A decade ago, terms such as user interface designer, social media manager, app developer, and even companies such as Uber, Twitter, and Dropbox were non-existent. The change in the ‘world of work’ – the type of work, skills and competencies required, location of work and even actual jobs- is happening at an extremely rapid pace and is inevitable. This modern business and workplace gives rise to a new kind of learner: the next generation learner.

Today’s social, demographic and technology changes mirror the expectations of the next generation learner. The next generation learner is always connected, pressed for time, and constantly balancing professional and personal priorities. These learners like to explore learning opportunities at their own pace. They believe in collaborating and learning with peers rather than being told what to do, when.

The next generation learner prefers learning in small increments – with content that is easily searchable and accessible at the moment of need. Learning needs to be relevant to the job, and continuous; mobile-enabled to support anytime, anywhere access, and allow learners to drive their own learning curve. Learning solutions also need to be aesthetically designed and customizable like consumer apps.

The fast growing digital environment is helping transform the learning experience for this next generation learner. The expectations of the next generation learner can be addressed through various tools, which are now affordable and easily accessible–

• Mobile learning provides access to learning while on-the-go
• Gamification makes the learner a game player, thus making learning fun, rewarding and possibly addictive
• Social media platforms promote authoring of learning content and encourage peer collaboration
• Augmented reality delivers interactive experiences by merging the real environment with virtual information in real-time
• Personalization of learning experience ensures tailored learning through data analytics

Educational organizations are a good example of the use of digital technology to transform the learning experience. ‘Eight ways technology is improving education’, published in Mashableindia, highlights how trainers are able to transform the learning experience beyond linear and text-based learning to more engaged learning. Digitally created simulations or models help trainers to explain and demonstrate concepts effectively.

While meeting the expectations of the next generation learner are a priority, justifying the investments is often a challenge. However, organizations stand to realize several benefits including wider and deeper reach and connect with all learners without the barrier of locations, language, or time zone. Centralizing training material to support easy access also simplifies updating content based on changing market and learners needs promptly. Digital technologies also reduce the learner’s time away from the job and increase job proficiency.

The success of learning and development largely depends on understanding the needs of the next generation learner. The challenge today is not about training people, but about providing them with effective learning solutions. Digital learning will accelerate the responsiveness of learning and development, thus repositioning the learning team as a business enabler within the organization. This acceleration will also encourage learners to be proactive in updating their knowledge and competencies, in turn helping the organization succeed.