhile, according to the same series of studies, nearly three-fourths of participants provide printed training materials. If there is a clear, strategic benefit for your organization to create programs that consist of smaller learning segments, it may be possible to pilot a program by re-thinking how you present your print-based content.

Historically, course books and training manuals have been designed to support long-form learning, organizing content into longer chapters that both introduce complex concepts and dive into all of the supporting details.  Recently, however, some organizations have started looking at ways to redesign existing content in order to serve up the same information smaller pieces that can be consumed and referenced much more quickly. Here are just a few ideas to consider:

From One to Many

Take a large, single course book and break it out into a branded series of separate pieces that are each more singularly focused.  In doing this, you may have room to play with the format and add notetaking pages or other self-reflection and application exercises to make the content more personally relevant.

Keep Sections Short

If you determine that offering a single course book is the best way to deliver your program, consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.

Turn Text into Graphics

If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.

Provide Easy Access to Supplemental Digital Material

Most of us are never more than an arm’s length from our phones or other mobile devices at all times. Rather than presenting all of the necessary information in your printed piece, consider using print as a means to give a more concise overview or introduction of a topic, with directions throughout the piece to supplemental online materials from your organization or your industry’s thought-leaders, including videos, podcasts and virtual renderings that can be accessed while the learner is reading.

If you are looking to incorporate micro-learning practices into your existing continuing education programs but don’t feel you have the time or resources to develop online and mobile-friendly content, consider starting with your printed materials. This not only gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at existing content, but is also a lower-cost way to test-pilot micro-learning techniques before making a larger investment in new, digital materials.

Embracing New Learning Trends: Are Associations Lagging Behind Corporations? Not Really.

 

In any organization, there are moments where leaders and team members stop and wonder how theirs compares to others in their industry. Are we really as far behind as we think? Are our challenges really that unique? How have others responded?  Most of the time, it turns out you’re not as far behind as you think, your challenges aren’t unique, and others are looking to you and asking the same questions. For associations, a question that may come up often is, “Are we implementing new training and learning trends for our members?”

All that being said, it can also be extremely beneficial to look outside your own industry to get an even better sense of what’s actually happening in a larger landscape and use that as your benchmark. For associations, this may mean looking outside your direct industry, or even taking a cue from the corporate world.

We recently had the benefit of sitting in on a webinar sponsored by Training Magazine and presented by Dr. Allen Partridge, Senior eLearning Evangelist with Adobe. In his session, Trends in Training and Learning Management, he reviewed a compilation of data from several different surveys of corporate continuing education professionals to identify learning trends and compare them to what these professionals are actually doing in practice. The webinar focused on concepts that are also prevalent topics of conversations within associations as well, including the rise of mobile learning, gamification, video, micro-learning, and learner engagement.

It turns out, while new ways to deliver learning are topics of frequent discussion, in practice, corporations aren’t any further along than associations. And, many of the tried-and-true methods of course delivery are still just as popular today. Here are four of the learning trends highlighted in the webinar.

Instructor-Led Training & Printed Course Materials

Despite the rise of virtual learning options, one survey revealed that 4 out of 5 respondents deliver training through in-person presentations—a trend that has remained consistent over the past the past ten years. The reason: when learning is a conversation, engagement and retention are higher. Additionally, nearly three quarters of survey takers said they use print materials to deliver their training, whereas only ten percent offer mobile and tablet-based materials.

Mobile Content

Speaking of mobile-based materials, although only ten percent currently offer mobile and tablet-based materials, there is an overwhelming sentiment that mobile-based learning is something most respondents acknowledged they need to do. Device versatility, ease of access to content and just-in-time reference to content were all noted as important criteria to have in place to encourage greater usage of digital training programs. But the time investment required to create mobile-friendly content was a major barrier. Many organizations are starting by creating only a fraction of content for mobile—particularly their newer content.

Microlearning

Based on the research, microlearning is considered to be the number one learning trends for training professionals in 2018. While implementation of this training strategy is growing, the buzz is still greater than reality. This is primarily due to the fact that there isn’t a clear and uniform definition of what microlearning means, and therefore, how it should best be executed. Some consider it to be “informal learning,” others “mobile learning” or even “short learning.” Each of these definitions serves a unique purpose and warrants its own strategy.

Gamification

While gamification is a major topic of discussion, corporate training professionals haven’t fully embraced this learning trend yet.  72% of respondents surveyed don’t use gamification in their learning programs, and only 14% feel very confident that gamification increases employee engagement in training. Some of the reluctance stems from the perceived cost of implementing it, coupled with the doubt that it actually drives behaviors that are sustainable for the long-term.

If your association has not fully embraced some of the top trends in training strategies and learning engagement, not to fear. Your corporate counterparts haven’t either. But they are starting to think about how to take small, deliberate steps toward implementation so they are ready to engage future learners—something every organization should be thinking about.

How Printing Training Materials On-Demand Can Lead to Big Savings

Our latest Training Trends report highlights the fact that continuing education professionals expect the number of training programs they offer to increase over the next year. At the same time, budgets are projected to remain flat. Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to deliver their programs more efficiently, without sacrificing the overall experience for their learners. Switching to a print-on-demand (POD) model for course materials is one strategy that is often overlooked.

Many organizations assume they don’t produce enough volume for POD to be economically feasible. It is true that in general, POD can potentially be more expensive on a per-piece basis than opting for a longer print run. But that all depends upon how your POD strategy is executed, and what your ultimate goals are.

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach (large volume print runs vs. one-at-a-time), it may make sense to think about printing a micro-inventory—smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. In doing this, you only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization. At the same time, it minimizes spoilage should your content need to change during this time, while giving you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses.

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a POD model, eliminating the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe, resulting in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a print-on-demand model.

POD isn’t the right fit for every organization, but don’t be too quick to rule it out until you’ve run the numbers. It could lead to some significant savings while, at the same time, making it easier to manage your content.

How Print-On-Demand Reduced One Association’s Shipping Costs By 60%

 

International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)2® is the global not-for-profit leader in educating and certifying information security professionals throughout their careers. The organization provides Gold Standard credentials to a membership of nearly 90,000 certified industry professionals in more than 135 countries through instructor-led training, live online training and one- and two-day educational seminars.

Challenge: A Large Up-Front Financial Investment

To deliver course materials to more than 135 countries, (ISC)2 was printing a 6-12 month supply of course books, and then shipping and storing the materials in four locations around the world. This print and inventory model required a large up-front financial investment and decreased the profitability of its courses. Additionally, maintaining inventory in multiple locations made it more difficult to track and measure costs.

Solution: A Print-On-Demand Model

Recognizing these challenges, (ISC)2 reached out to potential third-party solution providers. Omnipress performed an evaluation of the organization’s complete print and fulfillment process. Together, they were able to help (ISC)2 quantify the true cost of printing and shipping their materials and develop a print and fulfillment model that balanced cost-per-piece with appropriate inventory levels. Omnipress was able to migrate (ISC)2 to a print-on-demand solution that eliminated the need to print, ship and store materials in multiple locations around the globe.

“Working with Omnipress is more than hiring a print company. They are a partner that cares about providing a quality product and upholds the old-world thinking of customer service.” – Dave White, Product Development Manager, (ISC)2

Results: 60% Reduction in Shipping Cost

By switching to a print-on-demand model through Omnipress, (ISC)2 reduced the cost of shipping materials for their instructor-led courses by 60% while at the same time increasing cash flow. The organization now pays a monthly cost based on known receivables rather than investing up-front in a year’s worth of material.

It’s Time to Adopt a “Yes…and” Strategy

 

Have you ever heard of “Yes, and…” thinking? It’s a rule of thumb in improvisational comedy designed to keep a scene or game progressing. The premise is that a participant must accept a provided statement from their scene partner, and then expand on that line of thinking. More recently, businesses and other organizations have incorporated this principle as a means to improving team communication and effectiveness.

I recently saw a fantastic example of “Yes… and” activated in a way that may be interesting for association and education professionals.

Over the past several years, associations have debated the best way to deliver educational content to both meet the preferences of learners and the objectives of the organization. As Millennials entered the workforce, the thought was that more continuing education programs needed to migrate online or to digital-based delivery methods, as this is how younger generations wanted to engage and learn. Several research studies, however, have demonstrated that printed content facilitates better focus, understanding and retention—particularly when it comes to complex concepts and specific details. There are several theories on why this is the case:

  • Researchers since the 1970’s have noticed that memory appears to be visual-spatial
  • The tactile sense of progress through a book aids the reader with understanding the progress of the story or text
  • The act of scrolling is disruptive and interrupts focus
  • Our tendency when we interact with more leisurely content online is to skim and pull out keywords and points, and this behavior carries over even when we read for learning

Despite all of its advantages, print does have certain limitations that digital content could easily supplement. Given that, according to the Principles of Adult Learning & Instructional Design, we tend to retain only 10% of what we see, but 90% of what we see, hear and do, there is opportunity to pair the strengths of print with other supplementary tools such as video, audio and kinesthetic-based content.  Two authors are currently testing this concept.

John Parsons of IntuIdeas and Harvey Levenson, former Cal Poly Graphic Communication Department Head, recently launched the first textbook to use Clickable Paper Technology in an effort to combine print and multimedia engagement. This newest edition of Introduction to Graphic Communication, originally published in 2007, uses the book as an anchor to additional reference material to help reinforce the concepts introduced in the book.

Regardless of whether or not Clickable Paper Technology gains traction or is simply the first evolutionary step, it’s clear that the time has come to stop trying to make a choice between print or digital content. More organizations will start thinking about how to incorporate a “Yes…and” strategy, leveraging the strengths of each medium to increase both the effectiveness and attractiveness of their training programs.

Get Your Training Courses Ready for Generation Z

For the past several years, a common theme around the strategy planning table is how to attract and retain younger members. With each passing year, this conversation is less about the long sought-after Millennials, however. The oldest of this generation is now in their mid-30’s. Many associations now have their sights set on the up-and-comers known as Generation Z. And what everyone is starting to realize is how different they appear to be from their predecessors.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z, the general consensus is they were born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest are in the process of graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and creating iMovies as part of their elementary school curriculum.

They are a very multi-cultural generation that is even larger than Boomers and Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

And, their overall outlook on life—their ambitions, goals, and the way they plan to achieve them—is the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

Turmoil and Technology Has Made Them Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial

A Non-Standard Path to Success

Generation Z felt the fallout from the Great Recession and has never known a world without terrorism. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it, and to make it their own.

  • They actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow
  • They aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors

Beyond Tech Savvy

For Millennials, technology was very much present in their lives, but as a parallel activity, something to “play with” in their free time. Contrast this with Generation Z, where technology is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Millennials are the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept, and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z more than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected, and have a tremendous fear of missing out (a.k.a. “FOMO”)
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy, and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Educational Programs

Today many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections. As long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next program development and planning session:
1. Is there an opportunity to re-define the classroom setting, using unique and non-traditional locations as a means to help apply learning?

2. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content as a means to facilitate learning and professional development?

3. How might you combine instructor-led training and self-guided learning as part of a single learning strategy (versus an either-or approach)?

4. How can you more effectively tie print and digital materials together in a complementary way? For instance, does it make sense to use print to introduce a complex topic, with digital tools such as video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology to facilitate hands-on application of the concept?

5. In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. And it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

Now Available: 2018 Training Trends Report

Educational programs provide a tremendous source of value for associations and other training-based organizations. That’s the takeaway from our 2018 Training Trends survey. The majority of respondents in this year’s survey (67%) look to capitalize on this fact by increasing the number of programs they offer. The focus on core strategic initiatives in the coming year, including program and content development, however, may need to come at the expense of other tasks.

How will this outlook impact those responsible for developing and implementing educational programs? We conducted an online survey of 111 continuing education (CE) and training professionals to understand their challenges, opportunities and priorities in the coming year.

Download the 2018 Training Trends report to learn:

  • How much time do CE professionals devote to program development tasks?
  • How effective are these programs in helping organizations reach their goals?
  • What percentage of the budget will be allocated to on-site training vs. online training in 2018?
  • What is the most common way for educational content to be re-purposed?

Takeaway #1: Continuing education takes place in a variety of formats.

Eighty-four percent of survey respondents indicated they offer multiple options for learners to participate in seminars, courses and workshops.

Offering learners choice on how they receive their training means CE professionals must also provide their course materials in a variety of formats. Print retains its lead as the most common format for course books and study guides, with online training materials coming in a close second. Mobile resources for training saw limited use in 2017, but with trends like microlearning on the rise, it will be interesting to see how these numbers evolve in the next few years.

Read the full report to learn how CE professionals balance developing new course content with other top training priorities.

Take Our2022 Conference
Industry Survey

Each year, Omnipress collects data from meeting planners to benchmark event content trends. The results will be published in our annual State of the Conference Industry Report in March.

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